Schumacher Shrugs Off British Cheating Charges

FRANKFURT -- Michael Schumacher denied Tuesday he had cheated his way to the world motor-racing crown and shrugged his shoulders at the hostile reception his Formula One victory has received from the British popular press.

British tabloid newspapers were enraged Monday at Schumacher's victory over Briton Damon Hill after a collision in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix and their accusations of cheating were front-page news in German papers as Schumacher returned to his homeland.

Told of the British reaction, Schumacher shrugged his shoulders and said there were no hard feelings between himself and Hill who both had to retire from the race after the crash on the 36th lap of the Adelaide race.

"Damon Hill came over to me at breakfast at the hotel on Monday and congratulated me and we talked," Schumacher said after getting off a 28-hour flight from Australia at Frankfurt airport. "I did not get the feeling that he was bitter about it."

"I have to live with it," he said of the British reaction. "They are allowed to have their opinion."

Germany's biggest newspaper Bild put the British media's reaction to the victory on its front page: "War of hate against Schumi," the headline read. "It is only envy."

"Smash and Grab," "Schunted Out" and "Cheat or Champion?" were some of the headlines on Monday's front pages of the British tabloids.

Schumacher added: "If the German press had seen it that way it would have been different. But Hill is British and their press has to be behind their driver. It would have been nice to have won the race and won the title that way.

"But that's racing. It was not a nice way to end it."

Schumacher explained how he had steering problems throughout the race which led to the collision.

"I was so wrapped up in my situation that I did not look in my mirror. By the time I saw him (Hill) it was too late to stop," he said. "I was in a panic that the car might roll over.

"If he had waited a bit longer he could have overtaken later. But, as he said, 'That's racing.' He tried to use the situation."

Although the Germans are starting to rank Schumacher, 25, alongside national sporting heros such as Franz Beckenbauer, only a few fans greeted the world champion when his plane landed.

A subdued Hill also arrived home Tuesday and said he did not wish to discuss the collision.

"It is not something I feel any sort of anger towards Michael for," he told reporters at London's Heathrow airport. "It is not unknown in Formula One for these sort of things to happen."