Arrow-right Camera

Charges, Counter Charges Fly In Formula One Probe

The Williams-Renault team, accused of helping to fix the final Formula One race of the season, said Sunday the charges were a ploy by Ferrari to divert attention from an upcoming inquiry into the driving tactics of Michael Schumacher.

The two-time series champion’s reputation was soiled Oct. 26 when he seemed to intentionally ram Jacques Villeneuve’s Williams in Jerez, Spain, in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Canadian from winning his first title.

Schumacher has been called Tuesday to a hearing before the FIA - the world governing body for auto racing - to answer for his conduct in the European Grand Prix. Reports suggest he could be suspended for a portion of next season and fined as much as $1 million.

The Times of London published transcripts of Williams engineer Jock Clear telling Villeneuve over a radio to yield first place on the last few laps to McLaren-Mercedes driver Mika Hakkinen.

The newspaper said the deal was a payback for the McLaren cars staying out of Villeneuve’s way early in the race and apparently working together with Williams to defeat Ferrari. After Hakkinen passed Villeneuve on the final lap for his first Formula One victory, the McLaren of David Coulthard also got by.

Villeneuve, who wound up third, needed only to finish in the top six to win his first title, because Schumacher crashed on the 48th lap.

Joe Nemechek - racing on the track where his brother John had a fatal crash this year - led 127 of 200 laps to win the Jiffy Lube Miami 300 in Homestead, Fla.

He won a battle of Chevrolets against NASCAR Busch Series champion Randy LaJoie by leading the final 59 laps. The margin of victory was .397 seconds.

Nemechek, who started third in the field, won for the second time this year. It was the fifth career Busch victory for Nemechek, a Winston Cup regular who collected $62,695.

“Everything was just awesome today,” said a tearful Nemechek. “I lost my brother, who was also my best friend, in turn one earlier this year.”