Eddie Irvine was never the kind of guy to care what other people said or thought of him. Throughout his career (and after it) he became known for his outspoken and occasionally controversial comments, but it’s not an attitude he developed – he came into F1 with it.
Irvine spent much of his early career racing in Japan, so when Eddie Jordan needed a driver for the Japanese GP in 1993, he called on Irvine’s services. He was seriously impressive too, qualifying eighth and finishing sixth, but there was one driver who wasn’t impressed.
On the way to socring points on his debut, he felt that Ayrton Senna (who was a lap ahead) was holding him up, so Irvine promptly unlapped himself and in the process seriously cheesed off Senna. After the race, Ayrton went down to see Irvine and tell him how displeased he was with his driving. Of course, Eddie didn’t care, and an enraged Ayrton actually ended up throwing a punch at him, earning a two-race suspended ban in the process.
Irvine’s performance was good enough to earn him a full-time seat with Jordan for 1994, but things didn’t start off all that well.
In the opening race of the season in Brazil, Irvine was involved in this nasty four-car pile-up whilst trying to defend from Jos Verstappen’s Benetton. Eric Bernard was also involved, as was Martin Brundle in the McLaren, who took a terrifying whack on the helmet from Verstappen’s wheel. He was incredibly lucky to get away with nothing more than being knocked unconscious for a moment.
Irvine was judged to have caused the accident and given a ban for the next race. Jordan appealed the decision, but the ban stood. In fact, for daring to challenge the opinion of the almighty FIA (and for apparently having a serious attitude problem during the hearing), Irvine actually had his ban extended to three races as a result!
In a flash, Eddie Irvine had become the bad boy of F1. But despite his obvious early potential he never really realised it. He settled in a little too comfortably as Michael Schumacher’s number two at Ferrari, and then when he got the chance to win the title in 1999, he fluffed it. Three seasons with Jaguar weren’t great, and he retired from F1 at the end of 2002.