After the disappointment of Montreal Jaguar Racing was very much back in business in France. Having endured his worst qualifying position in Canada, a frustrating 16th, Eddie Irvine equalled his best result of the year by taking sixth place. It...
After the disappointment of Montreal Jaguar Racing was very much back in business in France. Having endured his worst qualifying position in Canada, a frustrating 16th, Eddie Irvine equalled his best result of the year by taking sixth place. It was his best performance since Brazil.
Encouragingly, he was also 0.767s off the pole-winning Ferrari of Michael Schumacher, which represented a major step forward compared to recent races. Eddie actually lay fifth until Ralf Schumacher went faster with his final run, demoting him a spot. However, the team was boosted by the fact that Eddie's second, third and fourth runs - each of which was quicker than the last - were all good enough to have earned him sixth. In other words it was a strong, consistent performance.
Eddie has always enjoyed Magny-Cours, but he says it's not by chance that he was able to feature in the top six. "There's a reason for it," said Eddie. "I think we did some changes this morning which let us understand why maybe in Canada we were struggling a lot more. First of all, Canada is a very strange circuit. Sometimes you're fantastic, and other times, you're really bad. There was one year when Coulthard was nowhere and couldn't get on the pace. This year Hakkinen was nowhere in qualifying and couldn't get on the pace. It's a strange circuit - occasionally it throws up funny things.
"But the main thing is that this weekend we've worked much more systematically than we've ever worked. And we've got to continue that. That doesn't mean we can be sixth on the grid like today, but it means that we will make fewer mistakes in the future, and we will learn more over the race weekend. In some circuits we'll slip back again, but on the circuits where we run a bit more downforce, we'll be good. We've got a new engine coming that will make a huge step forward, we think. The biggest thing from this weekend is the way the team has worked."
Despite the good starting spot Eddie is not confident of getting a podium finish unless "the big four break down and have problems". But he said: "I'm starting the race in a points scoring position, so I hope I can add to our tally tomorrow."