Irvine's future up in the air despite podium finish


MOTOR SPORT: Niki Lauda will wait until the end of the season before discussing a new contract with Eddie Irvine, despite hailing his third place in the Italian Grand Prix as an "astonishing" drive.

The Jaguar boss wants to get the campaign over before holding talks with the Ulsterman, 37 in November, who finished on the podium alongside the two Ferraris at Monza on Sunday.

"We haven't discussed a contract yet with him because our main target was making the car better," said Lauda, the Austrian who won the drivers' crown three times.

"Now we have to worry about the next two races and then we will talk. But Eddie got a perfect result, his race was absolutely astonishing."

Irvine's three-year deal with the Milton Keynes-based outfit - which has made him £20 million richer - finishes at the end of the season. But he insists he already knows what he will be doing in 2003.

"My future is bright. I know what I want to do, people will just have to wait and see," said the Milan-based racer. "I had a few options and have still got a few options. I am pretty much decided about what I want to so. It's in my head and only in my head."

Irvine has been linked with a return to Jordan but the possibility of him ending his 10-season F1 career cannot be ruled out.

If he does return to the team where it all began for him it would probably be as replacement for Japan's Takuma Sato, now Jordan have switched engines from Honda to Cosworth.

Irvine was heavily critical yesterday of Sato, whose maiden season in F1 has been marred by several spectacular crashes. "They have had one driver all year and that is not the way to do F1," said Irvine. "Giancarlo Fisichella has done a fantastic job, but Sato, mama mia, I just do not know what he is up to."

But Britons Allan McNish, who has been axed by Toyota; Anthony Davidson, who competed in two races for Minardi this year, and 2001 Formula 3000 champion Justin Wilson are also understood to be in contention for the possible Jordan drive.

ITALIAN GRAND PRIX (53 laps): 1 R Barrichello (Bra) Ferrari One Hour 16 Minutes 19.982 Seconds, 2 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari at 0.255 secs, 3 E Irvine (N Irl) Jaguar at 52.579, 4 J Trulli (Ita) Renault at 58.219, 5 J Button (Bri) Renault at 67.770, 6 O Panis (Fra) British American Racing at 68.491, 7 D Coulthard (Bri) McLaren at 69.047, 8 G Fisichella (Ita) Jordan at 70.891, 12 T Sato (Jap) Jordan at 1 lap.

Drivers' Championship: 1 M Schumacher 128 pts, 2 Barrichello 61, 3 J-P Montoya (Col) Williams-BMW 44, 4 R Schumacher (Ger) Williams-BMW 42, 5 Coulthard 37, 6 K Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 20, 7 Button, 8 Irvine , 9= Fisichella (Ita) Jordan-Honda, N Heidfeld (Ger) Sauber & Trulli (Ita) Renault 7.

Manufacturers' Championship: 1 Ferrari 189, 2 Williams-BMW 86, 3 McLaren-Mercedes 57, 4 Renault 20, 5 Sauber 11, 6 Jaguar Racing 8, 7 Jordan-Honda 7, 8 BAR-Honda 6, 9=Minardi Asiatech, Toyota Racing & Arrows 2.