- Eddie Irvine driving for Jaguar in 2000.

How the big cat lost its bite - Jaguar Racing F1 team (2000-2004)

By the time 1999 rolled around, Ford had been involved in F1 for 32 years. They had supplied engines to a number of teams during that time - most notably with McLaren during the 1970s. Altogether, Ford powered cars had won 175 Grands Prix up until 1999 - that is an impressive record. By the turn of the new millennium, Ford decided that they wanted to have their own fully fledged works F1 team....


Johnny Herbert driving the Stewart SF3, the car which gave him his 3rd and Stewart's 1st and only win at the 1999 European GP.

Jackie Stewart's son Paul had run a lower-formulae team named "Paul Stewart Racing" from 1988 to 1996, gaining success in Formula 3, Formula 3000 and Formula Vauxhall Lotus during this time. By 1995, both Jackie and Paul were hesitant to acquire an entry slot to F1 - considering that other outfits (who had started in the lower series but moved to F1) such as Pacific and Forti were struggling to make a mark in the sport and ended up closing their doors. However, this was to change in January 1996 - as Jackie Stewart secured a five-year deal with Ford to make Stewart Grand Prix an F1 factory team for entry in 1997.

Three seasons in F1 followed for the Stewart team, with some impressive results during this time. Their biggest highlight was definitely the 1999 European GP - with Johnny Herbert taking an unlikely victory in a rain-affected race (which would be the only time Stewart GP would be on the top step of the podium). 1999 would prove to be Stewart's most successful season - with the sole race win, one pole position, four podium finishes and 36 points gave them a brilliant 4th place in the Constructors Standings. They would finish ahead of established teams such as Williams and Benetton - and that gave Ford all the motivation it needed to buy the team outright...


Johnny Herbert and Eddie Irvine at the launch of the Jaguar R1 (2000).

Instead of keeping the Stewart name or running their team under their own, Ford decided to brand the team using their premium car company Jaguar. This was done for two reasons; one - to promote Jaguar as a luxury brand, and two - to have the Jaguar name dominate another cornerstone of motorsport (just like the Jaguar name at the 24 Hours of Le Mans). With a lot of investment from Ford, the newly christened Jaguar Racing made a huge statement of intent by signing 1999 Drivers Championship runner-up Eddie Irvine from Ferrari for their debut season. With Stewart GP race winner Johnny Herbert alongside him, Jaguar's intentions were clear - they came to F1 to win.


Johnny Herbert retired from nearly half of the races in the 2000 season.

Despite all of the promise from Jaguar, their debut season in F1 was an absolute shitshow. They scored four points all season (all of them courtesy of Irvine), with a best finish of 4th at the Monaco GP. Herbert had his worst season in the sport - with no points scored and retirement from eight races out of seventeen, he decided to retire from F1 after the 2000 season ended, but not before a huge crash at the Malaysian GP saw him carried out on a stretcher.

The Jaguar R1 had glimpses of good pace, but the biggest drawback of the car was its tendency to be undriveable at the best of times, and its gearbox was extremely unreliable. Someone had to take responsibility for this dismal first season, and for team boss Wolfgang Reitzle - it was his role within the team that paid the price. Reitzle was replaced by three-time IndyCar drivers champion Bobby Rahal for the 2001 season.


Luciano Burti only lasted four rounds at Jaguar before being replaced by Pedro De La Rosa.

The 2001 season wasn't any better for Jaguar. Herbert's replacement, Luciano Burti was dropped after just four rounds of the season after falling out with the team's management, and was replaced by ex-Arrows driver Pedro De La Rosa. Despite this, Eddie Irvine scored the team's first ever podium finish with 3rd at the Monaco GP. Although the R2 was leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor in terms of performance and reliability - but results were still few and far inbetween.

Niki Lauda joined Jaguar mid-season to partner Rahal in managing the team - but instead it played a part in Rahal leaving before the year was out. Other blunders by Rahal in 2001 included a failed attempt to sign McLaren technical director Adrian Newey and trying to offset Eddie Irvine to on-track rivals Jordan for the 2002 season. Lauda replaced Rahal as team principal, but it didn't get any better from there...


Eddie Irvine would leave F1 altogether after the 2002 season, after three years of misery with Jaguar.

The 2002 season started well, with Irvine taking 4th place at the season opening Australian GP. But after that, results were very hard to come by - with no points scored until the Belgian GP by either Irvine or De La Rosa. A B-spec version of the R3 was brought in towards the end of the season, which resulted in Irvine scored a 3rd place finish at the Italian GP. Apart from that, the results were absolutely dire, with Irvine retiring from 10 of the 17 races in 2001 due to the R3's unreliability - whilst De La Rosa retired from nine and scored no points. The team ended up with 8 points and finished 7th in the constructors. Both Irvine and De La Rosa left the team at the end of the season - with the latter joining McLaren as a test driver.

Meanwhile, Ford were getting impatient with the team's sub-par performances. The costs of running the team were too high to sustain, so funding for the 2003 season was reduced significantly. Ford issued an ultimatum to Jaguar - if the results didn't improve drastically within two seasons, they would be pulled out of the sport. As another cost cutting measure, Niki Lauda and 70 other members of staff were made redundant.


Popular British driver Justin Wilson (1978-2015) joined Jaguar before the German GP, replacing Antonio Pizzonia.

For the 2003 season, Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia were signed to replace Irvine and De La Rosa. Although the R4 looked promising, it was unreliable - by the Monaco GP, both Webber and Pizzonia had retired from four races each. However, Webber was definitely the better out of him and Pizzonia - as he scored all of the team's points up until the British GP. For the German GP, Pizzonia was dropped in favour of Minardi's Justin Wilson - who performed better in the R4, and despite retiring from his first three races with the team showed a bit of promise. But it was to be another disappointing season for Jaguar, as they scored 18 points (due to the change in the points scoring system) and finished 7th again in the Constructors standings.

By this point, Ford were getting more and more restless. Despite the management of the team being a lot more stable (thanks to the appointment of John Hogan as team principal), the results weren't improving like Ford wanted. In another cut of funding, Ford told Jaguar to hire a paying driver to partner Webber for the 2004 season - so in stepped Christian Klien, who was sponsored by Red Bull.


Mark Webber performed well enough with Jaguar to earn himself a move to Williams for 2005.

The 2004 season was again another mixed bag for the big cats. Despite qualifying 2nd for the Malaysian GP, Mark Webber almost stalled on the grid at the start - something which would plague him during his career in F1. Inconsistency and unreliability was the story of the team's season - with some laughable incompetence thrown in for good measure. For the Monaco GP, the Jaguar R5 was liveried with promotion for Oceans Twelve (a film that was about as self-serving as Ford's ambitions in F1) - and to accompany the one-off paint job, the nosecones were fitted with a single Steinmetz diamond worth over $250k each. Whoever thought of that idea deserved to be thrown into the ocean twelve times over - as a first-lap collision for Klien into the Lowes hairpin barrier caused the nosecone diamond to go missing, and it was never retrieved. Thankfully, this was the only time that expensive jewels were put on a 215mph potential death trap.

Other than that, it was another "meh" season for the team. With 10 points scored all season and yet another 7th place in the Constructors standings - Ford had well and truly lost patience with their F1 team. In September 2004, Ford put the team up for sale - and declared that they wanted no further corporate involvement in F1. When asked why they were selling the team, Ford said that they could "no longer make a compelling business case for any of its brands to compete in F1". As a way of saying "we can't be arsed anymore", Ford asked potential bidders to buy the team for just $1 - with promise that the eventual buyer would reinvest $400m into the team over three years. In November, Red Bull bought the Jaguar F1 team - ensuring that 340 jobs would be saved and the team would be on the grid for 2005.


It was clear that Ford's need to dominate motorsport and a general lack of incompetence is what ruined Jaguar Racing. It is baffling as to why an underdog team such as Stewart Grand Prix (who were doing fine without Ford's lordship) were bought and rebranded, and eventually ruined by sub-par engineering, appalling management and over-expectancy. Ford could've easily kept the legendary Stewart name on the grid when deciding to buy the team outright, and the end result wouldn't have been so heartbreaking. But no, they had to give the team the Jaguar name because they won Le Mans once in the late 1980s - but never used any Jaguar engineering on a team named after the iconic British marquee, go figure.

Thankfully, Ford sold Jaguar to Tata Motors in 2008. Since then, Jaguar have been pretty limited on the motorsports front - with their only factory effort being the Panasonic Jaguar Racing team in Formula E. Just a couple of days ago (as of writing), Jaguar picked up their first win in the all-electric street series - with Mitch Evans taking the top spot at the Rome e-Prix.

Since Red Bull's purchase of the Jaguar F1 team, they have had a lot of success. With four Drivers and Constructors championships with Sebastian Vettel from 2010 to 2013, a total of 59 race victories and 4,359.5 points scored since 2005 - it's safe to say that Red Bull have had a lot more success in F1 than Jaguar could ever dream of.