“Verstappen like Schumi, but I say Leclerc”

The former Ferrari makes his cards in the championship on the eve of the F1 Australian GP: “Right to bet on Binotto, Todt needed seven years to win. Hamilton was better off retiring, he has a tough season ahead”

Andrea Cremonesi

– Milan

He stopped racing for a while but his life remains at full throttle: Eddie Irvine, four seasons in Ferrari and a close to World Cup in 1999, is a true citizen of the world, always on the move between Miami and London where his daughter lives. who studies interior architecture, Bahamas, Santa Margherita Ligure and Milan. In these days preceding the Australian GP, ​​the Northern Irishman is in his home in Milan, in the De Angeli district. An opportunity to discuss, while eating a pizza, the F1 of today and yesterday. His name is linked to Melbourne because at Albert Park, in his best year, he took his first world championship victory: “I don’t remember much of that race. It was a good start to the season (the Australian GP was the first world stage; ed. ) among other things on a track that I did not like very much unlike Adelaide. But the reality is that we were much slower than the McLarens (Hakkinen and Coulthard retired; ed). And if we remained in the fight for the title it was more for their reliability problems that for our step “.

Let’s come to today’s F1: what do you think of this Ferrari?

“That had a fantastic start to the season. The two drivers on both podiums and Leclerc after a victory like the one in Bahrain could easily do it in Arabia too. Really impressive.”

Do you notice any similarities with your Ferrari?

“Except for Binotto, I don’t know the team. But even for 2000 they started working on the car well in advance because Michael broke his leg (at Silverstone ’99; ed) and from there I started to win. I was gone. but those guys deserved it. ”

Did you mention Binotto, what was it like at the time?

“Always very calm, never seen stressed. But even now it seems to me that he is (laughs), I don’t know how he does it … What he achieved is truly incredible. Working at Ferrari is not easy, and it was correct to keep Mattia ( after the last few seasons in deficit; ed) because it means that in Maranello they have understood that continuity is fundamental. We need to give people time: Jean Todt joined Ferrari in 1993 and took seven years to win the title, despite having the best driver In that team, in addition to Todt and Schumacher, there were Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne. Yet it took a lot of time to win. So what Mattia has achieved so far is unbelievable. I’m happy for him because from where he was (engineer of the test team) to become the boss of the team, he took an incredible step “.

A couple of years ago, on the occasion of the Trento Sport Festival, he said that Leclerc was overall better than Verstappen. Is he always convinced of this, despite Max having won the title in the meantime?

“I don’t think there is anyone faster than Verstappen, but he still makes a lot of mistakes and Leclerc doesn’t.”

But Charles threw away pole position in Monaco last year due to an accident.

“Yes, but having an accident in qualifying is not that relevant in the overall judgment. Verstappen is wrong because he lets himself be carried away by his being aggressive, I think Hamilton last year acted in a way that avoided accidents for quite a while. he must have thought “Enough now, do you want collisions? .. he should have retired “.

“Yes, because I don’t think he’ll be able to do much this year. He’s tough, but even for him, used to the best car, qualifying so far behind is frustrating.”

Isn’t there a chance for Mercedes to grow?

“I don’t know, they have the means and infrastructure to do a lot, but now they have to deal with the cost ceiling, in my time there wasn’t. At Jaguar we built a second car for the last 4-5 races of the year but there was no budget limit. I don’t mind a Mercedes in difficulty, because it’s not a brand that drives me crazy. German team, it didn’t seem like a very sexy pairing. Warning: Hamilton is a great character and I love Toto Wolff for what he thinks and says. They are two stars. But in my head Mercedes remains an old brand that builds solid cars. they went back to running just to change their image, they didn’t succeed with me “.

What do you like about Leclerc?

“He is very intelligent, he has personality, he is mature. In this sense Verstappen seems ‘younger’ in my head. But he is kissed by a great talent”.

Easier for Leclerc to fight for the title against Verstappen than with Hamilton?

“Both very tough. Hamilton is exceptional, although I don’t think he has Verstappen’s speed. Max remembers Schumacher, he keeps an incredible pace and whoever drives his car can’t keep up with him.”

What role can Sainz and Perez play in this duel between Leclerc and Verstappen?

“This is a problem for Charles because Sainz who is number 2 can occasionally find himself in front: if I were Mattia I would give precise orders as in my day because beating Verstappen is already tough, if you have a teammate who can snatch points … Perez under normal conditions he can’t beat Max. “

Is Ferrari on the eve of a winning cycle?

“Too soon and in any case with each passing year it becomes more complicated. You have to compare yourself with Red Bull, Verstappen, Adrian Newey. It lasts.”

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