Eddie Irvine on the Belgian GP: A 10th place finish isn't much to write home about when you've won four grands prix, but Eddie Irvine was not unhappy with the outcome of the Belgian GP, a race which has rarely been kind to him. "It was fun," he...
Eddie Irvine on the Belgian GP:
A 10th place finish isn't much to write home about when you've won four grands prix, but Eddie Irvine was not unhappy with the outcome of the Belgian GP, a race which has rarely been kind to him. "It was fun," he said afterwards. "There was no result, but it was fun."
Like most drivers - all except Pedro Diniz - Eddie started the race on wet tyres and planned an early pitstop. "I radioed the guys to say that we're going to need slicks after about seven laps, which I think was right. I think it was 50:50, but it was probably better to start on wets. I don't think the safety car start was conservative - I think it was the right decision."
The race didn't really get going until everyone had got onto slicks, and the true situation was revealed. In the early stages Eddie ran in 12th (the position he started in), he stopped for dry tyres on lap seven, a lap after team-mate Johnny Herbert, and found himself in exactly the same position. He spent most of the race in company with the Saubers of Pedro Diniz and Mika Salo.
"It went okay," he said. "I ran as quickly as I could run. In the first stint on slicks the car was really oversteering so badly, so I got them to drop the rear tyre pressures for the last stint, and the car wasn't bad. But the Saubers were quicker than us. They had the edge. Johnny got ahead of one, and I got ahead of the other, but we weren't quick enough, end of story."
Although the result wasn't what he wanted, Eddie felt that there was much to be happy about., despite the unspectacular 10th place finish.
"The actual result is not important - the main thing is that everything is getting better, and I think everyone performed better overall than we have done so far. this year. We didn't get a result, but I think the whole thing was more together. Now we just need a faster car!"
Johnny Herbert on the Belgian GP:
Johnny Herbert was expecting a lot from the Belgian Grand Prix, not least because his lucky charm had turned up to watch. Last September, Phil Collins attended the European GP at the Nurburgring as a guest of Jackie Stewart, and was amazed to see Johnny lead home Rubens Barrichello in a memorable one-three finish for the team.
Phil hadn't been back to a race since then, but after qualifying a good ninth Johnny started to feel that luck might once again be on his side.
It wasn't to be. He was never really in points contention, and with only Jarno Trulli dropping out of the cars that qualified ahead, he had to settle for eighth place. After the race, I asked him if it was all a bit of an anti-climax.
"Yes, exactly," he said. "But we weren't really on the pace, to be honest. I thought we might be closer to the Jordans and to Jacques, but we weren't. Basically we more or less had a race on our own. I had a little bit of a fight with the Saubers, but basically I was on my own for the whole race. It was a bit of a shame and a bit disappointing, because it looked fairly promising."
One thing that might have shoved Johnny up the order a bit would have been a gamble on slick tyres. Pedro Diniz was the only driver in the field to go for that option, but right away Johnny realised that he could have followed the Brazilian's lead.
"Looking at it, I could have done. But unfortunately I didn't make that decision. But it could have been done."
However, Johnny did at least make a reasonably early switch to dry tyres, coming in on lap six, together with the bulk of the field. In retrospect, he felt he could have been a little bolder.
"I should have stopped a bit earlier, by about two laps. I was actually on the radio about three laps before, but I didn't come in."
Monza is next, and it's a track that Johnny has shone on in the past. His first job in this week's test is to get used to the new layout, the first and second chicanes having been revised since last year. Then he'll be working on set-up for the race, and making sure that his last grand prix at the classic Monza circuit is one of his best.