Rheal Nadeau - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacques Villeneuve was in Montreal Wednesday, where he received a hero's welcome. This included a public interview at the Molson Centre (the arena where the Montreal Canadiens play), where he received a 10 minute standing ovation from the crowd of 20,000.
Villeneuve may not enjoy being in the public eye, but he certainly handles it like a pro: he was relaxed, made jokes, easily diverted personal questions, steered clear of all the attempts to draw him into a comment on Quebec nationalism. Some of his answers do throw some light on the Jerez race (and in fact on that story about "race fixing"), so I'll give those first:
About Irvine and their confrontation in the pits: Jacques admitted that Irvine's blocking tactics during the practice sessions were getting to him. He says he needed to say something, in public, so everyone would be aware of it; after that Irvine stayed out of his way.
In response to a later question, he did imply that the greatest concern he and his team had after Schumacher went out was that Irvine might try to take him out.
About his pass on Schumacher, and the resulting collision, he said he was faster on new tires, and had already decided he'd try to pass at that corner. When he did make the pass, he felt it was the last lap he really had a chance. He clearly stated that he believes Michael did try to put him out of the race, and was only surprised at how obvious Michael was.
Jacques was asked what word went through his mind when he saw the red car turning in on him. He did point out that he didn't see the Ferrari, since he was in front - but that every word he knew went through his mind, in several languages. Jacques got a big laugh by saying "If I tell you the words, I'll be called back to Paris."
About the end of the race: Mika did deserve a win and was faster, and the McLarens had stayed out of the early battle and not interfered with his race against Michael. Jacques said he was slower and didn't want to push too hard and risk breaking the suspension, and that his priority was staying ahead of Irvine.
(My comment: from all this, it would appear that the McLarens did help Williams, by staying between Irvine and Jacques and so preventing any "accident" between the two; it also looks to me like the McLarens would have wound up in front anyway since they were faster, so I don't think any deal affected the actual finishing order, it only helped both teams get their results with minimum risks.)
Although Jacques has made it very clear he has no intention of discussing his private life, that didn't stop the reporters from pestering him about it, with questions like "I know you don't want to discuss your private life, but could you tell us..." The first question of all, predictably enough, was about his father: "Twenty years ago, Gilles Villeneuve won his first race here in Montreal. At what point did you think your father can be proud of you?" Answer: "When I was alone after the race. Some things are very private. This is not something I share with anybody."
He was later asked "Can you tell us about your conversation with your mother after the championship?" "No. No. (pause) Personal stuff has to stay personal, otherwise it's no longer personal."
There had been a plan to hold a parade, but Jacques turned it down - when asked about it, he said he wasn't interested in going down the middle of the street waving at people and saying "Here I am, I'm the winner." He still wishes for anonymity.
What would he change about his season? Only Montreal, but the best way to win is when you have to fight, it would have been boring if he'd clinched at mid-season.
Jacques was scheduled to attend the Canadiens' hockey game that night (he has some friends among the players), and he was asked if he was going out with the team after the game. He first replied "that's a big secret", then said it was important to celebrate and have fun.
He was also asked if he was going to drive the Zamboni at the game, and he joked that he wasn't used to driving on ice, it could be dangerous.
Most of the questions were in French, some in English, and there was one question in Italian, which spoke of all the memories of his father being a hero with Ferrari, and how did it feel to be racing against Ferrari all season. Jacques replied (in Italian) that he didn't really pay attention to which team he was racing against, that it had been a great battle, and that now "Ferrari has a new memory of Villeneuve."
He commented twice during the interview about being "just an ordinary guy who drives a fast car."
Overall, he handled himself quite well, gave the crowd what it came for without being drawn into anything he didn't want to discuss. (The master of ceremonies did mention that it was Villeneuve and his group who'd asked for the big interview - I guess to get that over with and allow him to enjoy his time in Montreal without being too busy giving interviews and making appearances.)
The Rhealist - Rheal Nadeau - email@example.com - Speaking only for myself