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​WTF Happened To Eddie Irvine?

Runner-up in the 1999 Formula One championship, Eddie Irvine has left the sport behind entirely and now build very, very expensive houses.
January 22, 2016, 2:35pm
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Formula One is full of dreamers. A very small number have the ability to make those dreams become reality, but the vast majority come up short and vanish into obscurity, making so little impression that they wouldn't even find their way into this column.

Eddie Irvine was not a dreamer – he was a pragmatist. He knew he was not the greatest driver of his generation and so readily accepted a well-paid job as number two to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. When the great German broke his leg at the British Grand Prix in 1999, Irvine stepped up to team leader status and almost won the world championship. Maybe, at that point, Eddie did briefly dare to dream.

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In retirement, Irvine has left the sport behind entirely, swapping a life of hanging out on yachts and occasionally driving an F1 car for a life of hanging out on yachts and occasionally selling property. Of course, when a house costs upwards of $10m, you don't need to shift all that many.

Sporting Haunts

Silverstone, Monaco and Monza. Irvine was a very good F1 driver who started 147 races between 1993 and 2002. He won four grands prix, all of them during the 1999 season, and finished that year as runner-up to Mika Hakkinen. From there he switched to Jaguar to lead their new F1 project, but this was largely a failure and Irvine walked away from the sport at the end of the 2002 campaign. In total he amassed 26 career podiums, a very tidy haul.

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He was also renowned as something of a playboy, dating a number of beautiful women and famously enjoying a party. But it would be wrong to write Irvine off as a reasonably quick driver who liked chasing the girls. He was an intelligent and strategic operator who ended up driving for the most famous team in the sport (Ferrari) against the most complete driver (Schumacher). And he did so despite not being a world-class talent himself. When it came to his job, Irvine's brain was engaged at all times. If he sometimes let another part of his anatomy guide his decisions, it did not affect his work.

Life After The Game

You might suggest that this section could simply read: 'What the hell do you think he's doing now? He's hanging out on yachts in the Med with topless women half his age.' That would be partially correct – and here's the shameless Daily Mail story to prove it.

But it wouldn't tell the whole story of post-F1 Irvine. After quitting Jaguar, Eddie left the sport altogether. And not just Formula One: he has not raced anything of note since the 2002 Japanese Grand Prix. While he competed at the Le Mans 24 Hours in his pre-F1 years, he showed no interest in rekindling his sportscar career, or moving into touring cars, or doing anything at a professional level.

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That's no surprise. You could no less imagine Irvine slumming it at a drizzly Silverstone to contest a poorly-attended sportscar race than you can Lewis Hamilton and his army of hangers-on sitting on a grass bank to watch. Instead, Irvine's principal interest is in real estate and custom home building. And his business, Casa Ischia, caters to a significantly wealthier clientele than your local Foxtons.

Last year, for example, they sold a six-bedroom home in Miami Beach for $10.5 million. The plot had been purchased in 2011 and completed in 2014, after which Casa Ischia offered it on the rental market for €100,000 a month.

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In July of 2015 he listed a Hibiscus Island spec home that should be completed by this autumn. If you fancy living there, it's going to cost €30m. He also owns properties in Dublin, Milan, Ibiza and the Caribbean, and is developing a luxury complex on the Exuma islands in the Bahamas.

"I do stuff in Ireland which is just building normal houses, which I'm not really that interested in," Irvine explained to Steve Rider in 2013. "But the stuff I do in Miami, I do stuff that I love [there]. I design them with my builder and we do amazing houses that sell for really good money."

Having been well-paid at both Ferrari and Jaguar, income still matters to Irvine. Residing on a private island in the Bahamas and hanging out on yachts means he needs a high-earning business.

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"Lifestyle is a priority," he told Ryder. "I love money and I want money, so that I can live the life I want to live."

On a more humble note, Irvine's other business interests include the Eddie Irvine Sports facility in his native County Down. Naturally it features a go-kart track, as well as indoor football, paintball, and other sports.

Away from his work, Irvine has attracted media attention for a pair of bizarre incidents: a run-in with a shark, and a conviction in Italy for assault. In 2014 he fought off a 7ft shark while, to quote the BBC, 'swimming and spear fishing for dinner near his Bahamas home.'

"There was nothing I could do until he got within about 3ft, when I could jab him with my spear," Irvine recalled.

That same year, Irvine was accused of pulling a glass on Gabriele Moratti, the son of the former mayor of Milan, and was later found guilty of assault and battery. Moratti had attacked Irvine beforehand after finding Eddie chatting to his ex-girlfriend in a nightclub, and was also charged. Irvine was sentenced to six months in prison, though neither he nor Moratti ended up serving time for the incident.

Similar Cases

Robbie Fowler famously ploughed some of his football earnings into property and made a fortune that even Premier League stars would be jealous of. With many of his properties located in and around his native Liverpool, it gave life to the truly excellent terrace song, "We all live in a Robbie Fowler house". Nevertheless, the former Reds striker isn't shy about admitting that his wife is largely responsible for running the business.

Comeback Chances

If you're talking behind the wheel, absolutely none. Even in the modern era motorsport remains dangerous. Now aged 51, Irvine is not remotely likely to risk his idyllic life for passion alone, and he doesn't need to make a living from the sport any more. You could just about imagine him becoming involved in team management, but it would have to be with someone else's money – Irvine knows motorsport too well to pour his own cash away. Even this seems doubtful as Irvine is a vocal critic of the direction Formula One has taken in recent years. All of this makes it highly unlikely that we'll see Irv back in the paddock full-time.