UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX NOTEBOOK Indy 500 champ Villeneuve to drive for BMW Sauber in USGP; Alonso takes No. 1 INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005 - Jacques Villeneuve, 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner and the 1997 Formula One World Champion, ...
UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX NOTEBOOK
Indy 500 champ Villeneuve to drive for BMW Sauber in USGP; Alonso takes No. 1
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005 - Jacques Villeneuve, 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner and the 1997 Formula One World Champion, will drive for the BMW Sauber F1 Team in the upcoming 2006 season that includes the United States Grand Prix on July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
After spending his first three seasons in F1 with Williams, Canada's Villeneuve then drove for the BAR-Honda team from when it was formed in 1999 through 2003. He sat out most of the 2004 season and then signed to drive for the privateer Sauber team in 2005. Now that BMW has bought Sauber, Villeneuve is looking forward to helping build the team.
"Between 1999 and 2004, I experienced firsthand the difficulties and complexities involved in setting up a new team," Villeneuve said, "but I've never been afraid of a challenge. Sauber was already a good team, and now we also have the resources of BMW behind us. I will do everything I can to contribute to the success of the BMW Sauber F1 Team."
Villeneuve's 2005 season with Sauber Petronas had mixed results, but BMW Motorsport Director Dr. Mario Theissen said Villeneuve's performances in the latter half of the season warranted keeping him on the team in 2006.
"We took a close look at Jacques' performance level at the end of last season," Theissen said. "After an extremely tough first half of the year, which showed that even a former World Champion cannot come back after a period away and be competitive from day one, he got closer and closer to his teammate over the second half of the season. We are in no doubt that Jacques will make the BMW Sauber F1 Team stronger."
Nick Heidfeld, who finished on the podium three times in 2005 driving for Williams-BMW, will be Villeneuve's teammate.
Heidfeld already has begun testing an interim car, a modified Sauber C24B chassis fitted with a 2006 version of the BMW P86 V8 engine. Villeneuve's testing duties start Dec. 8 at the Jerez circuit in Spain.
Alonso takes number 1 from Schumacher: Newly crowned World Champion Fernando Alonso will carry the prestigious number 1 on his Renault in the United States Grand Prix on July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and for the entire 2006 FIA Formula One season. His teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella, will carry number 2.
For the first time since 1999, seven-time World Champion and four-time United States Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher begins a new season without the number 1 on his car.
In accordance to F1 policy, the rest of the numbers for the 2006 season are assigned in the order that the teams finished in the previous year's Constructors World Championship.
Thus McLaren-Mercedes drivers Kimi Raikkonen and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya will use the numbers 3 and 4, respectively, as their team finished second in the Constructors' points last year.
Since Schumacher didn't win the championship and Ferrari finished third in 2005, Schumacher will use number 5 in 2006. His new teammate, Felipe Massa, will carry number 6.
The official 2006 entry list, released Dec. 1 by the FIA, contains several team name changes from 2005.
Now that Honda has acquired 100 percent of BAR, the team has been renamed Lucky Strike Honda Racing F1 Team.
Sauber-Petronas becomes BMW Sauber F1 Team now that BMW has bought the privateer Swiss team.
The former Jordan team is now called MF1 Racing as its takeover by the Midland Group, owned by the Russian-born Canadian citizen Alex Shnaider, is complete.
Just three of 20 available driver's seats are open on the entry list. The teammate to Red Bull Racing driver David Coulthard has not been named, and both drivers for the Red Bull-owned Scuderia Toro Rosso have yet to be named.
Driver nominations may be changed at any time until March 9, the day before the first practice session prior to the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 12.
2006 USGP tickets: Ticket information for the 2006 United States Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, July 2, is available online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, or by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.