On this day… 25th July
Brought to you by TJ13 contributor OddBall
1999 was meant to be the year of Ferrari. The team had pushed hard to develop a car that was at last capable of winning the coveted F1 crown. Things had finally come together and Maranello had assembled what was arguably one of the greatest combination the sport had seen with the likes of Jean Todd, Ross Brawn and of course Michael Schumacher topping the bill.
Yet for some the unlikely star of the year turned out to be another Ferrari driver, the hot headed but likeable Eddie Irvine.
The Northern Irishman’s rise to the top of Ferrari’s pecking order came about following a failure on Schumacher’s car as he entered Silverstone’s Stowe corner flat out. Broken legs meant Michael was out of the game for a number of races and Irvine set about taking advantage starting at the British GP where he came a creditable second.
In the eyes of Ferrari Irvine was a very good ‘number two’, an ideal foil for Schumacher. Irvine disagreed having stated, it was a bad move for the team, ”to place all their eggs in one basket.’ So as Irvine positioned himself as Maranello’s number one, he – as the ‘number two’ was replaced by Mika Salo.
Most people viewed the promotion of Irvine as a stop gap measure ame the replacement while Irvine was force to lead.
Many in the Ferrari hierarchy saw Irvine’s promotion as a stop gap until their star driver could return, yet the reality was that Irvine positioned himself well over the coming races – and was almost able to take the driver’s championship.
On this day in history at the race following Silverstone, Irvine demonstrated what he was about. Whilst being a second off the pace of the McLaren pair, things began to brew once the race started.
Mika Hakkinen took the initial lead for McLaren into turn one followed by his team mate, David Coulthard, but at the very next corner he found himself relegated to the rear of the train as his team mate managed to collect him. Coulthard later said, “I completely misjudged the second corner of the race and I am very sorry for what happened with Mika.” But the damage had been done.
The Ferrari of Irvine and McLaren of Coulthard were now racing hard at the front, but the Scot’s car was surprisingly slow – maybe suffering from the collision – or maybe it was the result of a rattled driver, but either way it allowed the Ferrari to remain at close quarters.
At the pit stop the McLaren were slow and Irvine produced laps worthy of Schumacher and once everything had played out the Ferrari took the lead.
The laps quickly counted down as the pair danced around the ring, but the McLaren could not pass and the Ferrari took the chequered flag first.
Mika Hakkinen drove like a bat out of hell, pulling move after move, to finish third and limit the damage to his title aspirations. He was 20 seconds behind Irvine but remained two points ahead of the Northern Irishman with still 7 races to go.
This day saw a resurgent Ferrari and the McLaren team began to crack. The ‘tortoise’ won the race and Ferrari went on to take the constructors’ championship that year – their first since 1983.
Irvine, the slowest driver with the fastest mouth. Threw a title away after McLaren and Hakkinen lost dozens of points in all ways imaginable while he was gifted wins left right and center.
To his credit, has there ever been a happier and more compliant number 2 driver?
Nico?…oh bad oddball bad:)
Thanks oddball. I was a fan of Irvine. The person. Say what you think, mean what you say.
Yep,ever since the Senna swipe I was hooked 😉 he played the part well with the playboy image and lived life to the full, Lewis is taking his approach now but for myself,EV, was a complete package. Maybe not the fastest driver but one who didn’t do BS(Irish trait and I love em)
The last real character.
Fast Eddie! I remember that season well. Ferrari did everything to lose that driver’s championship, including a staged botched pit stop! If Ferrari had supported him he would have been World Champion no doubt.
It was a real mixed up season but I do agree in that Ferrari failed to fully get behind their driver. They really wanted Michaels name up there to justify the expense of bringing him on board,if Eddie had won I am sure many questions would have been asked,however when MS did return he really played the best wingman and to his credit he supposed the teams orders,i can’t imagine Seb or Lewis supporting their team mate in the current season 😉
I always liked Eddie Irvine. He never stood out as a great driver but he was a great personality. And this sport really needs more personalities.
Yep, not many of them left. Lewis is trying to break the robotic image and once Seb got out of Redbull I did see a more humourous side.but EV always reminds me of Hunt or Berger, a nightmare for the PR department and fathers everywhere
I always liked Eddie Irvine. This sport really needs personalities like him.