Exclusive interview: Eddie Jordan

As a new era in Formula 1 begins with the arrival of Midland and Alex Shnaider, so another one ends as Eddie Jordan - grand prix racing's most colourful and quotable team boss - steps down to a lesser role in the outfit he created

Exclusive interview: Eddie Jordan

Whether playing a vital and vocal part in the debate over F1's future, or celebrating shock achievements like his team's win at Interlagos in 2003, Jordan's charismatic boss has never been far from the headlines - even as the manufacturer teams pushed independent squads like his towards the sport's margins.

Jordan admitted that his team was unlikely to recapture its late 1990s form - when it won three races in two seasons and lead driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen challenged for the 1999 world championship - without a significant increase in backing. He was also always aware that attracting such investment might involve him relinquishing his position at the head of Jordan Grand Prix, and so it proved when the Midland deal was unveiled earlier this week.

Autosport's Anthony Rowlinson spoke exclusively to Jordan on his last day as an F1 team principal, as he cleared his desk and prepared for a new and rather different life.

I'll be devoting my time to doing what I can to get current and new sponsors to Jordan and Toyota, to ensure that we have the money and the muscle to take on the manufacturers. I'll be looking for new sponsors in every dingy little hole I can find, but mainly in areas where Jordan has historically been strong: Asia, the Middle East, Bahrain - they were great to us last year - Turkey, Russia... I have to remember the sponsors who have stayed with us, too. Jordan wouldn't be around without the support of the likes of Benson and Hedges. I'm talking to them about a future role, as I am Deutsche Post and DHL.

In my opinion it was always secure. There were never any doubts about Jordan continuing, but this, for sure, will make people sit up and take notice. What Midland will be doing with Jordan, over a period, will be learning very fast, but all the elements are there for them. The team could not have been left in a better position for new people coming in. Ian Phillips (commercial director) will still be here, so will Mark Smith (technical director) - who has been successful everywhere. He's great to have back. Coupled with Toyota (as engine suppliers), it's hard to see the downside. Jordan can be great again.

Alex Shnaider was the only one who, as far as we were concerned, had the funds to buy the team. You can't do a deal with someone when they don't have the funds, but when someone proves they do have the funds then you can start the serious negotiations. We never got to that stage with Christian Horner, although I'm sure he will do a very good job with Red Bull. Midland had the money and no baggage and also an iron will to be competitive. They were also prepared to offer safeguards over the future of the team. There are safeguards for the staff, although there are only so many you can put in place. The team should be stronger and in a better position.

At the age of 36 I was only dreaming of F1. He's self-made billionaire with a huge global business that employs 50,000 people and has $2bn turnover. That takes some going. I admire him, at that young age, to get to that level of success.

A director? Forget it, I won't have a title. But I will be working in every way that I can for the betterment of Jordan-Toyota. I've never found a sponsor from behind a desk in my life. The only way to find sponsors is to be out and about, getting yourself busy, hustling and trying to find them. That's been the problem: I've spent too much time stuck behind a desk sorting out other peripheral things and I have not been able to give myself to the team in the most effective way. In my new role I am sure there will be some sponsors I will look after, but I won't be going to all the races. I want to do some of the things I've missed being able to do, so I won't go to Melbourne unless there's a reason for me to be there and a meaningful job to be done. I want to be giving good value for the company.

There's a certain amount of nostalgia, obviously. But it has all happened so quickly that I've hardly had time to draw breath. We worked until 3am on Friday morning getting the deal done and work through the final negotiations. We had set a target of getting the deal done by January 21 - both sides wanted it done, so we only had limited time. When I've had time to think about it, sure there will be some nostalgia, but the world doesn't stand still. You can't be the guy in the corner shop wishing Tesco and Sainsbury hadn't opened up down the road. We were no longer in a position to be strong against these guys, so we had to face the future.

The best has been making sure that this team was successfully handed over in good hands. It's easy to get off on the one-two at Spa, pole positions or whatever, but that would have all been bollocks if the team had folded. The success of finding a fabulous partner and handling a really nice deal with Midland is great. They knew it was in their interests to get an entry to the championship and come in this way. We came in on a wing and a prayer in 1991 but we've won races and been able to achieve things other teams haven't been able to do, and always with a customer engine. What we did was incredibly hard but there are parts of that original group who are still here working together now. It makes me proud that there's room for the little guy to be successful, as we have been. We've always punched above our weight. No-one would have believed that we could have won at Brazil in 2003, but we did.

One of the very, very few times in those years that I questioned what I was doing was coming home from Imola in 1994. Ayrton Senna touched everybody and he had driven for us in 1982. He was a fantastic, magic person. We would all have loved to see the fight between Ayrton and Michael (Schumacher) that year - I actually believe Michel would have prevailed, but it would have been a hell of a fight. It was a massive honour to have both of those drivers associated with Jordan, even if it was only for a short time. But there were other great drivers, too - Damon Hill for example.

The task has become too great for one person. You need skills and training very different to those that I came in with, so I'm actually relieved to be going back to a role I know I can do well in. I certainly think the other team principals will be glad to see the back of me - I've caused enough trouble to the Ron Dennises of this world over the years! You know, if you'd looked into a crystal ball in 1970 - when I started racing with a kart I'd bought for £45 that broke down every lap - and told me I'd be the principal of a winning grand prix team and that Senna, Schumacher and Jean Alesi would drive for me, I'd have told you to go and pinch yourself. I've made my living out of something I love. I've lived my dreams.

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