The Chinese Grand Prix will make its Formula One debut next weekend and the Shanghai International Circuit will see the return of two familiar faces. Ralf Schumacher returns to the Williams cockpit after a six race absence due to injury, and...
The Chinese Grand Prix will make its Formula One debut next weekend and the Shanghai International Circuit will see the return of two familiar faces. Ralf Schumacher returns to the Williams cockpit after a six race absence due to injury, and Jacques Villeneuve will line up for Renault after nearly a year away from F1.
Schumacher had hoped to return at Monza but insurance problems prevented him testing prior to the race. Last week he tested at Silverstone and was pronounced fit and well to compete at Shanghai. Ralf noticed an improvement in the Williams FW26 since his last outing in the car at Indianapolis.
"I must say the car is much better now than when I last drove it, it is much easier to drive, especially with regards to downforce," he noted. "I'm now really looking forward to the next three races and giving the team my very best."
Schumacher is one of only a couple of drivers to have visited the Shanghai location, although when he visited the track was still under construction. "No one knows the Shanghai circuit which makes this race very exciting," he said.
"It's always fun going to a completely new track because everyone is equal in their lack of knowledge. I've seen the drawings of the circuit and I visited about a year ago but the track wasn't totally finished so there wasn't much to see apart from the buildings and grandstands which were under construction."
Villenueve last raced in F1 at Indianapolis in September 2003 with BAR. When Renault got fed up with Jarno Trulli's lack of results recently, Villeneuve was the choice to replace him. The Canadian also tested at Silverstone last week and was subsequently confirmed by Renault as teammate to Fernando Alonso for the last three races.
Renault was engine supplier to Williams when Villeneuve won the world championship with the team in 1997. "Over the years that we worked together I built up a genuine respect for Renault, and I am very grateful to the team that they have recruited me at this time," he said.
Villeneuve has signed to race with Sauber in 2005 but for the immediate future he is, naturally, concentrating on Renault. "I am here to enjoy myself as well, but the priority is to contribute to Renault's fight in the championship," he commented. "It will be tough, but sometimes you have to take the plunge. Once you have done so, there is no other option but to make it work."