Tuesday January 25th, 2000
By Alan Baldwin
Moving from Ferrari to Jaguar is not going to change Eddie Irvine's outlook on life and his devotion to the pursuit of pleasure.
Asked at the launch of Jaguar's R1 Formula One car about his "hedonistic" party lifestyle and whether he would have to modify that to suit Jaguar's less racy image, the northern Irishman fired back a typical Irvine reply.
"Don't believe what you read. Sometimes don't even believe what you see," he declared.
The ensuing laughter suggested that Irvine still has a way to go to convince people that he is the kind of man who retires to bed with a good book and a mug of cocoa.
A recent British television documentary, with its nightclubbing scenes and views of his luxury yacht, as well as a book published last year only reinforced the image of the millionaire lad about town.
"I'm a strong believer that you have to enjoy your life," said Irvine in his usual understated manner, moments after he had been described by outgoing Jaguar team chairman Jackie Stewart as "the ideal man for us".
"Some people are quite happy to sit at home and watch TV and then go out and do whatever they have to do.
"I need a bit more excitement.
"As long as I train hard and turn up at the circuit and I do the job and stay 100 percent professional about that then I don't really see there's any conflict of interest."
Irvine Comes Of Age
"Eddie Irvine for me has come of age, er, in Formula One," said Stewart of the driver who started last season as number two to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari and ended up as world championship runner-up to McLaren's Mika Hakkinen.
"He really has come together. He's been in the shadow of a number one driver at Ferrari. I think it was time that he shed that shadow and went on to race for himself.
"I have heard on very good authority that he's extremely passionate," said Stewart, who paused before adding: "about his driving and puts a great deal of emotion into it."
In a more serious vein, Irvine said there was not much change in his working life.
"The job's still the same. Between one o'clock and two o'clock on Saturday you've got to qualify well and Sunday between two o'clock and whenever you've got to race well."
He said his move to Jaguar was akin to Michael Schumacher's move from Benetton to Ferrari, trading a championship-winning car for one that was more of an unknown quantity.
"Sometimes you've got to take a step back to go forwards. Michael did it at Benetton. He won two world championships and went to Ferrari and he hasn't won it since.
"But that's what he wants to achieve and it's the same thing for me. I want to achieve something at Jaguar."
He said he did not believe that the championship was likely to come Jaguar's way this year or next but maybe by the third season they would be in with a chance.
"We have to rely a little bit on the two big teams having a few problems. We've got to be in the position that whenever they screw up, we're there."
Irvine said he was getting on well with his team mate, Britain's Johnny Herbert, despite several flare-ups between the two on the track in the past.
"I want to do better than Johnny and he wants to do better than me, but I don't want to be winning races and Johnny finishing out of the points.
"I want to finish fifth and him to be sixth or that sort of thing. I want him right there because I want this team as high up the constructors' championship as we can get it."
Irvine, who owns a stable of Ferraris, also revealed that he would be having some new wheels this season.
Herbert said he would be getting a Jaguar XKR as his runabout and asked Irvine what he was having.
"I'm getting two," he replied.