If pit stop strategy made the difference between finishing first and second around the streets of Monaco, Montreal demanded precise calculations just to make the finish at all.
There is a fine line between success and failure in Formula One, and nobody appreciates that more than Eddie Jordan. Having courted financial disaster in his first season of Formula One in 1991, just four years on he found himself celebrating having two drivers finish on the podium in Canada. But it could easily have been so different…
Having struggled to find any semblance of reliability prior to the Canadian Grand Prix, both Jordans ran solidly to the extent that Rubens Barrichello was second, Eddie Irvine third in the closing laps. To the spectators, it looked a fascinating tussle between team-mates. The drivers, however, were more concerned with their fuel consumption than they were with the proximity of the sister car.
Although both men undoubtedly benefited from a high rate of attrition Schumacher finished, but all four Renault-engined cars hit trouble Jordan had nevertheless arrived in far better shape than at any point this season. Revised rear suspension and strengthened front pick-up points had improved the 195’s handling, particularly over bumps and under braking. Without that work, the cars would have been crucified at a circuit which exacted such a high toll on brakes.
As the weekend progressed it became clear that taking the safe option on pit stop strategy would condemn Jordan to the midfield ranks.
“We talked quite a bit about it,” admits team manager John Walton. “It looked like it might have been quicker to do two stops, but to do that the drivers would have had to lap three quarters of a second faster than on a one-stop routine.
“Taking into consideration the time in and out of the pits, we reckoned that, forgetting the other 22 cars on the circuit, and with the drivers pushing very hard all the way through the race, they would have probably finished the race a couple of seconds, maximum, in front. Then, if you took into consideration the traffic, and having to re-pass people after the pit stops, it didn’t look a very viable way of doing it.
“Our biggest problem was that our fuel consumption was very high and we knew we would struggle to make it to the end.”
The 115-litre tanks were filled to the brim, but as the drivers crossed the line to record the team’s best Formula One results, Barrichello had just two and a half litres of fuel remaining. That was luxury by comparison with Irvine, whose Peugeot engine was busy devouring the last half-litre hardly enough to complete even half a lap.
“After about 10 laps my guys came on the radio and said, ‘Reduce the fuel mix,” recounted Irvine. “I said, ‘I already have!’ I realised the race was going to remind me of the Japanese Sportscar Championship, where we were always having to plod because of the fuel consumption.”
It transpired that the Ulsterman’s predicament was partly of his own making. “The problem was that when we told Irvine to adjust his fuel he put the mixture switch the wrong way,” explains Walton. “So he was actually using more fuel instead of less!” Even without that error, the team always knew things would be marginal:
“We felt we were in serious trouble after about lap five or six. That’s when we had to start telling the guys to lean the mixture off and reduce their revs. As the race went on, it got worse. They were both very good about driving to orders, though. It was good teamwork. They could see they weren’t able to push each other. Had they done that, then I suspect neither of them would have finished the race.
“In the last 10 laps the consumption was quite high and we were getting very, very worried. We couldn’t lean the mixture off any more, so the only way left to use less fuel was to use less revs. On the telemetry we could see each lap and knew exactly how much the cars were using. Then we worked it out and told the guys what they could and couldn’t do, and when they could or couldn’t do it!
“Aside from our changes to the car for that race, Peugeot did manage to find some better economy with the engine about five per cent. Had we not had that, we would have been in deep trouble.”
The tanks might have been empty by the end of the race, but Eddie Jordan’s cup of joy was overflowing.