Eddie Irvine: After qualifying seventh Eddie Irvine said he had a claim on points in the Malaysian Grand Prix and he kept his word with a stunning drive to take sixth place. It was just reward to what has been a difficult year for Irvine. After...
After qualifying seventh Eddie Irvine said he had a claim on points in the Malaysian Grand Prix and he kept his word with a stunning drive to take sixth place.
It was just reward to what has been a difficult year for Irvine. After all, he won in Sepang last year and almost took the championship from Hakkinen, but has kept his motivation through 2000. He ends his first season with a single point to add to the three he scored at the Monaco Grand Prix earlier this year.
Eddie was quick off the line at the start, kept his seventh position through the early part of the race and immediately began to challenge Jacques Villeneuve for sixth. When the Canadian got past Alex Wurz at the first round of pitstops Eddie set his sights on the Benetton. A strong middle stint of the race was enough to move him up at the second round of stops and secure the vital sixth place.
“It’s pleasing to end the season with a point – a very hard-earned point at that," said Eddie. "Whenever the top four finish, the battle for the crumbs is tight so, we can be proud of our efforts today. Everything just seemed to click. We didn’t make one change to the car and our strategy was spot on. In the latter part of the season we have begun to understand the problems with the car. If those theories prove correct, we can look to make a big step forward in 2001.
Eddie said he was sorry to see team-mate Johnny Herbert crash out of his last grand prix. "I’m glad he's okay. It’s a shame his career had to end with an accident. Unfortunately, that seems to be the story of his life, but I wish him all the best, he deserves it. He’s provided a load of laughs in the short time we were team-mates. Formula One will miss him."
Gary Anderson was delighted to end the season with a points finish, but said it wasn't an easy job. "Eddie’s first and third stints were fine but the car was unbalanced during the middle stint," he said. "We’ve certainly realised the potential of the car and this will give us a good starting point for next year.”
Despite Herbert's crash, a points finish in the last race of the season is a tremendous boost for the team. After strong performances in the US and Japan, Jaguar Racing ends its first season of F1 on an upward curve, and looks forward to a promising future.
Johnny Herbert's long F1 career finally came to a close at the Malaysian Grand Prix today. Unfortunately for Johnny, it wasn't the glorious exit that he might have hoped for when he crashed spectacularly on lap 49.
Using a similar one-stop strategy that netted him three points in 1999, Johnny was running fourth before heading for the pits to refuel, but a slow pitstop dropped him back down the order. He was running comfortably in 11th when he went off the track at high speed eight laps before the finish, pitching the R1 into the barriers.
Clearly shaken after the impact, Johnny climbed out of the car unaided but was carried away from his Jaguar R1 on a stretcher and taken to the circuit's medical centre complaining of leg pains. Fortunately, an X-ray revealed nothing more serious than severe bruising.
“I guess it was inevitable that because I began my career being carried to the car, I would end it being carried out of it," said Johnny. "I’m pretty disappointed to have a good race ruined by a failure such as that. I was running well early on until the problem at the pitstop. I braked for the line in the pit lane and the engine cut so I had to coast into the box. I’m okay. I have a bit of pain from the left knee but nothing too serious. There’s nothing like ending your career with a bang. When the car pitched, I was trying to work out which way I was going in so I could position my legs for the impact but I lost my sense of direction.”
That he escaped without injury was the good news; the bad news was that the incident occurred in the first place. Technical director Gary Anderson admitted that the team was very disappointed with the crash - suspension breakages are just one of those things that occasionally catch a team out.
"Johnny's failure is a bit annoying really," said Anderson. "Luciano [Burti] had one at Silverstone back in May or June, with the same thing. Firstly, it shouldn't happen to begin with, and secondly once you've had one it should be fixed and done and dusted.
"It was a rear suspension link. It broke just before braking, and its highest load is actually in braking, so it probably broke when he hit the brake pedal. It's got a high safety factor, it should never break, and you can't break it when you put in on a rig. And yet this one failed."
The team has had other problems this year, although not in exactly the same area. "They were different. They were the same type of component; the way we use the rear suspension we've got three of this type of component. Eddie had a completely different type of failure in practice at Monza; it was a failure of a similar type of component, but a different link. Again, we've never even seen even a hint of a problem there; never a crack, never a mark, nothing. And yet one failed.
"People have asked me if we called Eddie and told him. I didn't, because we've done so many bloody miles on it, it's a freak thing when it happens, and we don't know why it happens."
Johnny's race had started very well. He was on a one-stop strategy, as opposed to the two of Eddie, and it seemed to be paying dividends as he moved up the order. However, when he finally made his stop, at exactly half distance, he lost a lot of ground.
"Johnny had a problem coming in; he locked the rear wheels and stalled the engine, so he had to freewheel into the pit. He lost quite a lot of time and quite a bit of motivation, which I don't blame the bloke for, because he'd done all the work, and got into fourth. At the end of the day there would have probably been a dice between him and Eddie for sixth."
Unfortunately, it wasn't to be, and Johnny finished his final year without a point to his name. It was a sad end to an illustrious career. Johnny left the circuit straight after the race for a new career away from grand prix racing. He will be sorely missed.