The last Formula One saw of Jacques Villeneuve in 2003 was a sullen, unhappy character who rarely had a smile for anyone. Not surprising, perhaps, when he had suffered years of an uncompetitive car then was unceremoniously dumped by BAR, the team...
The last Formula One saw of Jacques Villeneuve in 2003 was a sullen, unhappy character who rarely had a smile for anyone. Not surprising, perhaps, when he had suffered years of an uncompetitive car then was unceremoniously dumped by BAR, the team he'd put so much effort into.
Fast forward to just about a year later and the paddock was presented with an affable, smiling Canadian on his return at the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend. Offered a seat by Renault for the last three races, and with a Sauber contract for 2005 under his belt, Villeneuve appeared to be a changed man.
His manager, Craig Pollock, claims it's not a 'new' Jacques, just his usual demeanour. "It's not a new Jacques Villeneuve you're seeing, it's the real one," Pollock said, according to Reuters. "He's gone back to his normal personality."
"The last three years with British American Racing made him a little bit bitter about being with a team that didn't really want him and he reacted against it."
"Today he's like he was when he came into Formula One in his first year in 1996 when he was really happy to come into the paddock, people were happy to see him and his team were happy that he was there. He's just wanting to drive, just desperate to drive."
Villeneuve's result in Shanghai may not have been spectacular -- he finished 11th -- but after a year away from competition, and only a brief test before the race, one can't expect miracles. There's surely more to come from the former champion and he's just happy to be back on track.
"He is a pleasure to work with at the moment," said Pollock. "He's just a happy character, he's happy to be here and it makes it easier for the team. All he wants to do is race. He's been accused over the years of doing it for the money. It's not money. He wants to get out there and he's in it for the race."