Despite its close proximity to the UK, Ireland doesn’t share its big F1 culture. Yes, Ireland does have a sizable rally tradition, Ireland’s Craig Breen for example is currently making his way to the top in Rallying, but these fans don’t always share a passion for F1.
This situation however, hasn’t always been the case. Ireland has previously shown F1 on the state broadcaster – RTE. It was the two Eddie’s, Jordan and Irvine, that attracted Irish attention to the sport. The two men I have just named are the two best know Irish men to have graced the paddock, but they are not the only ones. Here is Ireland’s F1.
First and foremost is the famous Jordan Grand Prix. Following a severe Kart crash, Eddie Jordan made the swap from team driver to team owner in the 1970’s. He made Jordan into a Formula 3 team and then a Formula 3000 team before finally entering F1 in 1991. It was to be the start of something special. Quite famously, Jordan gave Michael Schumacher his F1 debut when one of Jordan’s drivers assaulted a London taxi driver and was given the boot.
Amongst Jordan’s total list of drivers were some big names such as both Schumacher’s, Damon Hill, Irivine, Barrichello, Frentzen, Alesi and Brundle. Jordan’s first win came at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix when Damon Hill led home a Jordan 1-2. It’s three other wins were the 1999 French and Italian Grand Prix won by Heinz-Harald Frentzen and the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix won by Giancarlo Fisichella. Jordan was never a top team but is known as a fun-loving team, much like modern-day Lotus. It’s yellow car aswell as it’s enthusiastic Irish owner have gone down in Formula One’s history.
Although Eddie Irvine‘s home county of Derry is in Northern Ireland and hence makes him a British citizen, he lives on the Island of Ireland and so will be included in this. Making it to Formula Ford in 1983 then Formula 3 in 1988, Formula 3000 in 1989 and finally into F1 in 1993. His debut with Jordan was marked with a 6th place meaning he scored a point in his first race. That wasn’t all he earned. Unlapping himself against Ayrton Senna earned the Ulsterman a punch from the Brazilian after the race.
Irvine in his early career was known for his aggressive starts, something highlighted when he caused a huge pile up at the season opening 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix which left him with a three-race ban. He continued with Jordan until the end of 1995, taking his first podium in Canada 1995 and making the move to Ferrari for 1996.
His first three years were nothing special, especially compared to his double world champion team-mate Michael Schumacher. 1999 brought Eddie’s first win in F1, the season opening Australian Grand Prix. He went on to win the Austrian, German and Malaysian rounds aswell, but failed to take the Championship, losing it to Mika Hakkinen by two points. This was to serve as his high point and moving to Jaguar for 200o, he was to only secure two more podiums, third in Monaco 2002 and Monza 2003.
Also from Northern Ireland is John Watson. Watson is Ireland’s most successful F1 driver, five wins in comparison with Irvine’s four. Watson’s first podium came at the 1976 French Grand Prix which was four seasons into his F1 career. The Austrian Grand Prix of the same season saw his first win. He was starved of wins by the time he won the 1981 British Grand Prix – his second win. In 1982 he won in Belgium and Detroit followed by his final win at the US Grand Prix West in 1983. His 12 season career took his total number of races to 154 with 20 podiums.
Derek Daly is the most experienced driver from the Republic of Ireland. His career spanned five seasons in which he competed in 49 races. His total tally of six teams included Tyrrell and Williams. Unfortunately, Daly never made it to the podium but finished in the points in 8 races, five of which were with Williams in his final season. His son, Conor Daly who carries American citizenship, is currently racing with Lotus GP in GP3.
Martin Donnelly was born in Northern Ireland and raced in 14 races over two seasons. His career was cut short following a horrific crash in Jerez 1990 which saw him thrown from his Lotus while still strapped to his seat.
Finally, the Irish also play an important part outside the cockpit. Joe McNamara for example, works with Caterham producing graphics and designing liveries while Gary Anderson works as a pundit with BBC alongside Eddie Jordan.