Motor Racing: Cool finale for Senna and Irvine: A Northern Irish talent is relaxed about a high-profile future. Derick Allsop reports from Adelaide

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The Independent Online
THE passage of 11 days and some inevitable counselling have rendered Ayrton Senna and Eddie Irvine more circumspect for the resumption of Formula One business here.

Senna firmly, yet politely, refused to discuss his clash with Irvine in Japan, or the possible ramifications. Sunday's Australian Grand Prix is his last with McLaren, and, he implores, it is time to accentuate the positive.

He did, however, speak briefly of his 'regret' over the incident. Senna admitted here yesterday: 'In the end I lost my temper, which I deeply regret.'

Irvine, too, was reluctant to rake over the coals yesterday. FIA, the sport's governing body, is to consider the circumstances and delivery of the Suzuka punch next month and both camps are anxious not to exacerbate the situation. Irvine has been told by Jordan to keep quiet and keep out of Senna's way in this race. Such instructions go against the grain and, albeit guardedly, Irvine made it clear that he had no regrets over his part in the incident. Senna had given him a lecture about his driving and he saw no reason why he should be intimidated by the triple world champion.

Irvine said: 'It's not in my character to take all that from anyone. I could see his point of view and that he was getting annoyed, but he's got to see my point of view. I mean, who does he think he is?'

Ah, now that's more like our Eddie. What, though, of Eddie the driver? His pace at Suzuka impressed everyone, including Senna, but then after three years in the Japanese Formula 3000 championship that is a circuit he knows well. His performance on the streets here will provide a more meaningful guide to his ability. Irvine acknowledges that and anticipates scant assistance. He said: 'A lot of people will be shooting at me this weekend.'

Eddie Jordan, the team owner who added Irvine to his list of distinguished proteges, has no doubts about the potential of the 27-year- old Ulsterman. He said: 'You know with Eddie that when the moment demands it, he will deliver.

'I remember a win he had in Formula 3000 at Hockenheim, it was outstanding. He's a tiger. He's got a lot of aggression and he's nobody's fool. He's got that bit of arrogance and won't be intimidated. He really raced with Schumacher as well as Senna at Suzuka. That's something in your first grand prix.

'Racing in Japan has been good for him because it's enabled him to develop. Now he has to do it here. There's no question in my mind he should be in Formula One. He could go all the way. Who knows what he would do in a Williams?'

Such a prospect appears to leave Irvine as indifferent as he was to Senna's denunciation of him. He said: 'If I won the world championship in a Williams this year it wouldn't mean that much to me. Doing the job to my own satisfaction is what matters to me.

'From what I've seen of Formula One I can't really say that I like it that much. I certainly haven't spotted this 'aura' that I keep hearing about. I haven't had any offers yet, anyway, and I realise everyone will be waiting to see what happens and what I do here.

'The problem is I'm lazy. Now if I had my sister's drive, it might be different. She's a physiotherapist and a real pusher, you know? In Japan I make a good living and don't have to get involved in much sponsorship stuff. I don't speak Japanese and they don't speak English. It would have to be a competitive drive to tempt me into Formula One permanently. While I can choose my drives in Japan, only Senna can do that in Formula One.'

Victory in next week's Japanese race would give him the 3000 championship and he is already committed to a test programme which clashes with next month's FIA hearing. He said: 'I don't know why they want to see me anyway. I didn't hit anyone]'

Jordan has taken the precaution of warning Irvine to allow Senna through should the Brazilian endeavour to lap him. That will comfort Senna, who is intent on defusing the situation. He prefers to focus on other matters. He could beat Damon Hill to second place in the championship, yet of greater significance to him would be a victorious finale with McLaren and, you suspect, denying Prost the perfect end to his Formula One career.

Would Senna be prepared to 'kiss and make up' with the Frenchman this weekend? 'I don't know,' he said. 'I'm not particularly concerned about Alain. He has made his decision to go for a different way of life and we should all respect his decision. I wish him the best.

'I have enjoyed driving with Mansell and Prost in different ways. They have different characteristics, one is really aggressive, the other not. I have tried to see the good things in them to make myself better, but you have to pay attention to the not so good characteristics also.'

Next season Senna replaces Prost at Williams-Renault and becomes the sole championship winner still competing in Formula One. He said: 'It means more attention and it gets tough. I wish you could be in my place sometimes. People try to pump you up or knock you down. Formula One looks for characters, personalities, the driver who is the biggest star or idiot of all time.'

(Photograph omitted)