Saturday May 26th, 2001
By Timothy Collings
It was, said a voice at the Jaguar motor home, the first time this year that Eddie Irvine had a good word to say about his car. The Briton had qualified sixth in his Jaguar in almost faultless style for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.
Irvine, the driver most frequently referred to as a playboy by many reporters and fans, showed his great ability in the cockpit and the potential of his much-improved car with his best qualifying performance of the year on Saturday. Afterwards, crowded by television crews and news reporters, he was glad to talk of his performance leap and praise the team's aerodynamics department for an improvement which he likened to that normally expected between one season and the next.
"I love this place, this circuit has always been good to me and to have put the car on the third row is absolutely fantastic," he said. "But we've got to be realistic. We need to translate this performance into a points finish and then make it work at other circuits."
Irvine had qualified 12th or 13th in every other race this year before arriving in Monte Carlo this weekend and he was delighted with the aerodynamic overhaul and its effects.
"Whatever way you look at it, the amount of downforce we gained from Thursday to Saturday - I've never seen a figure increase like that in my life before in Formula One. And also it's a very big step and downforce is really important here.
"I don't know about Canada (the next race), where efficiency is important. This is such a big step forward but this is a strange place as you can be quick here and not be quick anywhere else. We've got to wait and see. This is a big step forward. See if it continues at other circuits.
"Downforce makes all the difference here. The car always has been well balanced but incredibly slow. Then we improved it a little bit but it became a lot more tricky to drive. Now we've got a lot of downforce in there too, which makes a difference under braking and out of the medium-speed corners. We have the same balance but it corners a lot quicker."
Irvine said the improvements to the much-criticised Jaguar were welcome but would have come a lot quicker if the team had had the use of a wind tunnel that was not 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometres) away in California. "That's one of the hangovers, if you like, from the Stewart days in this team, which is still a small team," he said. "But we have more improvements to come and we are getting there. Slowly."