AUGUST 4, 1997
Irvine's new deal
EDDIE IRVINE's option to continue for a third season with Ferrari has been taken up by the Italian team, following a series of good results in recent weeks. There had been speculation that Ferrari would sign up Tyrrell's Mika Salo and we believe that the Finn did agree an option with Ferrari.
Irvine's performances, however, have improved dramatically after a poor start to the year and as soon as he began to show better form it was logical for Ferrari team boss Jean Todt to re-sign the Ulsterman and maintain stability within the team as it challenges Williams for the Constructors' World Championship. Eddie is happy playing second fiddle to MichaelĘSchumacher and has not made a fuss, despite the fact that the German gets more testing and all the very latest development bits.
Although Irvine can now relax for 1998, his long-term future in Grand Prix racing remains uncertain. Ferrari is unlikely to sign him up as Schumacher's replacement if Michael departs the team and there is not much interest among the other teams as Eddie's decision to accept second-best is widely interpreted as a sign that he is not really hungry enough to be a number one driver.
The Ferrari announcement is bad news for Salo. His three-year contract with Tyrrell runs out at the end of this season and although the Ockham team would like him to stay, it is probably the right moment for him to move on. There are a variety of possible jobs for Salo. He might be able to join Jordan - particularly if Ralf Schumacher were to move elsewhere - and there may be an opportunity with Arrows if Damon Hill moves on. The other obvious move would be to Sauber and it may be that Ferrari - which supplies the Swiss team with its Petronas engines - will ask that Salo be taken next year - as consolation for Mika's missing out on the drive this year. This would be a good solution for Todt as it would mean that Salo would remain within the Ferrari sphere of influence and could be drafted into one of the red cars in 1999.
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