Irvine and Jaguar back on form

Eddie Irvine said that his Jaguar was "transformed" at Suzuka as he produced his best qualifying performance since the French Grand Prix in June

Irvine and Jaguar back on form

With Irvine qualifying seventh and his team-mate Johnny Herbert tenth, both Jaguars will start in the top ten for the first time.

"Soft tyres and more downforce just transforms this car," said the Irish driver. "At Silverstone last week we had a good test and we probably found 0.3s aerodynamically. The handling here is good. There is a problem with the last corner, and we know what that is, but we can't fix it. On the rest of the circuit the car is fine."

The result could have been even better. After everyone had made their first runs, Irvine lay fifth, slower only than the two Ferraris and McLarens. He was later pushed back down the order by the Williams' of Jenson Button and Ralf Schumacher, but Irvine's time was still within 0.2s of a top five slot.

"I couldn't have gone much quicker," he said. "At first I thought I could, because I was a little bit slow on the entry to a couple of corners, so I tried going in a little bit quicker, but I just slid and was a bit slower.

"So really that was as quick as I reckon we could go. On a perfect lap we could have been ahead of the Williams-BMWs, but who gets a perfect lap round here? Seventh is a good place to be. The outside is a lot better than the inside line."

Irvine is traditionally regarded as a Suzuka expert because of the amount of time he spent at the circuit during his years in Japanese Formula 3000. This will be his eighth Formula One start at the venue and he has finished in the top six on all but one of his previous appearances.

Click here for full qualifying results.

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