The Ulsterman Eddie Irvine has implied that he will leave Jaguar-Racing at the year if the heavily revised R3 contender, due to make its debut shortly, does not live up to expectation.
Irvine finished fourth in a surprise result at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but has struggled overall at the rear end of the field in a machine that is unstable at high speed and has been dubbed “undriveable” on several occasions.
Irvine and team-mate Pedro de la Rosa will benefit from the revised car at the British Grand Prix on the weekend of July 7. It will feature a heavily modified aerodynamic package, the fruits of a reformed aerodynamic team headed by Ben Agathangelou who have been working and refining the new components in Jaguar’s brand new wind tunnel in Bicester.
‘If this car comes out of the box and flies, I'm going to want to stay in Formula One,’ 36-year-old Irvine said in an interview with the Reuters agency. ‘If it doesn't, it doesn't really bode well for the future does it?’
The car will be run for the first time at the Belgian Lommel test track in the hands of Jaguar reserve driver Andre Lotterer today. The run will be a shakedown before the car is taken to Spain for a group test at Barcelona where the stability of it on high-speed sweepers – a major weakness of the current car – will be tested to the limit.
Irvine said he was trying to be as optimistic as possible about the revised machine.
‘I'm not thinking about “doesn't” - I'm thinking “will”,’ he said. ‘I'm thinking this package is going to be good, we're going to turn up there and surprise people.
‘And we're going to enjoy surprising people. If you look where Benetton (Renault) came from at the beginning of last year to where they ended up, we have the potential to achieve that.
‘We've just got to be optimistic. There's no point in saying “Oh, well, we've got to be cautious, it may not be that good”.
‘I'm going to Barcelona hoping it's going to be good and we'll see.’
Irvine’s future has been the topic of much speculation in recent days. It has been suggested that he will retire in any case at the end of the year to make way for Jenson Button, who is likely to be replaced by Spaniard Fernando Alonso at Renault Sport.