Johnny Herbert: The gremlins that ended Johnny Herbert's race in Canada seemed to return this afternoon when he retired from the French Grand Prix after 20 laps. He ran behind Eddie Irvine in the early stages, but began to experience gearbox ...
The gremlins that ended Johnny Herbert's race in Canada seemed to return this afternoon when he retired from the French Grand Prix after 20 laps.
He ran behind Eddie Irvine in the early stages, but began to experience gearbox trouble and lost the use of several gears. Shortly after his first scheduled stop the problem became terminal and he had no choice but to pull into the pits and retire.
"We had another gearbox problem," said Johnny. "I didn't have any drive when I came off the power, then it would come back when I touched the throttle, and then I lost first and second gear. I came in on schedule for my first pit-stop and the team was able to reset the gearbox system, but when I rejoined the race I still didn't have first and second gear. I then lost sixth then fifth and, by the time I came into the pits again, I had lost all the gears completely."
Gary Anderson, the team's technical director, said: "A frustrating end to the weekend after the promise of Friday and Saturday which culminated in Eddie qualifying sixth and Johnny just outside the top 10. We had a problem with the fuel rig during Eddie's stops and unfortunately the gearbox gremlins struck again for Johnny."
After a competitive qualifying session for the French Grand Prix, race day turned into disappointment for Eddie Irvine. For the third time this year he finished in 13th place after a difficult afternoon.
The race had promised much, as Eddie had qualified in an excellent sixth place, equalling his best performance of the year. However, it all went wrong at the start. Although his initial getaway was good, and he reported no problems with the clutch, excessive wheelspin cost him momentum on the run to the first corner.
He emerged in eighth place, but the bad news wasn't over yet. In the traffic jam at the tight Adelaide hairpin, Eddie found himself caught on the inside line, and helpless to respond as two other cars passed him on the outside. He finished the lap in 10th place, having lost out to Jacques Villeneuve, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jarno Trulli and Mika Salo. Eddie later lost a place to Jenson Button before making his first pitstop on lap 23. Unfortunately, a wheel stuck, and by the time the team was able to solve the problem, Eddie had lost over 35 seconds.
That effectively dropped him to last place. He continued to turn in quick lap times, and after his second stop on lap 43, he began to catch and pass other cars. However, the team realised that not enough fuel had gone into the car, and he was called in for an extra stop on lap 59, and then again for a final top-up on lap 68.
The positive news was that when he was running unhindered, Eddie was able to lap very quickly, and towards the end of the race he was the fastest driver on the track. Indeed, only David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher set faster times during the whole race. He was helped to a certain extent by having newer tyres more often than his rivals (although his final set was used), and unintentionally running a light fuel load, but nevertheless it showed that the car had potential.
"We know from qualifying that we can be quick," said Eddie. "And we have things coming that are going to make us a helluva lot quicker. We just need to sort out all the other things that are going on and we still need to sort the starts. We think we've fixed the clutch, but there's another story going on as well, which we never saw until today because the clutch was always a problem. We just need to get all these things sorted. Eventually it's going to click - it's just not clicking at the minute.
"We can't continue to qualify in the top six and walk away empty-handed," he added. "It's another chance missed. My lap times during the race were competitive. It's just a shame I was so far back because I could have mixed it with the guys tussling for points."