The traditional Jacques Villeneuve press conference held during the Canadian GP week had a somewhat different flavor this year, with a resigned but nevertheless optimistic Jacques. The 1997 World Champion hosted the event on Tuesday 4th June, at...
The traditional Jacques Villeneuve press conference held during the Canadian GP week had a somewhat different flavor this year, with a resigned but nevertheless optimistic Jacques. The 1997 World Champion hosted the event on Tuesday 4th June, at the Newtown, his techno-chic restaurant/bar/nightclub on Crescent Street.
Everyone was expecting some tension; after all, the past four seasons have been marked with disappointing results, false starts, and to top everything off, the dismissal of his long-time pal Craig Pollock from BAR.
But despite this emotional roller-coaster, Jacques surprised everyone with his relaxed attitude on his current situation and on life in general. And as it was the case last year, the man was genuinely happy to talk and crack a few jokes on his 'favorite' racing personalities and drivers.
Jacques started by revealing how the lack of success has affected him: "I believed what was promised to me, but unfortunately, most of these promises have never materialized. Many people in the technical staff were not realistic enough and obviously underestimate Formula 1."
He went on to explain his own personal attitude toward racing at the back of the grid: "After four years, it's tougher than ever. I've always been a fighter and I just don't want to give up. I believe I've been able to demonstrate it, given the circumstances. I'm a professional, you know; once in the cockpit, the only thing that really matters is to give everything I've got. This way, I know that if things go wrong, the team is responsible and not me."
A good working relationship with David Richards
Despite the brutal dismissal of Craig Pollock back in December, Jacques does not feel having been betrayed by BAR or British American Tobacco. But he did not like the way the whole affair was conducted.
Nevertheless, Jacques gets along just well with this new boss David Richards. "I think David is starting to realize how hard it is, that it's much tougher that what was planned. But only time will tell, if this positive relationship can eventually stand the test of lack of results."
Even though Jacques remains realistic for this weekend's Canadian GP, he pointed out that a new aerodynamic package implemented recently on the BAR004 during private testing could help. "The car is definitely more stable with the aerodynamic tweaks, based on Olivier's test at Paul Ricard. It's definitely good, especially in Montreal, a circuit where we use a low-downforce configuration."
"We'll most likely do better than the last few races. A podium and even points may seem out of reach, but we should have a car that will allow us to fight."
Jacques was happy with the arrival of ex-Williams engineer Geoff Willis: "I worked with him at Williams; he was good back then, but he's far better now. Already, he's shown a leadership that was lacking last year. We definitely need that guy, especially considering the fact that we haven't really progressed in the past two years,"
And how about the track, with the new, shorter hairpin and the new 'Bonjour Qu?bec' wall, moved a few meters back? "They've moved the wall? I guess we'll have to aim at it better!" joked Villeneuve, who has had his share of problems with this wall.
When asked about his feeling on the Austrian GP, when Rubens Barrichello almost stopped and moved over to let teammate Michael Schumacher cross the finish line first, Jacques was at his most caustic, using the tribune to attack the behavior of the German driver: "What bothered me the most, it's the absolutely farce on the podium."
"Our sport was made a circus on this occasion. The winner's trophy was given to the runner-up. It's like anyone can win to collect points, but after the checkered flag, the winner (Michael) unilaterally declares Rubens as the real winner. They simply took the public for a bunch of idiots".
About the future
Jacques was more evasive when the delicate subject of his future came up: "My future is in racing, I'm still under contract with BAR until 2003."
"If the Ferrari is still the car to beat in 2005, why not. It would surely be quite interesting. But one has to know what will happen with Michael. I would have to have the right to fight with him on equal terms, otherwise, it's not worth it. I would never go".