Loading Live Scoring...
*All times CAT (GMT+2)

Uncertain times for Irvine and Button

The British GP promises to be a key race for Jenson Button and Eddie Irvine as neither driver knows, or at least is not letting on yet, where he will be next season and Silverstone could have a big say in the outcome.

Button could find himself driving for a different team next year while Irvine may not be back at all.

Renault say they will not announce their 2003 driver line-up until after Silverstone, although insiders insist that the 22-year-old Button is set to be replaced by young Spaniard Fernando Alonso.

Irvine, whose big-money contract with Jaguar ends this year and whose job could be offered to Button, is waiting to see how the revised R3 car shapes up before he makes decisions about the future. The odds are that this will be the colourful and outspoken Northern Irishman's last home race before the pit lane playboy, who turns 37 in November, calls it a day.

"I am not interested in just participating in Formula One," said Irvine, who has won four grands prix in his career. "I have pretty much proved that to myself after a ridiculous start to the year. I don't need money, I want results. I won't make the mistake of staying around too long. I won't do that because I have the guts to walk out halfway through. I am not going to do a Damon (Hill) and hang around for the final cheque."

Britain's Hill, world champion in 1996 and the winner of 22 grands prix, raced until he was 38.

The Jaguar R3, unveiled in January and presented as the first "real" Jaguar Formula One car, has turned out to be more of a toothless dog than a Big Cat showing its claws. Irvine's performance in the revised, aerodynamically modified, version will be eagerly awaited but he faces a double-edged sword. If the car is good, others such as Button will find driving for the Ford-owned team a far more attractive proposition. If it is not, Irvine will not want to contemplate another grim season of struggle. He tested the revised R3 last Thursday in Barcelona and set the slowest time of the day, although he said he had not been given enough time to prove anything. The proof will come at Silverstone.

"If this car comes out of the box and flies, I'm going to want to stay in Formula One," Irvine said at the last race at Germany's Nürburgring. "If it doesn't, it doesn't really bode well for the future does it? But I'm not thinking about doesn't. I'm thinking will. 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 came from at the beginning of last year to where they ended up, we have the potential to achieve that."

Button was in the Benetton, now Renault, last season when he hit a personal performance trough after impressing in his first year with Williams. He has looked far more at ease in 2002, and was considered a certainty to stay at Renault until the European Grand Prix when paddock gossip became insistent that he would be leaving. The Englishman went through the rumour mill last year as well, when people were saying he was on his way out of Formula One. This time at least he appears confident of landing another top job if Renault do let him go, with the whispers linking him to Jaguar and Toyota.

"All these rumours don't affect me," he said at the Nürburgring however. "I have no problem with them. It's not a distraction, it's enjoyable and quite good fun because it is all speculation. I am not worried about where I am going to be next year because I think I will be with a competitive team. I am not in the worst position in F1 as a driver. I am looking forward to Silverstone big time," added the Briton who scored his first real points at the circuit in 2000 after being gifted one earlier in Brazil when McLaren's David Coulthard was disqualified.

His fifth place for Williams, as a 20-year-old in only his fourth race and in front of his home fans, still ranks as a real high. His aim now is to finish in the top three for the first time in his career. It would certainly add to his market value at a key moment.

"It's my favourite grand prix and it will be good to have the supporters behind me...It would be great to get that first podium at Silverstone," he said.

By Alan Baldwin

© Reuters

Recent columns

All Columns



Event Streaming

Channel Streaming

Other Live Streaming

Event Streaming

Channel Streaming