Friday April 27th, 2001
Jaguar's Eddie Irvine sang the praises of Luciano Burti on Friday and said the Brazilian had impressed him more as a Formula One team mate than compatriot Rubens Barrichello.
Barrichello and Irvine both entered Formula One in 1993, the Brazilian at the start of the season and the Briton at the end, with Jordan. Barrichello then replaced Irvine as Michael Schumacher's team mate at Ferrari in 2000.
Burti was Jaguar's test driver last season and started the year with the team, before moving to Prost to replace under-performing Argentine Gaston Mazzacane last week.
"I worked with Barrichello before and Luciano was much more impressive in the way he worked with the team," commented Irvine on the changes after setting the second fastest practice time at the Spanish Grand Prix. "I think Luciano did a fantastic job, he worked very well within the team. To be honest, he was very impressive.
"He understood that he had to do things that weren't necessarily good for him but were important for the team to go forward."
Burti was replaced by Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, who started the season as test driver with a promise of a full Jaguar drive in 2002 and will make his debut for the team before his home fans in Barcelona.
"It was probably better to get everyone sorted out for next year rather than muddle along this year," said Irvine. "It suited everyone. I don't think you could say Luciano wasn't doing the job. He actually was very good."
Irvine said his time on Friday meant little and that he was fully expecting to return to the midfield in Saturday's official qualifying.
"We've got a programme that we work to and that we think is the best for us and other people do their own thing," he said. "I'm pretty convinced our programme is what you need to do. Mark Ellis, our new guy (chief race engineer) agrees with me and that's why this weekend we've actually done a programme that makes sense for what we are trying to achieve."
Ellis joined Jaguar's race team at the last San Marino Grand Prix and Irvine said he was making his presence felt. But he warned: "The car's exactly the same so we are not going to be as quick tomorrow."
Irvine said Jaguar, who have yet to score a point in 2001 and started the season aiming for 'respectability' on the track, was now resigned to using the year as a testbed for next season.
"I think it's more important to prepare for next year. This year we know our car is not quick enough. And you can't wave a wand and make it go quick," he said. "Really we've got to work our arse off this year to make this car a testbed for next year's car. Because next year's car has to hit the ground competitive.
"Every year, Ferrari chipped away and chipped away and they got there. Basically what we've got to do is chip away this year, we can't sit back with this chassis being as heavy as it is. Last year I'd hoped was going to be a test year but now this year's a test year again to make a big step forward for next year like Williams have done."
Williams won at Imola two weeks ago, their first victory since 1997.