© St. Petersburg Times, published May 14, 2002
If Michael Schumacher wins a record-tying fifth Formula One championship this season, the accomplishment could be tainted by Sunday's victory at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Talk about a fix.
Schumacher won when a Ferrari team official ordered teammate Rubens Barrichello to slow down and let Schumacher, the team's No. 1 driver, pass on the final lap. Barrichello, the pole-sitter, had led throughout.
Schumacher, from Germany, recorded his 58th victory to stretch his lead in the driver standings to 27 points. With 54 points, he has twice as many as Juan Pablo Montoya. He is trying to equal Juan Manuel Fangio's record for F1 titles, the only major mark he doesn't own.
Barrichello, a Brazilian, gave up what would have been his second career win by obeying orders from team manager Jean Todt. Outraged Brazilian fans and media were critical, and Emerson Fittipaldi, Brazil's two-time F1 champ, said Barrichello should have ignored the order.
"It's a disgrace, it's absurd," he said.
If such a strategy is used at Dale Earnhardt Inc., where Michael Waltrip has twice been content to finish second to teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. in restrictor-plate races the past two seasons, give DEI credit for at least creating reasonable doubt.
Ferrari chairman Luca Di Montezemolo, hoping to diffuse the situation, defended the decision, saying Todt made the right choice as "team interests prevailed over reasons of the heart and the drivers."
In Austria last year, Barrichello let Schumacher overtake him for second place, and Montezemolo said the team will continue its strategy of having Barrichello help Schumacher win the championship.
Still, Ferrari has some explaining to do. The Formula One governing body, FIA, has summoned the drivers and team officials to appear before the World Sports Council on June 26 in Paris. A brief FIA statement cited "an incident during the last lap of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix and incidents during the subsequent podium procedure."
During the awards ceremony, Schumacher lifted Barrichello onto the highest step of the podium and handed Barrichello the winner's cup. In post-race interviews, Schumacher said: "I am not very happy. I take no joy from this victory."
FIA could take action against Ferrari for manipulating the finish, including possibly changing the result or stripping Ferrari of points.
McLaren driver David Coulthard, who moved over to let teammate Mika Hakkinen win the 1999 Australian Grand Prix, said he didn't initially object to the Ferrari actions, but had concerns over fan outrage -- even Ferrari fans booed loudly as the drivers got out of their cars after the race.
"The fundamental question is if this is good for the sport, and clearly by the crowd reaction they made their opinion on that quite strong," he said. "What the public has to understand is that F1 is a bit like the Tour de France, where there is a team leader and all the other guys are there to help him."
FIRST HUSTLE, THEN BUMP: Sunday's final day of qualifying -- known as Bump Day -- for the 86th Indianapolis 500 will have more than its usual suspense.
Second-round qualifying was rained out at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which means the final nine spots in the 33-car field must be filled before bumping can begin.
Still trying to earn a spot are two-time winner Arie Luyendyk, 2000 pole-sitter Greg Ray and former Formula One racer Johnny Herbert.
Practice resumes Wednesday.
NHIS GETTING BETTER: Busch Grand National drivers who competed in Saturday's Busch 200 gave a thumbs-up to offseason changes made at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Wider corners and a repaved surface created more competitive racing on what had been a one-groove track with long straightaways and narrow corners. The first of two Winston Cup races at NHIS is July 21.
BURTON STAYING: Jeff Burton recently denied rumors that he is leaving Roush Racing for Hendrick Motorsports.
"I am committed to where I am," Burton told NASCAR.com. "I have a true dedication to Roush Racing that has developed and shown over time, and to give all that away would be stupid."
Hendrick released Jerry Nadeau from the No. 25 Chevrolet last week. Burton, who has 17 victories, is in his seventh season driving the No. 99 Ford for owner Jack Roush.
DUBBING DUBYA: President Bush will be grand marshal of The Winston though he will not attend the race at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C. He will give the command for drivers to start their engines by videotape.
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.