Eddie Irvine

Eddie Irvine
Full Name: 
Edmund Irvine
Birth Date: 
10 November, 1965
Birth Place: 
Newtownards, NI, Great Britain
Driver Status: 

Eddie Irvine Biography

Eddie Irvine F1 Career Overview

Though perhaps best remembered for the years he played a supporting role to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, it is easy to forget how close Eddie Irvine came to clinching the 1999 F1 World Championship.

A precocious talent from a young age, Ulsterman Irvine enjoyed success in Europe and in Japan before Eddie Jordan - known for spotting young talent - picked him for his eponymous team for two memorable guest outings in 1993 and an equally infamous full-season in 1994 that almost saw his Super Licence revoked for dangerous driving.

An impressive campaign in 1995 earned him a plum drive with Ferrari in 1996, where he benefited from the upsurge in form that came with the simultaneous appointment of Michael Schumacher (and a number of his title-winning Benetton designers) even if it was clear he was to play a supporting role to its prize possession. 

In the wake of Schumacher’s title-ending leg injury at Silverstone in 1999, Irvine assumed de facto team leader and took the pressure in its stride by almost becoming the one to end Ferrari’s long wait for another F1 world title.

Walking away from Ferrari the same year, Irvine endured three unhappy seasons at Jaguar before quitting at the conclusion of the 2002 F1 season.

Eddie Irvine F1 Career - Team-by-Team

Jordan: 1993-1995

A Formula Ford Festival winner and a frontrunner in British F3, it was Irvine’s performances first in the International Formula 3000 Championship (third overall in 1990) and the following three seasons in the fiercely-contested Japanese Formula 3000 series that earned him his big F1 break in the penultimate round of the 1993 F1 season with Jordan.

The same team with which he enjoyed success in F3000, Irvine debuted at Suzuka - now familiar to him from his Japanese racing days - and duly made an immediate impression by scoring a point on his debut in sixth position (behind team-mate Rubens Barrichello in what would be the team’s sole points of the year). 

However in the process, Irvine had the gumption to unlap himself by overtaking leader Ayrton Senna, a move that angered the Brazilian, who duly confronted him going as far as to throw a punch that landed him a two-race suspended ban.

Irvine’s mark had been made and he secured a full season for 1994, but quickly courted more controversy when he triggered a four-car pile-up in the season-opening Brazilian Grand Prix. Defending aggressively from Jos Verstappen, he forced the Dutchman onto the grass to send his Benetton wayward and spinning back into the path of Irvine and the Ligier of Erc Bernard.

The impact launched Verstappen’s car into a somersault that also took out the innocent Martin Brundle further up the road, the Briton fortunate not to have his head clipped as the Benetton vaulted his McLaren.

The incident originally landed him a one-race ban, which Jordan appealed, only to have it upped to a three-race suspension.

Scoring on his return in Spain, though Irvine was evidently quick in the Hart-engined car when it ran reliably, the frequency of on-track incidents won him few fans among rivals and the FIA governing body. Given a one race suspended ban for an incident with Johnny Herbert during the Italian Grand Prix, another collision with Damon Hill in qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix prompted the threat of having his Super Licence taken away if he didn’t stay out of trouble.

With Jordan taking a step forward in 1995 after securing a deal to run Peugeot engines (following its brief and unfruitful relationship with McLaren), Irvine was more competitive, peaking with a run to his first podium in the Canadian Grand Prix. Three more top six finishes placed him 12th in the overall standings. 

Ferrari: 1996-1999

Initially re-signing with Jordan for another two seasons, it was later announced Ferrari had instead bought out his contract and signed him as part of an all-new line-up alongside 1994 and 1995 World Champion Michael Schumacher.

While the Ferrari F310 came too soon for Schumacher’s influence - which included bringing a number of key personnel from his title-winning days at Benetton - to make its presence felt, it was a trying year for Irvine. Though he starred on his debut in red by out-qualifying Schumacher and finishing third, it was the minor highlight of a season blighted by bad reliability and mistakes.

The Ferrari F310B of 1997 proved more competitive, even if Irvine wasn’t quite in the league of Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve as they tussled for the title out front. After a strong start that yielded four podiums - including a new personal best of second in Argentina - Irvine’s form waned en route to seventh overall, gaining a place at the expense of an excluded Schumacher.

Irvine fared better in the Ferrari F300 of 1998 even if he was still reduced to a watching brief to the title fight involving Schumacher and McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen up ahead. Greater consistency would see Irvine on the podium on eight occasions, landing him fourth overall.

With Schumacher hot favourite heading into the 1999 F1 season - despite losing out to Hakkinen in 1998 - it was Irvine that started the year on stronger footing, notching up a long awaited maiden victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Still in the mix come mid-season, Irvine’s status was elevated on the back of Schumacher’s accident at Silverstone, which ruled the German out for several events and with it any hopes of the title.

While Hakkinen had established an advantage over him by this stage, the margin was slim and Irvine duly responded to his newfound opportunities by winning two races on the bounce in Austria and Germany, the latter occurring when substitute team-mate Mika Salo slowed down on the order of Ferrari.

His results wavered thereafter but after losing a crucial sixth place to the Finn in a wacky rain-affected European Grand Prix, responded perfectly in Malaysia, helped in part by a returning Schumacher intentionally slowing Hakklnen to allow Irvine to jump through the pit-stops. Controversy was to follow though, when Irvine and Schumacher were disqualified over a technical infringement (handing the title to Hakkinen) only for an appeal to reinstate them and take the championship fight to the final round. 

Armed with a four point advantage over Hakkinen, Irvine had high hopes of holding his nerve, but the wily Finn crucially got the better of pole man Schumacher off the line and with the German unable to pressure the McLaren as Irvine faded into a distant third, the title slipped out of his grasp by two points.

Jaguar: 2000-2002

With Schumacher poised to resume team leader status on his full return in 2000, Irvine instead opted against re-signing by joining the incoming Jaguar Racing. 

Effectively a rebranded Stewart team, the move was seen as something of a risk given the Scottish outfit - though a race winner - had been only moderately competitive during the three years previous. However, having had only tenuous links with Ford as an engine supplier, the swap to Jaguar - which the American firm owned - effectively upgraded it to a full factory effort.

Powered by Cosworth engines, the Jaguar R1 proved a handful and Irvine struggled to haul it into the points but for a fourth place finish in the Monaco Grand Prix and a sixth at the season-ending Malaysian Grand Prix, even if results did improve during the second-half of the year.

With Jaguar originally courting press that had it touted as a rival to the likes of Ferrari and McLaren due to its racing heritage, the failure of the team to break out of the midfield drew negative headlines and with it friction within the team. 

Though Irvine landed a surprise podium at Monaco in 2001 with a run to third place, his high salary demands and lack of return led team manager Bobby Rahal to - he claims jokingly - offer to pay another team to take the Ulsterman off his hands. It instead led to Rahal being sacked, with Irvine’s podium assuring him an extended stay into 2002.

However, results failed to improve significantly - despite another podium at Monza - and frustrated at the project’s slow progress, Irvine walked away at the end of the season.

Eddie Irvine - Beyond F1

After turning down an offer to return to Jordan for 2003 - which by this stage was struggling financially - Irvine largely disappeared into managing his property portfolio, investments from which had made him a multi-millionaire before he had even reached F1.

Making him one of the world’s wealthiest F1 drivers - despite not competing - in the years that followed, Irvine was subsequently linked with purchasing both the Jordan and Minardi F1 teams before pulling out of the deals.

During his F1 career, Irvine’s contacts in Japan landed him competitive berths in the Le Mans 24 Hours with the factory Toyota and SARD teams. 

Finishing second in class (C2) in 1992 and fourth in 1993 (C1) , Irvine - together with Mauro Martini and Jeff Krosnoff - finished second overall and first in the LMP1 class in 1994, the Ulsterman only taking the drive in place of Roland Ratzenberger, who’d died during the San Marino Grand Prix while racing with Simtek.