Once again it was case of mixed fortunes for the Jaguar Racing drivers as Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert found themselves at the opposite ends of the field. Eddie followed up his seventh place in Australia and sixth in Brazil with another ...
Once again it was case of mixed fortunes for the Jaguar Racing drivers as Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert found themselves at the opposite ends of the field. Eddie followed up his seventh place in Australia and sixth in Brazil with another seventh, while Johnny found himself stranded down in 17th after another frustrating Saturday. Neither car experienced any time-wasting mechanical gremlins, so the team has clearly made progress on reliability.
If anything, Eddie was actually disappointed with his result, for with 10 minutes to go he lay fifth. However, on their final runs both Rubens Barrichello and Heinz-Harald Frentzen went quicker, while Eddie was not able to improve his time.
"I am a bit disappointed," Eddie admitted. "In Brazil and Australia I got pretty much what I felt was the maximum out of the car. Here, there was two or three tenths at least in it. On my second lap I went completely off the road; on my third lap, when I set my best time, I also screwed up the corner where I went completely off the road. Then on my last lap, I got it right, but Ralf Schumacher had blown up and I had to back off a bit for yellow flags. I can't complain, but it's annoying when the potential is there to do a lot better. I'm sure it's going to be a very competitive year for us."
Eddie said that he still wasn't sure if the latest aerodynamic modifications had made the car better on an all-out qualifying run.
"It's hard to judge the handling, because this is a different circuit from what we've experienced before. But it was definitely better in testing at Silverstone, and over a race distance this will definitely be better, but [whether it’s better] over one lap we don't yet know."
Johnny did not have any mechanical troubles, but struggled to get a good lap during the session. The time gap to Eddie was partly explained by his choice of the harder of the two tyre compounds - a gamble that did not pay off. And he was also hampered by a cracked exhaust.
"We chose the harder tyre, because all the indications from yesterday and this morning were that when you do longer runs, it gets better. But it didn't happen. At the end I decided to go on one longer run. It's unbelievable, really. I was happy with the balance of the car - it was very good on the out lap on that last run. I thought, ‘This is going to be good.’ And by the end of my first split I was about 0.4s up. But the tyres gradually went off, and by the end of the lap I was only 0.2s up. I think with this tyre choice we'll be alright in the race. From everything I did this morning it should pay off handsomely."
Paul Stewart, the team’s chief operating officer, was happy with progress. "Eddie felt he could have gone quicker, because he did a mistake on his quickest lap,” said Paul. “We're encouraged by his performance, but a little disappointed that he couldn't get what he felt he could achieve. Johnny went in a direction that he thought would be okay for qualifying, but it wasn’t, and that's why he's as far back as he is."