Motor racing: Irvine insists on priority at Ferrari

THE SPECTRE of Michael Schumacher is ever more apparent and Eddie Irvine, conscious that the man is close to re-appearing in person, was at pains here yesterday to stress the merits of his own claims, over the Ferrari No 1, for official recognition as the team's championship contender.

Irvine takes a two-point lead over McLaren-Mercedes' Mika Hakkinen into Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix. Schumacher, soon to return in Italy, in a fortnight, is 24 points adrift.

The Ulsterman couched his appeal diplomatically, but it amounted to a simple message: give me your support and discount Schumacher's prospects. Irvine pointed out he had been informed of reports in the Italian media, quoting the Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo, as saying Schumacher would be required to support the Ulsterman's cause.

However, Irvine contends he has yet to be given first-hand confirmation of such a commitment and is anxious for the matter to be clarified before Schumacher, recovering from a broken leg, returns. Irvine said: "I've not been told anything by Ferrari and it's not for me to ask. But I assume I'm the one going for the championship. I am leading and Ferrari want to win the championship, so they should want to help me.

"At the start of the season Michael was their best chance for the championship but since his accident we've taken 30 points. Now I guess it's logical I've got the best chance. But it's not my decision. It's up to the team. I just go out and try to beat the McLarens anyway."

Behind this plea is an unease brought about by some of Irvine's more caustic comments and his negations with Stewart-Ford, or Jaguar, as the team is expected to be renamed.

Schumacher is unlikely to relish the role of supporting act and the team would be irked to see Irvine carry off the coveted world champion's No 1 sticker and slap it on the side of another car. Since Irvine presents the logical argument, he ought to accept that Hakkinen is the favourite for the championship after he and his team-mate, David Coulthard, were first and second in Hungary 12 days ago.

Irvine defiantly maintained: "We had a problem with the car in Budapest but you can't judge us on that. We're getting better and we have a chance here. People keep saying this is a really important race but they're all important. There are always 10 points for the win. I don't mind if I get zero points here as long as I'm ahead after the last race."

Hakkinen, like Irvine, is seeking his first win here, a circuit that has been Schumacher's domain, and the Finn is similarly bullish. He said: "It's not a problem that I've never won here. I'm here to get maximum points this time. The programme has not really gone to plan this year because I wanted to be leading the championship at this stage. But our testing has been great and I don't see why we shouldn't perform well in this race."

If this is to be Mika Salo's last race for Ferrari he can comfort himself in the knowledge he has a drive for the next two years. The Finn will replace Jean Alesi at Sauber. Jordan-Mugen confirmed yesterday that the Italian, Jarno Trulli, currently with Prost-Peugeot, will replace Damon Hill.

Trulli, who has a two-year contract, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for me. Jordan have shown they're now a truly top team."

Team owner Eddie Jordan, said: "In Jarno I see one of the most exciting young drivers I have come across and I am certain he will develop with Jordan into a winning driver."

n The Belgian government has threatened legal action against anyone displaying tobacco logos, in accordance with a ban in place since January. Maximum punishment is a fine of up to BFr20m (pounds 320,000) or a year in prison.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Wes Brown is sent-off
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower