Jordan sitting pretty in the slipstream

Ralf Schumacher's team face Sunday's British Grand Prix at Silverstone intent on moving up into motor racing's upper classes. Derick Allsop reports
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The Independent Online
If Michael Schumacher is leading the renaissance of Formula One's most famous marque, then his younger brother is playing a part in the regeneration of a team daring to take on the legends.

The second coming of Jordan is, it can be argued, as significant in its own way as Ferrari's return to the top of the world championship. Ralf Schumacher cannot claim to have exerted the influence his illustrious sibling undoubtedly has on affairs at Maranello, but his burgeoning talent is a symbol of the new vitality in the Silverstone camp.

Eddie Jordan's Peugeot-powered car is a lethal reptile in appearance and deed, and he is understandably frustrated to have only 13 points and sixth place in the constructors' standings to show for its venom. The team has rediscovered the momentum of their maiden season, in 1991, and, as they hope to demonstrate on the circuit next door, in Sunday's British Grand Prix, they are intent on joining the sport's upper classes.

"The points at this stage don't really reflect the quality that's here," Jordan said. "We should be higher but all the signs are there. We've got the budget, we're getting the facilities and we've got two young drivers who are getting better and better."

Jordan's enthusiastic patter and appetite for fun have been welcome features on a stage not renowned for providing laughs. He is, however, eager to dispel the notion he is Dublin's answer to Del Boy, doomed to dream forever.

He said: "I still get people going on about my being able to sell sand to the Arabs and I'm not sure that it comes across the right way. There is a fine line between being a bit of a wide boy and a wheeler-dealer. Certainly a con man wouldn't get away with it in this business.

"We are the only private team to have survived in the last eight to 10 years. Sixteen or 17 of them have failed, and the reality is that if being a wheeler-dealer is what it takes, then I've done a good job.

"I'm very twitchy about this Jack the Lad image. The argument seems to go that you've got to look surly to be serious about this business, and I don't see why there should be a connection at all.

"My view is very clear. If I can generate a nice atmosphere here, while doing the job, then great. It's easier when you have got two younger, go-ahead drivers who look good and are on the case. The team have a very youthful image and I like that."

Schumacher, 22, is partnered by the 24-year-old Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, who was given the seat after Damon Hill turned down an offer and talks with Martin Brundle broke down.

That youthful energy almost overloaded the team's working system after a collision put Fisichella out of the race in Argentina and the German went on to finish third. But then, as any team boss will confide, keen competition between your drivers is no bad thing.

Jordan said: "There is that bit of edge, and it's in our interest to make sure there is a bit of edge. They'd rip each other apart if they had to - but they don't have to."

Hill's decision to join Arrows-Yamaha focused much pre-season attention on Tom Walkinshaw's outfit, while the champion's rejection of Jackie Stewart's overtures scarcely diluted the publicity which accompanied the arrival of the former champion's new team. Perhaps Jordan envies their propaganda machinery?

"I still can't understand Damon's decision because he could have won races with us," Jordan said. "But like that other Irishman, I'm not bitter.

"You have time to do little more than think about your own team, but I've got to look at the opposition in terms of what's going on, such as are they getting more or less publicity than they deserve? That's important regarding sponsors and there's been a lot of hype about a couple of teams this year.

"I didn't say what we would do this year because I don't want always to be dreaming more than the reality turns out to be. I left that for other people to do and there was no shortage of people wishing to say what was going to happen. Some will have it bite them, and some will have it pat them on the back."

But then was not Jordan, bitten by a few of his own pre-season predictions in the past, feeling the pressure to deliver this time?

"Sure there were pressures on me. You've always got them, but you hide them. You never let the doubts become transparent. If you do that it will infiltrate the whole team. Any slight chink in the armour with regard to self-doubt can become devastating. Like a bush fire.

"I don't want to say we can win a race this year. Other teams have done that and they live to regret it. We have a chance, but with Williams still very strong and Michael Schumacher out there, leading Ferrari, it's going to be tough.

"I don't think we've seen the full potential of Jordan yet and we'll have to start winning races, hopefully sooner rather than later, but we are beginning to knock on the door. We have a chance to be the No 3 team going into next year. That is our mission. We must attain our mission."

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