No joy for Irish as Ferrari double up
They say that any great high is invariably followed by a compensatory low and after the euphoria of last year's Irish double at the Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne yesterday became a graveyard for the hopes of Jordan and Jaguar's Eddie Irvine. While Ferrari's Michael Schumacher comfortably won his 36th grand prix victory and Rubens Barrichello followed the German to match his highest ever finish and crown his debut for the team with a memorable podium finish, Irish hopes had been dashed miles earlier, as both Jordans and Irvine failed to complete the race.
Jordan, who suffered reliability problems throughout the weekend, went into the race in good spirit after Saturday's qualifying session had left them fifth and sixth on the grid. And it began to get even better once the race started as Heinz-Harald Frentzen bustled past Barrichello's Ferrari to claim fourth place, a position that rapidly mutated into second as both McLarens exited the race with engine problems.
But just when it seemed that Frentzen and new team-mate Jarno Trulli, then running fourth, were on course for a convincing start to Jordan's season, Trulli began to slow, eventually sailing into the gravel traps with exhaust problems.
As the Italian ground to a halt, Frentzen was struggling in the pits, a jammed fuel nozzle adding almost 12 seconds to his time stationary. Bad was to get worse just a few laps later when the German, too, began to noticeably slow, before pulling over to a stop.
"I'm really disappointed with this result as I was in a strong position and could have finished on the podium," he said afterwards. "After the pit stop I had problems selecting gears. I tried to keep going by driving in one gear but it became impossible and so I had to come into the garage. The problem was caused by a hydraulic leak, so it can be easily rectified.
"It is always a shame when you lose a good position," he added. "But we have the speed and more developments to come. All we need to do now is work in the reliability."
Eddie Jordan was similarly dismayed by the result. "Today didn't turn out how we wanted, but it is clear that we have the potential to have a very good season. We have traded speed for reliability, which is hurting us now, but I think we have a lot to look forward to this year."
Eddie Irvine could almost have delivered the same speech, having swapped the giddy and electrifying quick heights of Ferrari for Jaguar and the fragility of the team's s new R1. Irvine had done well to qualify the unreliable machine in seventh but his race was ended on lap seven when Arrows's Pedro de la Rosa crashed in front of the Irish driver while the pair were racing for 10th position. Irvine's reaction was to brake hard to avoid the wrecked chassis of the Spaniard's car and in doing so spun off and stalled.
"I was following de la Rosa when he hit the wall," said Irvine. "I lifted off to avoid him and spun to a halt. I would liked to have finished the race but not in the manner it turned out for me."
Jaguar's problems appear to be deeper rooted than Jordan's, Eddie Irvine's team will at least be battling on only a single front.
As Jordan retreat to Silverstone to puzzle out the deficiencies of the EJ10 a new threat appeared yesterday in the shape of BAR. The two teams both use Honda engines, BAR as part of a works deal with the manufacturers and Jordan through Honda's motorsport division, Mugen. As the Jordans sputtered and failed yesterday, the BARs of Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta both finished in the points, the Canadian taking fourth and his Brazilian team-mate snatching sixth after Sauber's Mika Salo was disqualified.