Controvertial and irreverant, Eddie Irvine is a former Formula One driver from Northern Ireland. He raced for Jordan before joining Ferrari to partner Michael Schumacher in 1996. Nearly winning the World Championship in 1999, he was just pipped by Hakkinen. Joined the Jaguar F1 team but was hampered by poor machinery. Retired in 2003.
Born Edmund Irvine in Newtownards, his father also named Edmund, also used to race. He had begun racing his father's historic single seaters in 1983 but turned to Formula Ford, winning the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch in 1987. He graduated to Formula Three in 1988, before moving on to Formula 3000 in 1989 and joined Eddie Jordan's team in 1990.
At that point his momentum sagged and he switched to racing F3000 and spotscars in Japan. Back in top form, he won races and made plenty of money. He was subsequently picked to do two races for the Jordan Formula One team at the end of 1993.
He finished 6th and secured a point on his debut at Suzuka. This race was the scene of Eddie's first controversial action. Seeing Senna coming up to lap him, Irvine moved over. Then, when Senna didn't bother to lap Damon Hill, he amazingly put a pass on Senna to unlap himself. He also then overtook Hill. After the race, Senna went to the Jordan motorhome and punched Irvine.
Irvine stayed with Jordan until 1995, and though generally quicker than his team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, his lack of reliability as well as a tendency to get involved in accidents meant that his results did not reflect how good he was.
When Irvine moved to Ferrari in 1996 to partner Michael Schumacher, he seemed to settle down and commentators even started to call him Steady Eddie. With drivers increasingly being seen as being some what lacking in personality, Eddie's non-conformist approach was refreshing. He out-qualified and beat Schumacher in the first race of the season, but was then forced to play a supporting role, sacrificed potential good results to help his team-mate.
1999 saw his most successful season when he took the drivers' championship down to the last race, finishing a close second to Mikka Hakkinen. Interestingly, under the current points system in Formula One, Irvine would have won the championship.
For 2000 he left Ferrari and joined the new Jaguar F1 Team which was born out of the Stewart Grand Prix Team. He was the only driver to get Jaguar onto the podium in their short F1 history and he did it twice, in Monaco and Monza. However for various reasons his contract was not renewed. He considered a return to Jordan in 2003 but due to their financial problems, he was left without a drive and he announced his retirement from Formula One.
In an era where the private lives of Formula One drivers became much more staid (or at least less blatant) he was an dedicated playboy. Irvine is also remembered for his tendency to blatantly express his opinion and unabashedly irritate everyone more important than himself.
Irvine is said to have built up a multi-million pound property portfolio, and is also the owner of Eddie Irvine Sports, a snooker, pool, kart racing, paintballing and football facility in Bangor. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, published in April 2006, Irvine is the fifth richest person of Northern Ireland, with a personal fortune of approximately £160 million.
A friend of the U2 frontman Bono, who taught him how to play the guitar, Irvine had a brief fling with actress and model Pamela Anderson, who broke of the romance claiming that "Eddie was just too sweet for me."