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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'