“We’ll have to be reasonably quick. I’m going to meet the Queen tomorrow, so I’m on my way to Dublin.”
Not everyone Badger gets on the phone with speaks those words. In fact, no one has ever said that to us before. But then no one else is quite like Eddie Jordan. Once an F1 team owner, Eddie now busies himself with chatting about the sport – almost non-stop – as part of the BBC’s Grand Prix coverage. Outspoken in his views and in possession of a wardrobe that would make Flavio Briatore blush, EJ is nothing if not a character. But is he seriously going to meet the Queen? Yep…
“Can you imagine, me flying over to meet the Queen tomorrow?! For those who may not know, the Queen is in Ireland and it’s the first time in a hundred years that a ruling monarch has visited – it’s a huge occasion. I got the invitation to go meet her and so I’m on my way to Dublin.”
Incredible stuff, really: one days he’s chatting to Badger the next he’s hobnobbing with royalty. Not that there’s much difference….
“It shows how much I think of Puma!” Eddie says in reference to the brand who’ve kindly brought us together today, proving beyond doubt that Badgers and Pumas can live in blissful harmony. “I love the brand,” EJ continues. “It’s not just the fact that they joined Jordan in the early days and happened to go right to the very end. It’s an unbelievable brand and I still feel part of the family. I want to see it be successful.”
On the topic of clothing, we’re pretty sure Puma don’t supply those unique floral shirts or purple jeans Eddie can be seen sporting on a Sunday afternoon. So just where does he get his fashion sense from?
“Actually, my daughter won young fashion designer of the year last year. She runs a label called Irwin & Jordan – nothing to do with Eddie, it’s her business! She won an award from Harrods for the best selling new designer as well, so she’s on her way. She’s living in Hong Kong, working flat out. She has a great eye for different colours and textures and she says ‘dad you couldn’t possibly wear that shirt and you couldn’t possibly mix those colours,’ so yes, she is a big influence on me!”
You learn something new every day in this game. But enough about royals, clothes and kids – perhaps we should talk about Formula One, if only for a bit? Eddie is all too happy to oblige, kicking off with his gushing assessment of the 2011 campaign thus far.
“I don’t want to use the word mind-blowing loosely, but it’s just been a whirlwind. Istanbul was the last gasp, because every time I wanted to go grab a cup of tea something would be happening and I wouldn’t quite get to it. I’m not used to that – I used to watch the start, get up and grab a sandwich then maybe have a chat with somebody and come back to it from 20 laps in and watch it from there. But now you can’t move – you can hardly blink! It’s just electric.”
Few would question the role of DRS in what Eddie calls a ‘mind-blowing’ opening to the season. But where does EJ stand on the system?
“It is really great. Gone are the days when you’d have these boring situations where it was line astern lap after lap after lap and it’d send you to sleep. And it’s only now that we see this electricity coming through the grand prix season that you realise ‘wow – why didn’t we think of this earlier.’ That said we don’t want something that’s fabricated we want to make sure that it’s real and I’m sure Charlie Whiting will sort that out.”
But does he does he not think that the excitement caused by DRS has masked the true nature of the 2011 championship – that it is being utterly dominated by one driver?
“You’re spot on. But having said that, we saw where Alonso came from in terms of points last year to almost win the title. I’d rather see where we are when we get to Silverstone. Because that’s often the place where different psychologies begin to come in to place.
“And I have to say that Alonso’s resurgence in Turkey gave me a bit of a clue that, in race circumstances, he’s got pace. And then you can’t rule out Lewis, what with the way he won in China – that was outstanding. Okay, he was helped by a poor stratergy from Vettel. Had Vettel gone for that extra stop he probably would have won, but we need that excitement! We probably need a sprinkling of rain in Barcelona, and in Monaco for that matter. So let’s see how we get on with it and we’ll take it from there.”
The ex-team boss is coming out in Eddie as he begins to identify the cream of the current F1 crop, so we put this to him: given a blank cheque to write for two drivers, who would he put in his cars? This prompts the longest gap in his speech, as he gives it a fair bit of thought.
“Because I don’t think you need an out and out megastar I’d go for the balance, and I think Jenson and Lewis are brilliant. But there are a lot of good driver pairings out there and that’s why none of the teams really changed [over the winter]. Rosberg-Schumacher works; Massa-Alonso at Ferrari; all of those groups work well. And I do like di Resta and Sutil – that’s a nice balance too. But, if you’re looking for a real wild shot, I’d go for Kobayashi and Perez – those are two absolutely gung-go guys who are always willing to have a go, and I do enjoy watching them.”
We finish with the future: Eddie was a bit of a talent spotter during his time as a team owner, bringing the likes of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello in to the sport. So is there anyone outside F1 at the moment who’s caught his eye?
“It’s always difficult, isn’t it? But you have the young Australian who’s driving for Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo – I really like the look of him. I like Sam Bird too – he’s had a really good start to the season in GP2. I love watching the junior formulas but Istanbul was so manic that it was really difficult to see, so I’ll put my mind to that this weekend.”
Between meeting monarchs, watching mind-blowing racing and making those tough clothing choices you wonder where he’ll find the time – and yet we somehow feel he’ll manage it. Eddie Jordan never was one to take things easy.