Having slumped almost to the very back of the grid, Jordan are now not far short of being beaten by usual backmarkers Minardi. In theory, 2006 should bring a relaunch of the team as Midland F1 – but the current sorry state of affairs is not breeding much optimism.
The European Grand Prix was a case in point. Yes, Jordan did manage to get both of their cars home in front of the Minardis. But other events throughout the weekend gave cause for alarm.
Both Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro suffered frightening high-speed spins during practice because of braking problems. In Karthikeyan’s case his new brakes had not been bedded in and the team neglected to inform him.
This was a shocking oversight given that a braking problem at high speed could so easily have disastrous consequences. It can only have had a disastrous effect on the confidence of both the drivers.
Test driver Frank Montagny inadvertently used six sets of tyres instead of the regulation four (article 74a) during Friday practice. Again, a needless oversight on the part of the team, which has led to them being banned from using their third car in practice for the next round at Canada.
Out on the track, the cars look horrible in more ways than one. Karthikeyan and Monteiro looked as if they were clinging on for dear life during their qualifying laps at the Nurburgring, and seeing them twitch and slide through the Monaco barriers last week made you think they were an accident waiting to happen.
The car itself is last year’s chassis with a few modifications to meet the 2005 aerodynamics rules and to accommodate their Toyota engine, having switched from Cosworth last year.
The engine itself is no slouch and has proved reliable and powerful for the Toyota works team. It is truly disappointing that it is being put to such poor use in the Jordan, especially when you consider that at various points in their earlier history the team scored more impressive results with far less capable power plants – Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s pair of wins for the team in 1999 with Mugen-Honda engines spring to mind.
The team were bought by Russian billionaire Alex Shnaider as a means of launching his business brand Midland into F1 in 2006. New teams are still required to lodge a $48m entry bond with the FIA to compete in F1 and, rather than pay that fee in 2006, Shnaider elected to buy the Jordan team early and keep it going for one year before re-branding it.
Jordan find themselves stuck in limbo and, with no further modifications coming for the car until the French Grand Prix in July, merely treading water.
Inevitably, rumours have begun to suspect that Shnaider will not be putting his massive financial clout behind the team for next year, and that he has been put off by the outrageous expense and bitter politicking that currently blight Formula One. Ex-driver Eddie Irvine has been linked to a possible buy-out of the team.
Such speculation cannot do anything for the morale of the mechanics or drivers. Monteiro and Karthikeyan are both decent, if unspectacular drivers, who deserve to be given a competent car. At the moment, Jordan are bordering on being an embarrassment. Though F1′s wealthiest teams may deride the low-budget approach of depated team founder Eddie Jordan and suggest it has no place in F1, Jordan never treated his team with the mixture of contempt and indifference that appears now.
It is time for the new owner to make something of his purchase, or pass it on to someone else who will rise to the challenge.