Irvine answers Stewart criticism on-track

Jaguar's Eddie Irvine answered his critics by equalling his best qualifying performance of the season to line up sixth on the grid for tomorrow's French Grand Prix.

Irvine answers Stewart criticism on-track

As things began to finally gel for Jaguar, Irvine believes that with a little help he could even have outgunned world champion Mika Hakkinen, who qualified fourth. The Ulsterman fired in a strong qualifying performance only a day after team founder Jackie Stewart criticised him for lacking focus and not spending enough time on the job.

Irvine was sixth fastest while team mate Johnny Herbert did his continuing Formula 1 prospects no good at all by setting the 11th fastest time of the day.

"I've said that the top six is where we can be when we have the downforce on the car," said Irvine.

The car switched from oversteer to understeer around the lap, costing him an even better time.

"If we could have solved that, then I reckon we could have been right on Rubens' heels. It was the car that cost me because it just under-steered too much. I'm not frustrated with this result at all. The team's worked better than any other weekend by a long way."

It is a welcome change after Montreal a fortnight ago, which he labelled as the worst Grand Prix weekend of his career.

"We have had an up an down year," he said, "but every team has those apart from McLaren and Ferrari."

His sights are now set on recording a second points finish for Jaguar, following his fourth in the Monaco Grand Prix.

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