Canadian Grand Prix Preview

VILLENEUVE HOPING FOR HOME HEROICS IN MONTREAL INDIANAPOLIS, June 7, 1999 -- Jacques Villeneuve is looking forward to racing at home. Although he lives in Monaco, Villeneuve, born in St. Jean sur Richelieu, Quebec, still considers Canada to...


INDIANAPOLIS, June 7, 1999 -- Jacques Villeneuve is looking forward to racing at home.

Although he lives in Monaco, Villeneuve, born in St. Jean sur Richelieu, Quebec, still considers Canada to be home. This will be the fourth time that Villeneuve, the 1995 Indy 500 winner and CART champion, has taken part in the Canadian Grand Prix on the Montreal circuit named for his father, the late Gilles Villeneuve.

A finish in the points this time would accomplish two goals for Villeneuve: It would mark the first finish in the points for the new British American Racing team, and it would bring him a good result in his home race for the first time in 1996.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Villeneuve said of this weekend's race. "Last year even though it didn't show in the race because I got a little bit overexcited on the restart, it was one of the tracks on which we were most competitive in a hard season. I believe that we can be competitive this year, so I'm really looking forward to going there."

In his Canadian Grand Prix debut in 1996, Villeneuve finished second to Williams teammate Damon Hill. The following year, he spun off on the second lap. Last year, he slid off the track while diving for the lead, got going again and finished 10th.

"I just feel that we are going to have a good result because the last two years (in Canada) were rotten for me," Villenueve said. "I know I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself, but I think it's time for me to have a good Grand Prix in Montreal."

After three years with Team Williams and winning the World Championship in 1997, Villeneuve joined the new British American Racing effort this year. While Villeneuve has shown the potential of the BAR-Supertec -- including qualifying fifth in the San Marino Grand Prix and running third in the Spanish Grand Prix -- the car has suffered from reliability problems. Villeneuve has yet to finish a race.

In the recent Spanish Grand Prix, Mika Salo took eighth, marking the first time a BAR-Supertec has made it to the checkered flag.

"I know that the car is fast," Villeneuve said. "My job is to swallow my frustration. I'm not going to give up. I didn't do it last year when we had all sorts of problems for Williams, and I'm not going to do it now. I have confidence in the team, and they are with me.

"I'm very frustrated because we didn't finish, and we didn't get any points," Villeneuve said of the progress of the BAR team. "But I'm happy because the team is very good. It works well. The car is very good - it's just that it's not strong enough.

"It's because the team is so new. The quality is not good enough yet. A lot of parts are built by companies outside the team, and that creates a lot of problems. But we are getting to them slowly but surely."

Although Villeneuve has not been successful in the races this year, Montreal will still have "Jacques O' Mania" fever. But Villeneuve said the fans don't just come to cheer for their Canadian hero.

"The Canadian fans are great fans because they are also fans of the racing," Villeneuve said. "They want to see a good show, and whenever somebody does something spectacular they will applaud. So they are very good fans. In some other countries sometimes you will get people booing. You don't get that in Canada.

"The Canadian fans don't get much of F1 because the races are not in North America -- they are not close by. If you are racing in Europe, you get German fans everywhere, and it's easy for them to go to a lot of races. But it's not as easy for the Canadian fans."

Since 1992, the only Grand Prix in North America has been the race in Montreal. That will change next year when the United States Grand Prix returns to the F1 calendar with the race Sept. 24 at Indianapolis. While he enjoys the support of the fans, Villeneuve said there is no such thing as "home field" advantage in F1.

"It shouldn't motivate you because you are supposed to give your best any time," Villeneuve said. "If you could do something special because you are there, that means you are not working hard enough at the other races." F1 is different, Villeneuve said, from other sports such as ice hockey and basketball where playing on your home field seems to be an advantage.

"That's different because there are so many games in the hockey season that you can't really be 100 percent in every game," Villeneuve said. "We have 16 races a year, so you should be able to give 100 percent of what you have every time."

But there are extra pressures of racing at home.

"It's a difficult weekend, not only because of the fans but because of family and friends, and everybody is telephoning you to ask for tickets," Villeneuve said. "You can't get passes for everybody. I love spending time in Montreal but not the week before the race. It's just too hectic." Still, as he said, Villeneuve is looking forward to the Canadian Grand Prix, where he believes that the British American Racing team and car can show their potential if the reliability problems stay away.

"We can be the best of the rest," Villeneuve said. "The Ferraris and McLarens are still in front, but that's about it. Apart from these two teams we should be able to beat the rest of the field.

"I'd say my mood is more positive than last year. We believe that we can do better things than what we believed last year. We are very close to scoring points. We are fast enough to be on the podium. We are more than fast enough."


Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the Canadian Grand Prix live on SpeedVision and Fox Sports Net at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) June 13. SpeedVision will show qualifying live at 1 p.m. (EDT) on June 12. *** Zanardi to see old friends again: Jacques Villeneuve isn't the only former CART champion looking forward to racing in Canada. "Montreal is a place that I like," said Alex Zanardi, who will race in North America for the first time since the 1998 CART season finale, "and not just because it is a beautiful city. I'm looking forward to going back there, as I will be closer to all my old friends in America. Many of the people that I met there while I was racing in CART will come and say hello, and I really can't wait to see them again. "The circuit in Montreal has some interesting chicanes and long straights where you have the opportunity to draft and finally outbrake someone. With regards to our results, last week the Winfield Williams team had some profitable days of testing in Monza, and I'm confident that we are about to identify and definitively solve some of the problems that we have had so far." *** Zonta back: After missing four races because of a foot injury, Ricardo Zonta will be back in the cockpit of his BAR-Supertec this weekend. *** Testing: The F1 teams went testing at Silverstone, Monza and Fiorano last week as they prepared for the Canadian Grand Prix. Stewart-Ford, West McLaren-Mercedes, Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife, B&H Jordan-Mugen-Honda, Arrows and British American Racing-Supertec were at Silverstone. Winfield Williams-Supertec, Red Bull Sauber-Petronas and Gauloises Prost-Peugeot headed for Monza, while Ferrari tested both at Monza and Fiorano. *** Hill points to Montreal: The Jordan team won its first World Championship points in the 1991 Canadian Grand Prix with Andrea de Cesaris and Bertrand Gachot finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. In 1995, Jordan drivers Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine were both on the podium after finishing second and third, respectively. The team also scored points in the 1996 and 1997 editions of the race. Jordan star Damon Hill is hoping he can turn his season around with a top-six finish in Montreal. While his teammate, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, is fourth in the World Championship, Hill is ninth with just three points scored at San Marino. Despite Hill's poor start to the season, team owner Eddie Jordan says he still has faith in his driver. "Damon was very close to scoring points in Spain," Jordan said, "and I think he is back on top. He is at a difficult stage of his career with the media always trying to get him to disclose what he is going to do in the future. "Even I don't ask him, and I have more right than most to ask. There is no doubt that he has it in him, and our third place in the Constructors Championship rests just as much on him as anyone else in the team."

Canadian Grand Prix Fast Facts

Date: Sunday, June 13 Race: Sixth of 16 on 1999 schedule Venue: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal Circuit length: 2.747 miles, 4.421 km Race length: 69 laps On TV: Race (live) - 12:30 p.m. (EDT) June 13, SpeedVision and Fox Sports Net. Qualifying (live) - 1 p.m. (EDT) June 12, SpeedVision Points leader: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari 1998 race winner: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari 1998 pole winner: David Coulthard, McLaren-Mercedes Previous winners: 1997 -- Michael Schumacher; 1996 -- Damon Hill; 1995 - Jean Alesi; 1994 -- Michael Schumacher; 1993 -- Alain Prost

Source: IMS/IRL

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Rubens Barrichello , Jean Alesi , David Coulthard , Jacques Villeneuve , Eddie Jordan , Mika Salo , Alex Zanardi , Alain Prost , Andrea de Cesaris , Damon Hill , Gilles Villeneuve
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , British American Racing , Jordan