Jacques Villeneuve is quietly confident as the first grand prix of the year in Melbourne draws ever closer. We spoke to him recently at BAR's Brackley factory. Do you feel fresh and re-energised after the two-month testing break? Yeah, the...
Jacques Villeneuve is quietly confident as the first grand prix of the year in Melbourne draws ever closer. We spoke to him recently at BAR's Brackley factory.
Do you feel fresh and re-energised after the two-month testing break?
Yeah, the break was good. The good thing was that everybody had to have it because it was in the regulations this year.
Are you happy with the way things have gone with the new car?
I’m happy with the mechanical side of the new car. I haven’t driven with the new aero package yet. And we’re still waiting for the Melbourne engine too so that’s where the big question mark is.
When you get in a new car like that, how long does it take for you to form an impression of what it’s like?
You get an impression right away, whether you like it or not, and this year’s impression was positive.
It’s been an eventful for the team. Do you feel that morale in the team is good? Is everyone raring to go for 2002?
Yeah, everybody wants to perform We all want to go forward.
What’s the atmosphere been like since David Richards joined the team?
It’s still the same team The people I work with– the engineers, the guys in the garage, the mechanics, the testing and the race team– are all the same. There is no reason for the atmosphere to be any different there.
The team launched the new car relatively early. Is that a good thing? Has it given you more time for development?
It doesn’t make a difference because we still don’t have the aero bits. It’s good because at least we can get some mileage mechanically on the car to find out what might break or not break. That’s the useful thing about it.
For how competitive we are going to be, it doesn’t make a difference.
Has the reliability been good? Have you had any problems?
No, not really. There’s been no major problem so we should be all right.
You had quite a difficult time in Melbourne last year with the accident with Ralf. Do you think it is going to be difficult going back this year?
That was a very dramatic accident, that was the difference from other ones. No, it is not going to affect the weekend this year.
The team’s new deal with Honda is obviously a big boost. How did you feel when you heard about that?
The engine we have been using is an interim engine. We won’t use the new engine until the last test before Melbourne. I don’t know what to expect but I’ve got high hopes.
You’ve been doing a lot of skiing over the winter. Have you been enjoying that?
I did some early in the winter break but then there is no snow anywhere. Two days ago I was sunbathing with my T-shirt off up in the mountains. It’s weird. It feels like April!
At least the weather was clement. What I wouldn’t like is no snow and grey weather.
What do you think the team is capable of in 2002?
I don’t know what the team is capable of. That’s what we will find out. What I want to happen this year is what was supposed to happen the first year. That means I’d like to win races and I really hope we can do it.
My targets and objectives are the same as they have been from the first day I got into BAR They haven’t been achieved yet but hopefully we will achieve them this year.
Do you think the team will be able to break into the top three this year?
I really don’t know. I really hope so. The car felt good in my first few laps in it, a definite improvement on last year. I’m very positive about that. Mechanically it’s an improvement so I’m very positive about that.
As I said, I still haven’t tried the aero package and I haven’t tested the new engine so until then, it is difficult to say.
The team has been making some important steps forward - for example, the acquisition of Geoff Willis. What do you think of that?
That’s a very positive thing that I’m very happy about. Other steps were taken towards the end of last season and they should all pay off this year.
The season kicks off in Australia. How do you find cope with all the long haul travel that life in F1 involves?
It’s fun to travel when you go on holiday but when you go to work, it’s hard because you have to get accustomed to the time zone quickly. You can’t go out and have a crazy holiday because you have the race coming up. On a long haul trip, you spend more time visiting the place. In European races you go straight from the airport to the hotel. On a long haul trip, it is more fun because you see the town and mix with the people a bit more.
What do you race for? What is your main motivation?
Winning– but I’ve forgotten what it tastes like!
What long-term plans do you have for after Formula 1?
Having children! But it won’t be a case of me giving up F1 to do something else. I will only retire when I have had enough.
There’s been a lot of hype about young drivers over the last year…
Yeah, but like most hyped things, they tend to disappear after a while! Kimi Raikkonen had a good first season. He started well but for the rest of the season he was always behind his team-mate.
The McLaren is a quick car so he has to be at the front. Anybody in that car would be performing. The key will be whether he can beat David [Coulthard] or not. Then we will be able to judge what he is really capable of.
So would you put your money on your mate DC to be quicker?
I would say so because he has greater experience.