Motor Racing: Irvine elevated to Ferrari's No 1

EDDIE IRVINE'S elevation to the status of Ferrari's world championship contender was confirmed yesterday as Michael Schumacher embarked on a two-month programme of recovery.

The 33-year-old Irvine, whose second place at Sunday's British Grand Prix left him level with the German in the standings, eight points behind McLaren-Mercedes' Mika Hakkinen, has been handed the task of delivering the Italian team their first drivers' title in 20 years.

A Ferrari spokesman said: "It will be several weeks, perhaps six to eight, before Michael will be fit enough to resume racing. Now Eddie will be our No 1 driver in the championship and he will have all the team effort and support that a No 1 driver has."

Ferrari hope to name Irvine's new team-mate today. Italy's Luca Badoer, the team's test driver, could be released from racing duties with Minardi Ford, while Finland's Mika Salo, a replacement driver at BAR, would also be available.

Another candidate is Sauber's Jean Alesi, unloaded by Ferrari to make way for Schumacher in 1996. The prospect of pairing the volatile French- Sicilian with the irreverent Irvine might prove too heady for some, but Jean Todt, the team's sporting director, has an open mind.

He said: "Jean Alesi is contracted to Sauber but he is still a possibility. We need someone who knows Ferrari and the car, someone who is friends with Ferrari."

Irvine will be more concerned with the opportunity suddenly presented to him. "The chance is there to go for the championship and that's what I want out of Formula One," he said. "But we need to improve the car. I'm driving out of my skin at the moment."

The Ulsterman has maintained all along that driving for Ferrari, even as No 2, is the best route to a tilt at the championship. During the build up to the British Grand Prix, he told the Independent: "I haven't stayed at Ferrari because I wanted to help Michael Schumacher win the world championship. I'm here because of me."

Irvine seemed to be aiming no higher than second best this year but he said: "You never know, it could be first. Michael might slip on a banana skin tomorrow. You don't wish bad luck on anyone but I'm out there for me. If he has a problem, I have to take advantage."

If that was eerily prophetic, the irony of another comment was positively spooky: "You always learn from Michael, especially on a circuit like Silverstone, the way he pushes through the fast corners. You know it's there to be done so you have to put your heart in your mouth and go for it."

Irvine believes his promotion will enhance his performance. "It always makes me feel stronger when the team are focusing on me. It makes me feel I've got to do the job because it's down to me."

However, Todt questions Irvine's temperament as he believes the tension of Sunday's race managed to get to him. "The championship will be tough to win for us. But we will give it everything and only time will tell what will happen," Todt said.

"I hope Irvine can win the drivers' title. Life has been such that he has often been behind Michael, but Michael will not be there for a few weeks so it's up to him to win as much as he can.

"He will be supported as he always has been. He has never been the second driver. It's the facts which have decided that Irvine is the second driver because Michael has always been faster than him. If he had been ahead of Michael then he would have been the first driver.

"Now he has a chance to win the championship - just like he had a chance to win yesterday's race. But he made a mistake [when he overshot his pit- stop mark]. Maybe he was nervous.

"But with Michael out it's the team I feel sorry for because we've so many good people working for us and we have such a good car. But that's motor sport. These things happen."

Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk