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F1 Spotters Guide

2002 F1 Teams/Drivers

Enrique Bernoldi
H. H. Frentzen

British American Racing
Jacques Villeneuve
Olivier Panis

M. Schumacher
Rubens Barrichello

Eddie Irvine
Pedro de la Rosa

Takuma Sato
Giancarlo Fisichella

Kimi Raikkonen
David Coulthard

Alex Yoong
Mark Webber

H. H. Frentzen 
Luciano Burti

Jarno Trulli
Jenson Button

Nick Heidfeld
Felipe Massa

Mika Salo
Allan McNish

Ralf Schumacher
Juan Montoya

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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
July 22, 2002

Driver Analysis: French GP
01- Michael Schumacher (Ferrari): Emerged from an eventful afternoon with his fifth world championship crown. 'I had an exciting battle with Montoya and Raikkonen early on, which was very enjoyable. Then I made the mistake with the white line and got the penalty. I took it easy after the second stop, and didn't think I would pass Kimi, until he hit the oil. The last five laps were the worst in my career as the pressure was really on. We can now concentrate on each event as it comes and hopefully have some exciting racing.'

02- Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren): With five laps to run after a consummate drive, lost the race lead in a puddle of oil. 'It's a bit strange to describe my best ever Formula One result as the worst race of my life, but that is how I feel. What happened is terrible. I didn't see an oil flag and locked the wheels. The car was great, both pitstops were excellent and we were competitive. Maybe next time.'

03- David Coulthard (McLaren): A contender until a drive-through penalty for crossing the white line left him third. 'I enjoyed this race so much that I didn't want it to stop. I made a mistake and paid the price. On my last few laps I was told to start short-shifting the gears to save the engine, but its nice to see we have closed the gap. Congratulations to Michael on his World Championship, and his fitting speech.'

04- Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams): Once again failed to convert pole position, struggling with chassis imbalance and poor tire choice. 'The car was very difficult to drive. Our tire choice was fine in hot conditions but didn't pay off today, in the cooler weather. I think it's great for Michael. He did the best job in the paddock, has the best car and knows how to use it. Anyway, my target is to secure second in the championship.'

05- Ralf Schumacher (Williams): Also struggled on the harder Michelins while outpaced by Montoya all weekend. 'Our car has a high tire consumption, which is why we went for the harder tire. But it wasn't as warm as we hoped. On my last lap I knew from the team that my brother had become World Champion. Congratulations to Michael, as he really deserves this title.'

06- Jenson Button (Renault): Kept up with the leaders at the start before tire trouble forced an extra stop. 'It's good to score another point for Renault, especially in France. After my first stop, I was delayed by Heidfeld, who was much slower. I had major oversteer on the third set of tires, so we made sure and changed tires.'

07- Nick Heidfeld (Sauber): Suffered problems with traction-control. 'I had a problem with slow upshifts and had to use recovery mode but it was inconsistent and I kept getting occasional wheel spin, and that got worse later in the race. It's a shame because that was costing me a massive amount of time.'

08- Mark Webber (Minardi): Drove strongly for his second-best career finish. 'A really good race for us. The guys engineered a little treat for us, and then did a great job on the pit stops. I really concentrated on ensuring that my 'in' and 'out' laps were strong to ensure track position. It just all came together in a really satisfying race.'

09- Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar): A frustrating race after a first lap gravel excursion. 'That was very boring, and the race began in the worse way possible when Panis spun in front of me. I had to take evasive action in the gravel, and then couldn't overtake anyone. The R3 felt well balanced today and was definitely not suffering from as much understeer as in the past.'

10- Alex Yoong (Minardi): Finished last in the field on a dismally slow pace. 'I'm happy to have finished. It was a pretty hot race and a lot of cars broke or fell off, which contributed to what was a good finish for us. I was struggling with oversteer and an intermittent misfire, which adversely affected my race pace, but it's still good to have recorded a top-10 finish today.'

11- Allan McNish (Toyota): A lack of grip in the race ended with an engine failure. 'I suffered with quite a lot understeer on my second set of tires. The third set was better and I was making up ground when my car had an engine failure. I am sorry that the oil my engine left on the track caused Kimi Raikkonen to miss out on what would have been his first F1 victory.'

DNF- Eddie Irvine (Jaguar): Suffered a rear wing failure whilst chasing down Button for sixth place. 'The rear of the car just snapped away at what must have been around 310kph. Luckily, just slid into the gravel. I was enjoying the race so a point was possible here. We are nevertheless showing signs of a turnaround.'

DNF- Jarno Trulli (Renault): Endured a frustrating French GP before retiring with a blown engine. 'What can I say? My good start was all for nothing after Massa nearly pushed me off the track thanks to his jump start. He then held me up for five or six laps before I finally could show my true pace. The car was really well balanced before the engine problem forced me to retire.'

DNF- Felipe Massa (Sauber): Several rookie mistakes ended with a technical failure. 'I released the launch control too early, and was penalised with a drive-through. I then got another one for crossing the white line on the pit exit. A misunderstanding in the pitstop caused something to break when I rejoined, but the car felt really good.'

DNF- Mika Salo (Toyota): Completed a rare double-engine failure for the Toyota team. 'I realised early in the race that the engine was losing power and was not running really clear. I had to retire when the engine blew, for a reason we now need to identify. I am disappointed but these are our first engine failures in a race and I am confident that this is a one-off.'

DNF- Jacques Villeneuve (BAR): Despite a promising show of pace, suffered a Honda engine failure. 'I got stuck behind McNish, who was very quick down the straights but slow in the corners. The race wasn't going too badly and the car was actually quite quick. Then the engine let go suddenly. This is the first weekend that we've raced with this engine and it hasn't been tested before.'

DNF- Olivier Panis (BAR): Incurred damage at the start in a tangle with Takuma Sato. 'I am very angry with Sato's move at the start. We thought we just had bodywork damage, but the car felt strange and was vibrating. It then wasn't worth the risk of continuing. I'm so sad to retire from my home race.'

DNF- Takuma Sato (Jordan): Incurred damage at the start before throwing it into the final chicane gravel. 'Panis turned in on me at the start, and damaged the barge board and underneath the car. Coming into the last corner I lost grip and the car went straight. A tough weekend.'

DNF- Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari): Yet another stroke of dismal luck ended his race before it began. 'The engine never fired up, even though we tried everything we could. We changed the steering wheel, tried all the buttons but there was nothing we could do. I am already thinking about the next grand prix.'

Michael Scores Fifth Title
Michael Schumacher has notched up a record-equaling fifth world championship at the 2002 Grand Prix of France.

His 61st Formula One victory, though - which signaled a triple back-to-back scarlet crown and fastest-ever title campaign - did not come without a riveting series of on-track duels.

When the Magny-Cours challenges of Juan Pablo Montoya and, later, Finnish Kimi Raikkonen petered out, an ecstatic great German was left pounding the wheel of his consummate Ferrari F2002 mount.

Just as Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio experienced way back in 1957, Michael Schumacher is a five times world champion after title successes in 1994 and '95 with Benetton, and his scarlet trio between the years of 2000 - 2002.

'I've never been good at these moments to find appropriate words,' said the German after a release of Magny-Cours pressure.

'It has just overcome me. I've been very relaxed all weekend, I didn't think about the championship all weekend because I sort of felt it's not going to happen here.

'When I saw Rubens having problems and the pace we had compared to Montoya, I slowly started to believe in it. I then made my mistake getting out of the pit lane crossing the white line.'

With Ferrari tactician Ross Brawn in his radio earplugs, Schumacher edged his right front wheel across the pit-exit by a margin of mere 'millimeters'.

'All hope was gone again,' reports the 33-year-old. 'After that, we had such an eventful race with the drive-through and then several attacks with Kimi who drove a fantastic race but it wasn't supposed to happen, and I didn't believe in it anymore.

'Ten laps from the end I started to push again, pick up the pace and put some pressure on him thinking 'you never know what might happen.'

With five laps to go, content in the knowledge that the title fight would be postponed at least another week, Kimi Raikkonen's leading McLaren locked a front wheel at Adelaide hairpin on a puddle of engine oil.

'I don't think the pressure was the problem for Kimi because if you don't see the oil, you don't see it and that's it, wherever you brake,' Michael continued.

'I was obviously warned by seeing his problem, so I was reacting a little bit to it and that was my opportunity.

'Suddenly, the championship was back in my pocket and that was the worst five laps I have had in my career because the weight was on my shoulders. The pressure was on not to make mistakes and not do anything wrong.

'When I crossed the line, the release of pressure was enormous and the outbreak of emotion I had was pretty heavy. That's when I realized how much pressure I was probably under, which I hadn't realized before.'

After a fish-tail power slide to wow his triumphant mechanics, the great Michael Schumacher paid tribute to a modern Scuderia Ferrari he has worked so hard since 1996 to orchestrate.

'I am just so glad that we have achieved this together with a tremendous team, with people behind who you can just love and can just admire with the effort that they put in, the workload, the motivation they have,' he said.

'It's probably wrong to mention names because we are so many of us. I really love all those guys because we have such a great relationship and it's fantastic to achieve this all together.

'Thank you is very small words for what you have done for me. But thank you very much.'

McLaren Dispute Schumacher Win
While Michael Schumacher and his scarlet crew popped champagne bottles in the Ferrari garages, McLaren boss Ron Dennis was busy lodging an initial appeal against the German's triumph.

Finnish sensation Kimi Raikkonen, with five laps to run in his maiden Formula One victory, hit oil whilst braking from 180mph on the run to the tight Adelaide hairpin.

The 22-year-old forced to run wide, Michael Schumacher seized the opportunity and never looked back as he cruised to a record-equaling fifth world championship.

Inside the Ferrari cockpit, however, a worried Schumacher pressed the button for radio-contact with his scarlet pitwall.

'At the time I was concerned that I might have passed under the yellow flag,' said the German at the post-race unilateral press conference. Marshals waved double yellow flags for the blown engine of Toyota rookie Allan McNish.

'In fact, it was after the incident and I was on the racing line and Kimi was off it,' Schumacher added.

Ron Dennis, watching Raikkonen's bid to become the youngest-ever winner of a Formula One race dissolve, took a different opinion of the title-snaring incident. 'Kimi entered a yellow flag zone and Michael overtook before there was a green one to let him pass,' the Briton said.

'The regulation is explicit - and Kimi was overtaken under a yellow flag. We are not comfortable with the circumstances surrounding Kimi's loss of the lead.'

The race stewards, after investigating the incident, concurred that all Michael had done was retain his racing line, thereby deeming the pass legal and upholding the race result.

'Following the Stewards' enquiry, Team McLaren Mercedes accepts their decision regarding the incident in which Kimi Raikkonen lost the lead of today's French Grand Prix,' a team statement read. 'However we feel that the regulations concerning overtaking maneuvers under a yellow flag situation need further clarification.

'The team feels strongly that it would be inappropriate to take any further action, which would detract from the outcome of the 2002 Formula One World Championship.'

BAR Announcement Today
British American Racing will reveal next year's driver-lineup at a London press conference later today.

While French-Canadian Jacques Villeneuve is expected to live out his already-signed 2003 contract, 36-year-old teammate Olivier Panis' future with the Brackley team looks less than secure.

22-year-old Englishman Jenson Button, recently announced as in his final seven grands prix for the rising Renault team, is favourite to take up the Honda-powered seat in a rumored two-year, $4 million deal.

While team principal Dave Richards told reporters at Magny-Cours that Villeneuve formed part of BAR's 'long term plans', the Briton baulked when the subject of Olivier Panis arose.

Despite Panis' strong performances since joining the team last year, major financiers British American Tobacco are thought keen to snap up the youngster while he is on the market. While Panis, a Frenchman, is no doubt on the pace, he has himself admitted that he is in his 'final' few years of competition. As a result, he does not meet the BAR criteria of representing long-term stability.

A member of Button's entourage told us in the Magny-Cours paddock that Button will fly directly from France to London, where he will be 'visiting friends.'

With the Formula One action resuming next weekend at Hockenheim, rest assured that no driver - no matter how relaxed or assured about their future - is planning down-time ahead of the German Grand Prix.

Button's manager, John Byfield, gave the strongest hint yet that his protégé's future is with British American Racing. 'I am pleased to say that Jenson does have a secure contract so his future in F1 is assured,' he told reporters at Magny-Cours.

'We shall be having a formal press conference during the course of this coming week together with Jenson's new team.'

How many teams have announced a press conference for driver announcements in the coming week? One.

Take it from us; Button for BAR.

Fisichella Watches From Home
For the first time since 1996, Giancarlo Fisichella was forced to watch the Formula One action on his wide-screen television in Rome.

The Italian, 29, was advised to sit the 2002 French Grand Prix out after an horrific accident during Saturday Free Practice at the Magny-Cours circuit. Hitting the barriers at over 145mph, the Jordan driver was subjected to 34g when a front wing failure sent him careering into Estoril corner tire barriers.

Initially knocked unconscious, Fisichella climbed out of the Honda-powered wreck with the assistance of marshals before a trip to the local Nevers hospital. While an MRI scan revealed no head or brain injuries, Professor Sid Watkins told the Italian ace to go home and recover the inevitable effects of rapid deceleration forces.

'I watched the race on TV at home', said Fisichella. 'I am fine today after a good night's sleep. My headache has gone and I just have a little bit of a sore neck.'

Despite the disappointment of leaving his EJ12 cockpit empty in the Magny-Cours garage, the Italian remained devoted to his yellow-clad Jordan team's progress. 'It was a shame to see Takuma retire,' the 29-year-old said.

After his first noteworthy injury since bursting onto the F1 scene with Minardi six years ago, Giancarlo praised the medical staff for their quick response and consummate attention to detail.

'I want to say thank you to Professor Sid Watkins [F1's medical delegate], the circuit medical team and air ambulance crew, as they did a great job very quickly.

'I would also like to thank the doctors at the hospital in Nevers, where I had full scans and of course the team doctor and physiotherapist.'

With a sore neck his only souvenir from the weekend at Magny-Cours, Giancarlo Fisichella will more than likely return to his Jordan cockpit for Friday Practice at Hockenheim in just four days time.

'I have some more tests to pass, but I feel fine and will be racing at the German Grand Prix,' he concluded.

Ferrari Men Pay Tribute
Michael Schumacher's personal cheer-squad of Ferrari personnel have paid tribute to the great driver's fifth world championship crown.

After an exciting race of challenges at the Magny-Cours circuit, the 33-year-old German declared his love for a Ferrari 'family' he has built success at since 1996.

Jean Todt, the guiding figure at the Maranello-based team, enjoys a special personal bond with arguably the greatest driver of all time. 'If somebody has not understood that yet, it is because they want to ignore it,' says the Frenchman still soaked in champagne.

'Six months after Michael joined Ferrari in '96, everybody was saying that he had already been contacted by other companies to drive for them. Nowadays, I don't think anyone would even allow themselves to think that Michael would drive for anyone else.

'I am fortunate that I have a son, of course I love him, but my way of living in Formula One and at Ferrari allows me to enjoy having a 'son' like Michael inside the sport.

'I think it's easier to have a very close relationship when it's not only your blood that decides it. We are a big family.'

While reluctant to hail Schumacher as the greatest driver in history, Todt branded his lead driver the 'new king' of Formula One. 'He's just a great driver, he's driving a fantastic car, he has a fantastic team behind him, and all together makes something outstanding.

'His approach is amazing. He never wants to leave something uncovered; his dedication, his sense of values, his respect for people.'

Ferrari President, Luca di Montezemolo, made a rare appearance at Magny-Cours to make doubly-sure he would not miss the post-championship parties. According to the Italian, Schumacher is the 'Best driver' he's ever seen in his long motorsporting career.

'Particularly in the race, with the capability to maintain a qualifying lap for 70 laps without making mistakes, he is superb. He's a driver who has always been very close to the team, very close to the spirit of the team, particularly in the difficult moments.

'He's also a guy who understands that to win today is important to have a strong car and a strong team and I respect him for this and I'm very, very happy for him. He's in the history of Formula One.'

Also on standby in the event of a French championship triumph were Rory Byrne, F2002's designer, and test-drivers Luca Badoer and Luciano Burti.

Burti, a scarlet-newcomer this year, is in awe of Michael Schumacher's achievements at the sharp-end of Formula One. 'He's incredible', says the Brazilian at France.

'I'm so happy to be a part of this celebration. I have learned so much about success and respect by watching Ferrari and Michael go about their business.'

Ross Brawn, technical director and race tactician, pays tribute to 'Quite simply, the best driver of the modern era.

'Above all else, he is simply the ultimate Formula One racing driver. He has no weakness in any area, simply great. I would use that word without hesitation - great.'

Massa In Trouble - Again
Another string of rookie mistakes have thrown serious doubt on the immediate future of Sauber driver, Felipe Massa.

Just 20-years-old and in his first year of Formula One competition, Massa only added to team boss Peter Sauber's growing concern that the Brazilian does not represent the long-term future of his Hinwil-based operation.

So grave are the Swiss boss's concerns becoming, that he was moved to comment at Magny-Cours that Sauber will opt for 'experienced drivers' to partner Nick Heidfeld at the team next year.

Off the back of several early-race mistakes at the recent British Grand Prix, Felipe did little to endear either his boss or fellow racing colleagues at yesterday's tussle at Magny-Cours.

Jarno Trulli, starting from eighth on the grid, was surprised to encounter a hard-charging Felipe Massa on the fast, sweeping first corner of the 71-lap race. 'I made a very good start, but it was all for nothing,' the Italian snapped after his Renault engine had failed.

'Massa nearly pushed me off the track thanks to his jump start. He then held me up for five or six laps, which obviously cost me time.'

Felipe, admitting to his start-line mistake, came under fire from several corners of the Magny-Cours paddock for being so aggressive after jumping the start. 'At the start I made a mistake and released the launch control system a fraction too early', the Brazilian said.

'For safety reasons I had to keep going, and for a while I was in seventh place until I got my first drive-through penalty.'

'After that I got another one for crossing the white line on the pit exit; okay, it was my fault, but it's quite tricky there and the line is dirty, and several other well-established drivers did the same thing later on.

'In my second pit stop there was a misunderstanding with the crew, and I think maybe something broke when I tried to rejoin the race. It's a shame, because in between my adventures the car felt really good.'

While Jenson Button is strongly tipped for a move to BAR, the Englishman visited the Swiss team's Hinwil factory recently for 'discussions' with Peter Sauber.

McLaren tester Alex Wurz, possible BAR-refugee Olivier Panis, Giancarlo Fisichella and Mark Webber were all mentioned over the weekend as potential replacements for Felipe Massa in '03.

More Support For Arrows
McLaren boss Ron Dennis has thrown his weight of support behind Arrows' deliberate attempts to fail the task of qualifying at the French Grand Prix.

Locked into complicated and sensitive negotiations to sell the ailing Leafield-operation, Arrows principal Tom Walkinshaw ordered that drivers Enrique Bernoldi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen complete a single flying lap slow enough to miss the 107% cut.

Complying with the Concorde Agreement rule which stipulates compulsory attendance and competition at every Grand Prix, then, Arrows will avoid sanction or hefty penalties of up to $500,000.

While the cash-strapped team have come under fire for 'making a mockery' of the pinnacle of motorsports, Ron Dennis communicates his belief that Arrows' Magny-Cours behavior was completely legal and thoroughly understandable.

'What the Arrows team did was the minimum amount to actually qualify as having competed in the event,' said Dennis. 'That's quite important because everyone in the pit lane knows that they are in negotiations to sell the team and that there is a significant penalty laid down in the Concorde Agreement for missing an event.

'What they achieved during the event was the avoidance of that penalty and therefore help in selling the team. The important thing is that the team survives and if that is the case I think we can come to terms with the downside,' he added.

While no-one enjoyed Arrows' Magny-Cours anti-qualifying strategy, Ron Dennis reveals that he has 'Some knowledge of what's going on' and is optimistic that it will not be repeated this weekend at Hockenheim.

Another pitlane source has slammed the 'short-sighted' corner of the sporting media who remain critical of Arrows' minimalist Magny-Cours behavior. 'Anyone stupid enough to criticize them [Arrows] in this situation does not deserve the respect of fellow commentators,' said the leading team figure who wishes to remain anonymous.

'The short-sighted belief that they should have contested the weekend as normal demonstrates a total lack of knowledge of the situation, a complete lack of commercial and legal knowledge, and a void of insight and wisdom.

'Tom [Walkinshaw] and the Arrows team need support from the entire sport if we want to see them and Formula One progress.'

Arrows announced after deliberately failing to qualify that the team would immediately 'Pack up and head back to England. Negotiations concerning the team's future will continue next week along with preparations for the German Grand Prix.'

Tom Walkinshaw added that Arrows' priority must be to 'get the team back on its feet' and in a position where it can build a positive future.

Negotiations with majority shareholders Morgan Grenfell continue regarding the sale of Arrows to the Red Bull-backed consortium.

Frentzen-Jordan Reunion Foiled
Legal technicalities signaled a disappointing end to Heinz-Harald Frentzen's speculated return to the Jordan cockpit at Magny-Cours.

After winning the race with the Silverstone-based team in 1999, the coinciding circumstances of Giancarlo Fisichella's heavy Saturday crash and Arrows deliberate attempts to fail the qualifying task nearly saw a reunion of the winning Formula One combination.

mid-last year, Eddie Jordan fired the 33-year-old German for 'internal differences' in the future direction of the yellow-clad team. Almost a year on, Heinz-Harald Frentzen's legal pursuit for unpaid earnings continues while he battles on with the Arrows team.

In a sporting gesture, however, the Irish team boss invited his 'old mate' to grace the EJ12 cockpit when it became clear that Fisichella would not resume his French Grand Prix duties.

Heinz-Harald, ever the straight-forward racer, agreed pending the agreement of the FIA, the race stewards, Tom Walkinshaw, and his lawyers. The first three parties agreed...

'In spite of the best efforts of all parties, potential legal technicalities not involving Jordan Grand Prix meant that Heinz-Harald Frentzen was unable to accept the offer,' read a statement issued by Jordan.

A Jordan spokesperson told us more: 'He wanted to do it, and Jordan wanted to do it. But his management have stepped in. They will not allow him to race because of the potential legal technicalities'.

It soon became clear that lawyers representing Frentzen's 'wrongful dismissal' case against Jordan advised against the move in the fear that it would complicate the recovery of Frentzen's 2001 salary.

Eddie Jordan, saddened that the Magny-Cours reunion with his ex-driver failed, commented that 'Heinz came here to race, Jordan came here to race, it was a natural thing.'

'People think that there's friction between us, that isn't true, three years ago he was winning races for us. The offer was a sporting gesture,' he added.

'We had a real meaningful discussion, we wanted it to work. We had the approval of everyone from Bernie [Ecclestone] down. It would have been novel and unique.

'I'm sad it didn't work.'

Mansell: 2003 Also Sewn Up
1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell has praised the 'magnificent achievements' of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher in breaking his record for the shortest-ever campaign for the driver's title.

Driving the supreme FW14b Williams-Renault package, the Englishman soared to a totally dominant championship display after almost a decade of near-misses for ultimate spoils. By round eleven of sixteen, at the Hungaroring, Mansell had set a new record for the quickest trek to World Champion.

As he watched Michael Schumacher set a new precedent in his fifth such definitive glory, Mansell lays down his belief that the scarlet juggernaut can count on victory in the 2003 title chase, too.

'The challenge for the 2003 title is probably all over already because of Ferrari's massive gap over the rest,' Mansell said. 'Their domination has allowed them to start work early on next year's car.'

While he admits to the 'fantastic job' Maranello and Michael are doing, the 49-year-old Englishman is worried that the spectacle of the race is under threat by the continuing dominance of Michael Schumacher.

'Ferrari have done a fantastic job but unfortunately that doesn't stop the team from spoiling the thrill of watching the race and wondering who the winner will be.'

As Mansell revealed to us, however, no such thrill-less Grand Prix was witnessed in yesterday's French Grand Prix.

'Magny-Cours always seems to produce great racing', he adds. 'But that wasn't one of Michael's better performances, was it?'

'He's always benefited from a bit of luck, but in my experience you make your own.'

The fiercely competitive Mansell is widely lauded as one of the best of his generation.

Irvine: No Popularity Crown For Schu
Michael Schumacher may well be 'ripping the record books to shreds', but Eddie Irvine is certain the German will never wear the popularity crown.

As the 33-year-old Ferrari driver soared to the fastest-ever title victory for his fifth world championship, Eddie Irvine has claimed that his former teammate will never 'Command the same affection as some of the great masters of the track before him.'

Partnering Schumacher at Ferrari in Schumacher's non-championship winning years between 1996 and 1999, the Ulsterman is quick to point out that 'Some of Michael's antics over the years have left a lot to be desired.

'But there is no doubt that his following has increased enormously since joining Ferrari and helping to turn the team around from also-rans to the most powerful force in Formula One', the 37-year-old conceded.

'Even Michael's biggest critics must marvel at his skills behind the wheel and the utter commitment he gives the sport but it's probably still not enough to rocket him to the top of the global popularity stakes.'

Irvine, now at a struggling Jaguar team, recalls the way Schumacher's early Formula One successes with Benetton led to him being 'hated by fans all over the world.

'Even some supporters in his own country Germany did not like the steely, unsmiling and cocky image he portrayed. I felt that was unfair because Michael was just doing a job - and doing it bloody well.

'Others resented the fact that the really popular drivers such as Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and others were suddenly having their backsides kicked out on the track by this young upstart.'

Irvine won four races for Ferrari - three in Schumacher's injured absence - in 1999.

Bits And Bobs From France
- The Magny-Cours paddock whispered on the weekend that Jordan ace Giancarlo Fisichella's management held talks with Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and Peter Sauber in view to a 2003 berth at Hinwil. Although contracted to Jordan until 2004, the Italian - who was forced to sit out the French GP - is keen to eventually team up with Ferrari. Sauber, remember, are Ferrari-powered...

- Juan Pablo Montoya was just one of a score of Formula One personnel liberal with their praise of Michael Schumacher's record-equaling fifth world championship. The Colombian's kind words, however, are particularly noteworthy in view of their escalating rivalry. 'I think it's great for him', said the Williams driver. 'He did the best job in the paddock, has the best car and knows how to use it.'

- Eddie Jordan has called the weekend of racing at Magny-Cours an utter 'disaster'. With Giancarlo Fisichella's enormous accident on Saturday, failed negotiations with Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Takuma Sato's ignominious race exit, all the Irishman could say was 'The sooner we move on to the next race, the better.'

- Niki Lauda has promised to investigate the rear-wing failure which threw Eddie Irvine out of the French Grand Prix. The Jaguar boss promised to learn from what was 'Clearly a mistake of some kind.' On the bright side, the Michelin tires and new Cosworth CR4 engine represented a 'clear step forward on the overall package.'

- Michael Schumacher denies that his overtaking maneuver on Kimi Raikkonen five laps from the end of the French Grand Prix was illegal. As the race drew to a close, the leading Finn locked his brakes on engine oil and Schumacher seized his chance at the Adelaide hairpin. Ron Dennis, McLaren chief, protested that he had overtaken under yellow flags. 'There were yellow flags', Schumacher admitted. 'But I just drove my normal line although I was concerned that I had done an illegal move.' The race stewards upheld the result.

- Michael Schumacher is attempting to dispel comparisons with fellow five-times a champion, Juan Manuel Fangio. 'I think the effort that he had to put in at the time was probably a lot more than just being a driver than in these days, where you have so many people around you. I feel it is not appropriate to compare these things, at least from my point of view. I think I can enjoy the achievement myself having to compare it to someone else.'

- Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard have admitted that their white-line discrepancies at the Magny-Cours pit exit were 'heat of the moment' mistakes. 'I was having a radio conversation at the same time and watching the mirrors rather than the circuit,' admitted Schumacher. David Coulthard, also penalised with a drive-through, added that 'The line was in the same place all weekend but you are just eager to get back on the circuit.'

- Williams have blamed excessive rear tire wear and overly robust Michelin compounds as the cause of their French Grand Prix lack of pace. 'In the end the harder tire proved to be a disadvantage, but we had no choice because of our car's characteristics,' said Ralf Schumacher who finished fifth. One place ahead, Juan Pablo Montoya, added 'As the race went on, we were losing grip more and more.'

- Kimi Raikkonen has let slip that he is not yet signed as a 2003 McLaren driver. 'Actually, I don't know what is going to happen next year yet', said the 22-year-old Finn. 'I hope we will know more next weekend in Hockenheim.' Mika Hakkinen, supposedly on a sabbatical, is not expected to return to Formula One.

- Michael Schumacher has reluctantly confirmed that he will celebrate his fifth world championship with a quiet cigar at his Swiss home. 'I think everybody knows that I do that after the race so there is no sort of secret', the Ferrari ace said. 'But I don't see the need to mention it to the whole world. I am a role-model to many young kids so I really shouldn't be smoking...'

- Luca di Montezemolo is attempting to delay speculation that he will step down as Ferrari President at the end of 2003. 'The situation is that we now concentrate on celebrating this fantastic important victory and then we will think of the future.' The Italian was incensed when mother company Fiat sold 34% of Ferrari without his knowledge.

- Allan McNish, believe it or not, played a major part in Michael Schumacher's fifth world championship success at Magny-Cours. With five laps to go, the rookie Scot left a trail of Toyota engine oil on the track, discovered a moment later by a late-braking Kimi Raikkonen. 'I am sorry that the oil my engine left on the track caused Kimi to miss out on what would have been his first F1 victory,' said McNish.

- Rubens Barrichello has revealed that, after his start-line failure in the French Grand Prix, he left the circuit in disgust. When news filtered through that the scarlet army were celebrating Michael Schumacher's third successive Driver's championship crown, the Brazilian hopped off his plane and was ferried back to Magny-Cours. 'I was on the plane ready to go when I heard that Michael had won. I felt I had to return to the track, because we are a family and we stick together through thick and thin.'

On This F1 Day...
As well as being the first full day of Michael Schumacher's new reign as a five times world champion, two former F1 drivers are celebrating a birthday on July twenty-second.

Dorino Serafini, of Italy, was born on this day in 1909, and would have been turning 93. Entering just one Grand prix, the Italian race at Monza in 1950, the Italian finished second in the jointly-entered Ferrari of Alberto Ascari.

A Brazilian, Gino Bianco, celebrates his 87th year of life today. Contesting just four races in the 1952 season of racing, his best finish was a lowly seventeenth for Maserati.

On this very day in 1984, the British Grand Prix held at Brands Hatch was won by Niki Lauda's McLaren.

While the Austrian netted his 20th fastest lap that day, tire supplier Michelin contested their 900th Formula One entry. Jacques Laffite, who retired his McLaren with a water pump failure, was celebrating his 150th race while future triple world champion Ayrton Senna finished third in only his tenth Grand Prix.

Famous French constructor Renault, who have returned as a works constructor in 2002, finished second in their 250th Grand Prix. British driver Derek Warwick was at the wheel. 

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