Jaguar Racing made its eagerly awaited official debut when Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert headed out of the pits at the start of the first practice session for Sunday's Australian GP. But Friday proved to be a day of mixed fortunes for the...
Jaguar Racing made its eagerly awaited official debut when Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert headed out of the pits at the start of the first practice session for Sunday's Australian GP.
But Friday proved to be a day of mixed fortunes for the team. Both drivers suffered mechanical gremlins and completed fewer laps than planned. However, the general feeling is that the R1 has pace and potential, and should be at the sharp end of the closely fought battle behind the two leading teams.
Irvine finished the day in 10th place, but was an encouraging fifth behind the Ferraris and McLarens when he stopped on the circuit with 19 minutes of the afternoon session to go. He slipped down the order as other drivers ran quick laps with their cars in qualifying trim.
"We've got lots of different problems in different areas," said Irvine. "There are clutch problems, handling problems and a couple of engine problems. But I was able to get through some set-up work and made a good step forward on the last run. I have to say the car feels pretty good and the times are not that bad.
"The top four is what you'd expect to see. It's going to be very close and very competitive behind them, and it's not going to be so easy to finished third, fourth or fifth this year."
Herbert was 17th, but completed only 11 laps. The car stopped out on the circuit in the morning, and the team changed the engine and gearbox during the interval. In the afternoon session he continued to suffer problems with the clutch, despite swapping back and forwards between steering wheels.
"It's frustrating," said Herbert. "But the laps I've done have been good. The very first run was on a dirty track, but on the only run I did this afternoon the car wasn't bad at all, although I had to ease off because Michael (Schumacher) was in the barriers. I'm actually quite pleased with it from that point of view. So I'm happy in one way, but damn frustrated that we didn't get to do many laps."
Paul Stewart admitted that the team still has a lot of homework to do. "The difficulties we are encountering today are consistent with what we've seen in testing," he said. "It's not overly surprising, but I think there's a basic pace in the car. We've just got to make sure we get it right for tomorrow's session."