Eddie Irvine: Eddie Irvine's record at Suzuka is pretty impressive, and he makes no secret of his love for the place. He raced here 12 times in his career in Japanese F3000, and spent many, many days slogging round in testing. He knows it like the...
Eddie Irvine's record at Suzuka is pretty impressive, and he makes no secret of his love for the place. He raced here 12 times in his career in Japanese F3000, and spent many, many days slogging round in testing. He knows it like the back of his hand.
Seven years after his sensational F1 debut with Jordan, Eddie still gets a buzz when he heads out of the pits. This time he put in a very fast lap right at the start, such is his confidence in his ability to steer the car round despite a year away.
"My first flying lap was bloody good," he smiled. "If you look at it there was only me and Michael (Schumacher) who did a first lap that quick!"
He finished the day in 11th place, but is confident that there's more to come.
"It wasn't a bad day," he reported. "Whenever there's grip in the circuit, and softer tyres, it always helps us. The handling is not bad. We know what we need to do, so it will be alright. I think we can be in the top 10.
"The car feels reasonably good here. We had an aerodynamic problem initially, and we changed a part on the rear, and it made so much difference, it's incredible. It's the smallest thing you've ever seen."
Eddie is looking forward to qualifying with considerable relish. At Magny-Cours, another of his favourite tracks, he qualified sixth, a position he also achieved in Brazil. Recently it's proved hard to repeat that sort of form, but Eddie is confident that he can get close.
"To outqualify the Jordans is going to be tough, and as for Williams maybe, maybe not. If we can start seventh, eighth or ninth, we might get a chance of a point, but normally out car is a bit harder on tyres."
Some of Eddie's most spectacular Suzuka performances have come in wet races, but this time around he's hoping that the sun will continue to shine.
"We don't want rain. As I said on low grip surfaces the car is not good. Once we run the softer tyres and have mechanical grip, we're okay."
Johnny Herbert: Johnny Herbert’s last Japanese Grand Prix got off to an inauspicious start, as the 35-year-old Englishmen struggled to get his Jaguar R1 handling to his liking. Johnny was 13th in the first of the two one-hour sessions with a time of 1m41.929s. He improved his time to a 1m40.824s, but slipped back to 18th place.
"I didn't have a very nice day today as the balance of the car was poor and it was developing a lot of rear-end instability, which we never quite got on top of,” he confessed.
However, the pace of team-mate Eddie Irvine in the sister car and the fact that the team did not go for a low-fuel/new tyres run means Johnny is optimistic that he can get a good grid position in qualifying tomorrow. “We'll have a good look at the data tonight to try to improve it,” he said. “It looks like a number of people ran new tyres at the end so from that point of view we should be aiming at the top 10 tomorrow."