Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert were two of the casualties in a dramatic first lap of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. As expected, the run down to the first corner was the scene of trouble, when Eddie tangled with the two Saubers of Mika Salo and...
Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert were two of the casualties in a dramatic first lap of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. As expected, the run down to the first corner was the scene of trouble, when Eddie tangled with the two Saubers of Mika Salo and Pedro Diniz, damaging his car and ending his race almost before it had begun.
"I moved over to the left at the start as I had planned that strategy for the first chicane," said Eddie. "I knew it was risky but felt it: was the best way to get through what we anticipated would be a melee. As we entered, Mika Salo moved over on me, I guess he just didn't see me, and the front suspension broke on impact. It's nobody's fault, it's just one of those things. You have to expect that when you are braking from that sort of speed into a chicane. It's disappointing, because if I had stayed in the race, points were up for grabs."
As the rest of the field scrambled through Turn 1 unscathed, further drama awaited them at the second chicane. First, the two Jordans of Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen squeezed Rubens Barrichello as they headed into the braking zone for the tight right-left-right corner. As the wheels and bodywork locked together, all three slid helplessly into the gravel, collecting McLaren's David Coulthard on the way.
Worse was to come seconds later, as Arrows' Pedro de la Rosa ran straight into the back of Johnny Herbert, tearing off the left rear of the Jaguar and sending himself cartwheeling into the air. The Spaniard bounced over Coulthard's stricken McLaren before coming to rest upside down alongside the Ferrari of Barrichello.
Incredibly, none of the drivers were hurt in the incident, although it's believed that one marshal received medical treatment at the side of the track. The safety car was immediately called onto the track and the restarted 10 laps later.
"My start had been good, I'd gained a little bit and got close to Eddie who was then hit by somebody," said Johnny. "They swung in front of me then away again so I got through and settled down behind the Benettons. Then, as we went into the second chicane, it was obvious that something had happened. I could see a wheel about 100ft up in the air and then Pedro [de la Rosa] went straight into the back of me and that was the end of it. I would have liked to finish my European F1 career on a high, but that's life."