OCTOBER 4, 2000
What changes will there be at Jaguar?
The announcement that Bobby Rahal is to take over the running of Jaguar Racing in December is the first major step in the restructuring of the team, which has had a miserable F1 season in 2000. The team was new in January but anyone who follows F1 will know that it was not really new in the same way as British American Racing was at the start of last year. Jaguar Racing was Stewart Grand Prix without the insistent Scottish voices and without the tartan.
But the Jaguar people were in many respects just as naive as the men at British American Racing. Stewart Grand Prix had been very lucky to win a race in 1999 and that created expectations which were beyond the capabilities of the team. The image-management was not well done and the impression was created that Jaguar was going to be competitive with the big teams immediately but it was very clear that the team was not ready to take on the might of McLaren and Ferrari.
Jaguar was keen to make the most of the program and so the promotion was too intensive and as a result expectations were far too high and so the team's performance was disappointing.
It was time when strong leadership was needed to keep up spirits but the team had a problem: Jackie and Paul Stewart had gone and Ford's Neil Ressler was focussing his attention on the longer term problems such as finding a new site for the factory and looking for someone to run the team. At the same time he was looking after Cosworth and Pi Research and negotiating on behalf of the car manufacturers with Bernie Ecclestone. This meant that there was a management vacuum as the old Stewart managers were not in a position to make strategic decisions. The team was running on a day-to-day basis and drifted.
It did not help that the Jaguar R1 was not a great car. This was not surprising as the team does not have its own dedicated windtunnel facility and has to buy time in the Swift windtunnel in California. In an effort to get more achieved the team began to use the old Southampton University windtunnels as well but it was not enough. In addition to that the Cosworth V10 engine was not very reliable and so at the start of the year there were a lot of problems with the engine and then with the auxiliaries, particularly with the gearbox, the clutch and the electronics systems.
Johnny Herbert had such a run of mechanical failure that he decided that he had had enough of Formula 1 and made plans to leave the series at the end of the year. His motivation, therefore, was rather lower than one might expect.
And Eddie Irvine was little better.
The Ford Motor Company had hired Irvine for a considerable amount of money. His job was to lead the team forwards. This he has failed to do completely. Irvine is not an easy character for many in F1 to cope with. He opens his mouth too often without thinking what he is saying. This may be attractive to small numbers of fans in search of a rebel but Irvine was a rebel without a cause. His attitude towards any form of criticism is arrogance and his popularity within the team was soon right down in the dumps. Where a driver like Michael Schumacher has the ability to get the team to work with him, Irvine's approach has made the team hostile.
Our sources say that Irvine is safe - at least if he does not do anything really stupid. Ford has made a point of trying to be seen to behave in the correct fashion and does not want to have contracts broken and bad publicity. It is an issue of image-building, creating trust in the organization with the general public.
Ford bosses want Jaguar to be successful but they are willing to wait. The presence of Jaguar in F1 is in itself enough to alter the image of the brand. The world still thinks of Jaguars as being about walnut, leather and unreliability, driven by people with a lot of money and not much class.
It is going to take time to change that.
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