Drivers warned not to impede title fight

Any driver who gets in the way of Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen's battle for the world title at Suzuka could face a race ban

Drivers warned not to impede title fight

Race director Charlie Whiting issued the threat at the regular Friday afternoon drivers briefing amid fears that both dithering backmarkers and team orders could disrupt the championship battle.

Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard face a double dilemma because they could be asked to block the rival title contender by their respective teams.

However, it was also made clear that the FIA would be watching the backmarkers equally carefully after complaints from McLaren that its drivers had been unnecessarily delayed by Minardi and Sauber drivers in recent races.

"It was made very clear that any blocking manoeuvres would not be allowed at this race," said Ralf Schumacher. "This is totally correct because no-one should disturb the fight between the two leaders. There should be a suspension next season."

The Williams-BMW driver believes drivers that break the rules should be slapped with a three-race ban.

Drivers being lapped are allowed to pass three blue warning flags before moving aside. If they do not do this they receive generally a ten second stop-go penalty, but the reinforced ruling means that anyone breaking this rule could be banned from the rest of the race.

Hakkinen, who lies eight points behind Schumacher in the title fight, needs to win the Japanese Grand Prix to stand a realistic chance of becoming the first man since Juan Manuel Fangio to win three consecutive world titles.

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