FORMULA ONE POINTS LEADER IRVINE ENJOYING VIEW FROM THE TOP By Dan Knutson indyf1.com Special Contributor INDIANAPOLIS, April 9, 1999--After winning the Grand Prix season opener in Australia, Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine heads into this ...
FORMULA ONE POINTS LEADER IRVINE ENJOYING VIEW FROM THE TOP
By Dan Knutson indyf1.com Special Contributor
INDIANAPOLIS, April 9, 1999--After winning the Grand Prix season opener in Australia, Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine heads into this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix leading the Formula One World Championship. He'd like to leave Brazil still on top of the points chart.
"If I score (a few points), that should be relatively easy," Irvine said. "I want to go to (the next Grand Prix in) Imola leading the World Championship. I want to lead as long as I can. If I can lead it at the end of the season, then that's fantastic. But that's a long way away at the moment.
"Leading the World Championship is a position I've never been in before, and I like it! If things go well, I should leave Brazil still leading the title chase, and that would be a great feeling."
Neither Irvine's teammate, Michael Schumacher, nor West McLaren-Mercedes teammates Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard scoring points in the first race, so Irvine has a 10-point lead over the three drivers considered to be the main contenders for the title.
Ferrari, like the other teams, spent the weeks between the races in Brazil and Australia testing to find more speed and better reliability. The McLaren-Mercedes cars were very quick in the season opener, but neither car finished the race.
"We won't know until this weekend where we are compared to the McLarens," Irvine said. "I think we've closed the gap, but we will have to see how much is left to close."
Schumacher hopes he used up all his bad luck in Australia where he stalled on the warm-up lap and later had to pit with electronic woes. "Our approach here will be the same as in Australia," Schumacher said. "We will try to win the race. We had a lot of problems in Melbourne, and hope we took care of all of them there so we can get our season started in Brazil.
"I think the Grand Prix of Brazil will show the true competitiveness of the teams as it is a real circuit with certain difficulties. It has fast corners and slow ones, and it is bumpy. We were able to improve the performance of our car since the last race, so there is no reason to be pessimistic for the race in Brazil."
Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt said that all Ferrari's testing these past weeks has paid off. "We had two major problems in Australia," Todt said. "We did not optimize the overall package of the car, and we were missing part of the aerodynamic package. We have achieved both of them for Brazil, but will have to wait to see if that is enough."
FORMULA ONE NOTEBOOK
Benetton drivers visit underprivileged kids: Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz met with children at a Sao Paulo charity organization Wednesday.
The Benetton drivers met about 100 of the 1,100 children, talked about Formula One and daily life in Brazil, and then took the captain's roles in two games of soccer. Fisichella's team won both games. The Instituto Dona Ana Rosa is a charity foundation looking after underprivileged children between the ages of 3 months and 18 years.
Verstappen steps out: Jos Verstappen will not replace Luca Badoer in the Minardi-Ford for the Brazilian Grand Prix after all. Instead, Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin takes over for Badoer, who has to sit out this race after injuring his hand. Verstappen had been Minardi's first choice, but the deal fell through at the last minute because Honda would not release Verstappen from his testing duties. Sarrazin, 24, competes in the European Formula 3000 series and is the test driver for the Prost Grand Prix team.
Going downhill: An avid skier, 1995 Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve competed in five ski races in the Swiss Regional Giant Slalom Championship before coming to Brazil. Villeneuve celebrated his 28th birthday Friday, April 9.
Don't quit your day job: Brazilian Pedro Diniz, who drives for the Red Bull Sauber-Petronas team, tried driving something a little bit bigger earlier this week -- a city bus.
"There is a bus strike in town, so I was asked to help them," Diniz said. "It was something funny I did for Brazilian TV. I drove the normal route that the bus runs. Good fun but pretty difficult to drive a big, wide thing like that. I drove over some sidewalks in the beginning."
Where to watch: Formula One fans in the United States can watch the Brazilian Grand Prix live on Fox Sports Net and SpeedVision. Both networks will start with a pre-race show at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) April 11. SpeedVision will also air qualifying live at noon (EDT) April 10.