Thursday April 6th, 2000
Eddie Irvine, returning to Italy in the green overalls of Jaguar after four years in crimson for Ferrari, is lapping up the attention on the eve of his 100th Formula One race.
"The last few times I came here I was driving for a well-known local team!" he quipped at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, venue of Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix.
His former teammate Michael Schumacher may have been the man on a mission after two successive wins in Australia and Brazil but Irvine was still enjoying plenty of the limelight.
After the morning launch of his first personal line of clothing in Bologna, the 34-year-old Briton strolled through the crowded paddock and chatted to team mates and friends in rival teams.
As one of the most colourful "playboy" personalities in the sport, he was asked recently if he had any regrets from his time in Formula One since his debut in 1993.
"No," Jaguar's official website reported him as saying. "I'm the Edith Piaf of Formula One and I don't regret anything."
But Irvine has his serious side too. He has spent the last few days training hard with his personal fitness expert Nick Harris in Milan, where he has kept the apartment he bought when he drove for Ferrari.
"Given that I still live part of the year in Italy and that I spent four years driving for an Italian team, this will be something of a special weekend," the Northern Irishman said.
"After all the long-haul flying involved with the first two races it also makes a pleasant change to just get in the car and drive down the road to the circuit.
"Despite all the chicanes they have introduced at the Imola track, you know, it is still a nice and challenging way to spend a Sunday afternoon -- and the Acque Minerali corners are great fun..."
Loquacious, controversial and irreverent, Irvine's century of races, which began at Suzuka in Japan where Ayrton Senna threw a punch at him in a post-race row in 1993, has certainly been colourful.