Jacques Villeneuve: “There was a lot of potential with the car”

When the FIA finally issued its 2010 entry list last night it seemed logical to get hold of one of the men most affected by the outcome.

Jacques Villeneuve had not signed a contract with Stefan GP, but he was poised to do so, having sat in the car in Cologne on Monday.

He was enjoying a late dinner with friends in Switzerland when I rang, and he had not heard the latest. As I explained it all to him I felt a little bit guilty that I had spoiled his evening, and left him to finish his meal.

Later, after he had time to digest the news and his pasta, he called back.

“Of course it’s disappointing,” he told me. “The car and team looked very promising, but we always knew there was a risk without having the entry, and it was running late. So it’s not a full surprise, but it’s still disappointing.

“There was a lot of potential with the car. It was built and it was a full blown project. It wasn’t something started from scratch, and it was going to be competitive. It’s a shame because it would have been a new team which could have run properly, but that’s the way it is.”

Villeneuve had first indicated his desire to come back as long ago as Monaco in May, so this has been something of a long term project. He’s kept himself fit, working with his longtime physio Erwin Gollner in Austria as recently as last weekend.

“It’s been a long process, so there’s no point to can it now. Who knows, there might be some driver changes during the year, as the teams are not all fully secure. And there’s still 2011.”

There remains a chance that Stefan GP will be granted an entry for next year, once the FIA has concluded its bid process. Jacques hasn’t ruled out being part of the package that the team presents: “It’s too early to say anything, but potentially.”

Meanwhile he’s been looking at prospects in the NASCAR world: “There are a few things I’ve put on hold, so I’ll just get working on it.”

Inevitably many people have been sceptical about Villeneuve’s comeback plans, but it would have done no harm to have another World Champion on the grid, in what was potentially a sensible car. There’s no doubt that he was fully motivated, and in a very different frame of mind to when he left BMW Sauber in 2006, having made a lot of changes in his life since then.

He turns 40 next year, but anyone questioning that should note that he is still a couple of months younger than Pedro de la Rosa – and of course Michael Schumacher has moved the goalposts in terms of our perception of an F1 driver’s age. Will JV get another chance?

22 Comments

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22 responses to “Jacques Villeneuve: “There was a lot of potential with the car”

  1. Kenny R

    So gutted about this. Would’ve made an epic season for me having JV back with unfinished business on his mind. Also a crying shame that a potentially very good fully developed car will never see the light of day now.

    Do you think the FIA will give us the actual reasons for the refusal of entry or will they leave it at the extremely vague statement we have now? There really are other parties/forces at work here aren’t there? Stefan are more ready than HRT(Campos) so if the will was there from Todt, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have been given a chance.

    Thanks

  2. F1 Kitteh

    You know what fans really want to see in F1 is real stars like Chandhok and Petrov, I mean who really cares about guys like Kimi and JV ?

    He could’ve had number 27 on the car too ..

    • Benny Wong

      Oh yes..JV had the chance to get that #27 if Stefan was allowed to race. That’d be a legend revisit. Imagine a #27 on a Serbian Red 30 years after GV driving a scarlet red…….

      Bernie (and Eddie Jordan)seems to be quite confident that Stefan GP could get the place as late as 6 hours before the entry list was released. It’s a big pity….

      I have been following his career for almost 20 years, having first seeing him completing in the Macau F3 GP in 1990/91. People may say that JV maybe an over-rated driver and anybody could win in that Williams in 1996 and 1997. Maybe we can’t compare JV to MS. But definitely he is (was) at least on a par with Damon Hill, if not better. I still remember he overtook MS on the outside during….Hungarian GP? And he blew away HH Frentzen (who was joint 2nd with MS in 1989 German F3) in 1997..

      Maybe he made the wrong decision to go to BAR with Craig Pollock (and stayed there for too long) but it’s hard to resist at that time (in terms of $$$ and a team built around him). That’d didn’t work out and his reputation took a deep slide in a couple of years. If he elected to stay in Williams (or went to Benetton)for some more years it might be a different story. Hope he can get one more chance..

  3. Jonas

    Gutted. It would have been a shame to see him racing around at the back, and not at the front where he belongs, but still.

    Well, we have a bunch of pay drivers filling the second half of the grid again. Remember how satisfying that was?

    😦

    • The pay driver thing is obviously a little frustrating when pure talent is overlooked, but Petrov has a winning record in GP2 and Chandhok has also run at the front, albeit a little erratically. The Superlicence rules are quite strict these days. At least now there are opportunities to get onto the grid – for the last couple of years Toro Rosso was perhaps the only way in for talented new guys (and even STR started asking for cash!). Don’t forget that the likes of Niki Lauda, Michael Schumacher and many others paid to start their F1 careers…

  4. Black Knight

    JV could be an asset to a new team – I respect his talent. He is still a pure racer. As to the NASCAR attempt – no one in the series thought that JV could not do the job. It was all about drawing sponsorship to a car. I still can’t beleive Molson, Labatts or Bombardier did not step up. A real wasted opportunity – and I’m not Canadian.

    • I think he’s probably asking the same question – he seems to have found it hard to raise any $$$ at home since he left F1. And yet clearly he still has a lot of fans.

      • F1 Kitteh

        Its kind of sad but if he walk down the street here in Toronto I’d don’t even know if half the people know who he is… but at least he carried the flag in the olympics opening !

      • paxdog57

        Adam, I thought JV conducted himself very well during the last few months with all the rumours and rants going on with his on/off involvement in various teams. I appreciate your conversations with him that shed more light on his actual situation than the other websites stating this and that but with no facts or follow ups.

        Salut Jacques and Adam.

  5. tom baker

    The decision makes no sense. The Toyota would obviously have been the best of the new group by far. There’s already going to be one team competing that hasn’t turned a wheel yet and won’t until FP1. If you’re going to object on a safety standpoint then what are they doing on the grid?

    The three new teams that did make it are doomed to trundling around the back of the field, trying to stay out of the way of the real cars for however many laps their entries manage to stay running. Chances are half of them won’t survive the first corner.

    I’m not a fan of Villeneuve, but I think he deserved a chance to drive once more while there’s still time. The Canadian people would have approved, and his presence would have bolstered ticket sales for their event. Sometimes I just don’t understand how the FIA arrives at their decisions.

  6. Uppili

    Adam,

    There were some rumors last year that JV was going to race in Superleague Formula to get acquainted back to high powered single seaters before his F1 comeback. Do you know anything about it and why it did not come through?

    While i absolutely despise that daft concept of football and racing (yuck!), it would still be cool to see JV and Seabass racing wheel to wheel in what is definitely a brute force open wheel car.

  7. Benny Wong

    Btw I still can’t understand the why USF1 couldn’t merge with Stefan F1. If that happened , everyone would be happy. USF1 can keep it’s entry. Stefan GP can join the race. Toyota’s car won’t be wasted

    Both can learn how to run in F1 in 2010 and if certain team drop out in the future they can part company and both can race….’

    As other fellows suggested the Toyota car, even there’s no development after November, could still be 1-2 seconds faster than the current pace of Virgin / Lotus, let alone HRT.

    • Uppili

      “I still can’t understand the why USF1 couldn’t merge with Stefan F1”

      Because it made too much sense for everyone concerned. Thats is why…..

  8. Steve

    Yes. more I thought about it merging w/ Stefan made sense. Benny hit the nail on the head…experience, sponsorship exposure, keeping the entry (and not potentially losing millions), and then parting ways if need be for next year. More of a temporary thing. Not to mention all the people losing their JOBS. I guess KA and PW killed it, looked like Hurley was behind the concept being a business man. Back to pay drivers, in the 2010 season brought in the most money??? I have no clue…

    P.S. Like you mentioned, Lauda comes from a family of Austrian bankers I think. If you look at a bunch of drivers I would think u find a majority of them come from well-to-do familes…

  9. edgy in LosAngeles

    From what i have heard, Windsor is out and may have been out for several weeks now…? so i can’t see him being the key person along with kennyboy in blocking a possible merger with Stephan, & how that is even possible if HURLEY was the real key person involved when it comes to the money etc…is kind of a mystery It looks like the main person responsible for USF1 becoming the focal point of the ultimate F1 joke is is Ken Anderson…. Quite what PW understood about this man and his competency etc is a mystery but i have heard alot of references to the Falcon IRL car project implosion and how that should have been more than an indicator that there was something stinky in Charlotte-ville.
    Personally as a life long F1 fan, I am terribly dissappointed in how this whole thing came off. it makes everyone involved look like incompetent fools, NOT least of all the FIA who’s “Due Diligence” is apparently well OVER DUE and Much less than DILIGENT

    Thanks for another fiasco Max you sad old tool.

  10. andre

    I believe that Stefanovich, in addition to not having any apparent money problems, made more smart decisions than any of the other newcomers. He secured the rights to a tried and tested car, hired a crafty TD! and wanted to benefit from JV having gone through the experience of developing a new car and of course of being a world champion.

    I read on one site that FIA, for some reason, wanted USF1 to continue to own their entry rights.

    Oh well, it will be fun watching those young pay drivers … we could get some Nascar-type action!

  11. Tony

    Utterly gutted with this news. What has happened to F1, the past few years seem to be more about money and power rather than racing and talent. I’m a huge fan of JV and F1, but I find myself slowly watching less and less of it. I was ready to start watching religiously again if JV were to return. I like the fact that he spoke his mind and wasn’t a corporate robot like many of the drivers today.

    If only Jean “Ferrari boy” Todt took more time to see that Stefan GP was ready and capable of running a whole season….

    Hoping I get to see JV in an F1 car again in the future. The sport needs people like him.

  12. gary

    i am very happy jv is back.. long live the (gilles) villeneuve era, another drive like the 1 gilles gave us in france cant be to far off, (next year?) f1 is so much more! with the villeneuve name.

  13. Jonathan

    Hey Adam,

    I was wondering if you have any insight into what is going on with AMCO? Are the reports regarding Stetanovic’s claim true and is one of the reason’s they were denied an entry?

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