Eddie Irvine: 'Jaguar is going to be mega'

CHAMPIONSHIP: 13th, 4pts

Eddie Irvine: 'Jaguar is going to be mega'

4th, Monaco 6th, Brazil and Magny-Cours
The fourth place at Monaco and some strong qualifying performances.
Frustrating races at Magny-Cours, Montreal, Hockenheim et al.
Every aspect of the Jaguar operation should be improved next year, and if results match ambition then Irvine should collect rather more than four points.

Eddie Irvine underwent a dramatic change of circumstances in 2000; from being a title contender with Ferrari the previous year, he found himself in a situation where a sixth place in the finale in Malaysia was seen as a major result. But in a year when the top four places were permanently reserved for Ferrari and McLaren, perhaps it was. Eddie knew that life was going to be different at Jaguar, but no one expected the team to underperform to the extent it did. No one could blame the Ulsterman for losing a bit of motivation. However, while there was a lot of finger pointing in the camp, nobody blamed Irvine for the lack of form; if anything his qualifying performances often flattered the difficult R1. Eddie himself often said that he was driving as hard as he did in 1999. The fruits of his labours may be seen over the next couple of years, if the team successfully resolves the issues that affected it this year. Adam Cooper spoke to Eddie about his year.

"At the start of the year I didn't realise how competitive other cars would be, and I didn't realise how much we would struggle. But we were unlucky not to score more points. At the end of the day Johnny and I finished seventh or eighth several times, so we were a bit unlucky in that respect. But to be honest the lack of points doesn't matter - the important thing is that we don't make the same mistakes next year."

"For me it felt exactly like last year's car. They'd done exactly the same. Johnny was going, 'It's much better here, it's got much better traction, it's more stable on the entry.' They were wanting to believe him, but I guess they found out it wasn't quite the case. They had just taken that car believing it was good, and improved it a little bit here, a little bit there, when basically it wasn't right in the first place."

"Yeah. If you look at Jordan as well, they were flattered last year because everyone else was pretty shit; BAR, Williams, Benetton."

"I think a lot of other people hadn't got up to speed, and that helped us."

"It did, because it took a bit of brainpower away from fixing things like the clutch, and fixing things that were going to score us points."

"That didn't really make a lot of difference. I don't think if we'd done another 10 days testing we'd have been any quicker going to Australia. I don't feel that had much impact really. It would have been nicer to have done a lot more miles, but really the car was reliable for me all year. I finished all the races I could have finished - I never walked back once. So reliability wasn't really an issue with the car. Johnny had a few gearchange problems, possibly because he changes gear at very high revs compared to when I change gear. But apart from that, I had no problems. Our problem was that we weren't quick enough. We were quick enough to score points at the beginning of the year, but because of the clutch, we lost the opportunity. When the clutch was better, and we could make decent starts, we hadn't really made progress forward with the car."

"It was really frustrating, because we never made any headway with it for a long, long time. A couple of times we thought we fixed it. We'd change something on the clutch, and it would seem great on the day we changed it, but we'd come back the next day and the clutch was back to square one. It's just such a tiny, tiny little clutch. It's mechanical stuff, electronics, you're playing with everything to try and fix it."

"I had that all year. I didn't qualify outside the top 10 until Canada."

"Just aerodynamics, really. We improved it, but it was still an issue. The car was just totally unstable at the rear."

"It just slows you down, doesn't it? You can't barrel into a corner as fast as you want, because you lose the rear end. In qualifying, when the tyre grip is high, we could get away with it, because it just held on."

"All year I've been consistently slower than Johnny. We haven't found the reason, but at some circuits it's cost me up to half a second on the straights alone."

"We don't know. Various things affect the speed of the car on the straight - basically the power and the drag. We're still trying to understand what's going on."

"I enjoyed it a lot. I enjoyed Budapest a lot, I enjoyed Indianapolis... I enjoyed a lot of them, but we didn't get the results. I enjoy it when I feel I've done a good job."

"You can't help that - it's Sod's Law. Magny-Cours was very disappointing, because we qualified sixth and I thought it was going to get better. But once the rear grip went down and the tyres went off you were just struggling big time."

"Some of it was due to the fact that we had improved the car a bit at the rear end, and it was partly because the circuits suited our car better."

"Obviously the team didn't have a boss for a little while, because Neil was really thinking long term, which was the important thing to do, to be honest. To score an extra two points this year was not important. To be in a position to win the championship in five years is."

"I like the way he works, I like the way he deals with problems. And the way he deals with people is very good. That's what he is - he's a manager, isn't he? He's very good at motivating people. For me he's done the job he was meant to do, and he'll continue to do that job. You won't see the results of his input for one or two years. But in F1, running the team is the same as driving the car - you don't look at the front nose. You've got to look at the corner ahead. It's the same thing."

"All the teams say next year, next year, and I think they do feel that they will do a bit better next year. But there's no team that's going to compete with McLaren or Ferrari over the next five years, apart from Jaguar. BAR might get up there, or Williams, maybe. But if I had to put my money on it, it's us."

"The tyres are an unknown quantity, but if anybody can beat Bridgestone it's Michelin. Maybe next year the Bridgestone will be better, but if you look long term, Michelin will do a better tyre, I feel. They've proved that in every formula they've gone in to."

"So far he's just been there watching to see where he thinks the problems lie, and he's been doing that. We've a fairly agreed and sensible opinion."

"I agree totally. Jean Todt has done a fantastic job, better than anyone in F1 apart from Ron Dennis."

"It's difficult to say how he's going to go. He's done well in the lower formulae, and he's done good tests for us. He's clever, an intelligent boy, and he's only problem is lack of experience. Fresh blood never does any harm."

"I think it still is a great idea. The number of flags you see round the circuit... I'd say there's Ferrari and then Jaguar after that. OK, there are some for other drivers, but team wise, I'd say Jaguar is already the second biggest team in F1. It's a great name, a great, great name. It's brilliant for F1, and it's a great means to attract the right people."

"Nine or 10 podiums! It's always nice to be on the podium."

"No. I'm really, really happy with the decision. Do you think Rubens is more happy than he was last year? Last year he was the hero of the team, and now he's the guy who brings it home, a lap behind Michael. He's done a good job, but now people know he's the good driver that he is, and he's not a Michael Schumacher beater. That was his problem going there, or me or anybody else going there. If I had stayed at Jordan I could have beaten my team mate."

"That's nice, but that's not my reason to go motor racing. As I say, I'm 100% happy with the decision I made, but I just hope I can stay competitive long enough to be at Jaguar whenever it's mega."

"I don't look back."

"Yes, but Mansell waited how long? I'm in no rush."

"If I'm in the team, yes."

"It's good. The guy deserves it, you have to say. He's made a lot of money in his years at Ferrari, and it does wonders for his image, but he has forsaken probably four World Championships, if he wanted them."

"If he'd stayed there, you never know."

"It was a strange year, wasn't it? Ferrari disappeared off into the distance, and then McLaren looks very strong, and the next thing in Monza Ferrari disappears again. Very strange. I'm not suggesting anything, I'm just saying it was weird. DC had a strong start, and then disappeared. I'd love to understand these things."

"I think Button's done a fantastic job. Villeneuve's done a good job. As I said BAR could be good because they've got good people there, and they've got the infrastructure that they need."

"It's not perfect, but it's a close as I can get to it! There's always room for little tweaks, but overall the set-up's not bad."

"Except the World Championship. Or getting Jaguar up to where it should be. It will give me a lot of satisfaction if I can do that."

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