Second look brings a belated apology

'Stewards were right' to penalise him, admits the seven-time former champion Schumacher.

Michael Schumacher has acknowledged that his attempt to block former teammate Rubens Barrichello at the Hungarian Grand Prix was too hard and has apologised to the Brazilian driver. The German, driving for the Mercedes GP team, pushed Barrichello's Williams-Toyota towards the pit wall, and then on to the pitlane exit as they fought for 10th place on lap 66 of the race at the Hungaroring.

After the race, Schumacher was adamant that he had driven fairly and had given Barrichello enough room. But after reviewing the incident he said on his website that he has to agree with the stewards that the move was too hard. The seven-time champion says he had no intention of endangering the Williams driver and that he was "sorry" if Barrichello had that feeling. His statement read: "Yesterday, directly after the race, I was still in the heat of the moment, but after seeing the scene against Rubens again I have to say the stewards were right with their assessment: the manoeuvre was too hard.

"Of course, I wanted to make it difficult for him to overtake me. However, I indicated quite clearly that I wouldn't let him pass me from inside, but logically I never meant to endanger him with my manoeuvre. If he has that impression, then sorry, that was not my intention." Schumacher was found guilty by the race stewards of "illegitimately impeding" Barrichello and was punished with a 10-place grid penalty for the next round of the championship, in Belgium on August 29.

Meanwhile, Ross Brawn, the Mercedes GP team boss, defended Schumacher's actions. Brawn said that he was certain that Schumacher moved only to defend his position and did so without any dangerous intent towards his rival. "It may have ended up looking in a dangerous way, but that wasn't the intent I am sure by Michael," he said. "Michael was defending his position, trying to encourage Rubens to go around the outside. I don't think for a moment that he saw Rubens there and thought 'I will squeeze him'.

"But it is a pretty tough business F1 and if you open up every time someone tries to attack you, then you know the drivers in F1 who don't defend." Schumacher has been involved in a number of controversial incidents during his career in Formula One, but Brawn was keen to play down the seriousness of this one. "I don't think for a moment that Michael was trying to put Rubens in the wall, but he was trying to discourage him from coming down the inside because he thought that was where he would be vulnerable," he said.

* Agencies