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  Friday, 1 November, 2002, 16:30 GMT
Irvine axed by Jaguar
Jaguar team principal Niki Lauda
Niki Lauda is "thrilled" with the new partnership
Jaguar have confirmed that Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa have been dropped by the Formula One team.

They have been replaced by Australian Mark Webber and Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia "with immediate effect".

Webber, 26, drove for Minardi this year, scoring two points in Australia on his debut, while Pizzonia, 22, has racked up thousands of miles as a Williams test driver.


If I were a team boss, I wouldn't be happy fielding two inexperienced drivers
Eddie Irvine

Irvine, who scored all of Jaguar's eight points in 2002, leaves after three seasons.

Spaniard De la Rosa still had a season left to run on his contract after joining last year.

Irishman Irvine expressed little surprise about the decision to axe him.

He made no comment on his future, but rumours link him with a return to the Jordan team, for which he drove in 1994-95.

Irvine's management have had talks with Jordan and his wage demands have reduced to around $1m - down from the 8m ($12.5m) he earned with Jaguar in 2002.

But he is in competition for the drive with fellow Briton Anthony Davidson.

Davidson had his first experience of F1 when he drove for Minardi for two races in 2002 and would likely be considerably cheaper even than Irvine's new demands.


It is one of the most emotive and successful names in motor racing and one that has a wealth of motorsport heritage
Mark Webber

Irvine will either join Jordan or retire from F1.

"This doesn't really affect my plans for the future - but if I were a team boss, I wouldn't be happy fielding two inexperienced drivers," Irvine told The Sun newspaper.

"With the new qualifying rules, drivers have just one flying lap to gain grid position and the experienced men will have an advantage."

Team principal Niki Lauda said of the newcomers: "These two drivers will be under strict instructions to go out and fight each other on the racetrack - as well as everyone else of course.

"We are red-blooded racers at Jaguar and from what I have seen of Antonio and Mark, I am confident of seeing a very competitive duel next season."

Webber was delighted at becoming the latest recruit to a distinguished list of past Jaguar drivers.

"I'm truly excited about racing for Jaguar next season," he said.

"It is one of the most emotive and successful names in motor racing and one that has a wealth of motorsport heritage."

Gifted

Lauda also believes Pizzonia will make a big impression on the F1 circuit.

"In Antonio, we have a very gifted, raw racer who will undoubtedly inject a new lease of life into Formula One," Lauda added.

"His speed and racing instinct are what attracted us to him and I have little doubt in his ability to shake up the establishment in a big way.

"Mark, on the other hand, has solid F1 experience and now is his chance to prove exactly what he's capable of."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Jonathan Legard
"Irvine's F1 prospects now look bleak"
See also:

01 Oct 02 | Formula One
18 Aug 02 | Formula One
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