Motor Racing: No brakes on Irvine's bile

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EDDIE IRVINE has claimed he is a better driver than the world champion and David Coulthard, and suggested that he would be happy to take the Scot's place as Mika Hakkinen's team-mate at McLaren next season.

In a magazine interview, Irvine said his Ferrari team-mate, Michael Schumacher, has major weaknesses, that he will definitely not drive for Jordan next season and that Jean Alesi would be the worst possible choice as his replacement at Ferrari if he was to leave.

Irvine also said he needs personal sponsorship because Ferrari's wages are not on a par with offers from other teams.

Looking at his place in the sport, Irvine told Autosprint magazine: "There are only two winning teams, McLaren and Ferrari. McLaren have an excellent car, and Ferrari haven't said yet whether they want to keep me or get rid of me."

Asked if he had begun talks with McLaren's Ron Dennis, Irvine said: "Mmmm... you know how it is."

Asked whether he thought he was better than Coulthard and Hakkinen, Irvine said: "Than Coulthard? Certainly, I've never had any doubts about that. Hakkinen is very fast, but he too has major weak points. Don't ask me to say what they are, though. Perhaps in some things he is a bit better than me, but in others I am much better than Mika."

He added: "Coulthard is in a very weak position. Extremely weak. His ratings are going down race after race."

As for his own future and specifically talk of the Sicilian Alesi replacing him at Ferrari, Irvine had nothing but vitriol. "Alesi is a non-starter at Ferrari, someone who shouldn't even be taken into consideration," he said. "They say that he's a mature driver - I've never heard anything more stupid. Even if I wasn't in this team, he would be the last person I would recommend to [the team boss] Jean Todt... I have a few names in mind, but Alesi would be one of the worst choices."

Irvine claimed that only he knew best how to handle his former world champion team-mate, Schumacher. "Michael Schumacher has great strong points, but also great weak points. He and Alesi would never be complementary. There would be an enormous gap."

The German's ideal partner, according to Irvine, is: "Above all others, me. There are a few people I have in mind, but none of them would be able to do the job as well as I do." He said others drivers are not capable of handling the pressure of Ferrari and of Schumacher. "There are very few who could manage it."

He dismissed recent paddock-talk that he would be going to Jordan, and also claimed to be paid little in Formula One terms. He said other teams had offered him $2mmore than Ferrari did last year. "I'm sure that this year they'll offer me as much," he said, but added: "I don't race for money."