Jacques Villeneuve has spoken publicly about his split with BAR for the first time since the team replaced him with Takuma Sato at the end of this season. BAR confirmed just before the Japanese Grand Prix that it would not renew Villeneuve's ...
Jacques Villeneuve has spoken publicly about his split with BAR for the first time since the team replaced him with Takuma Sato at the end of this season. BAR confirmed just before the Japanese Grand Prix that it would not renew Villeneuve's contract and Sato would take over in 2004. As it was, Villeneuve withdrew from the race after the announcement and Sato immediately stepped in.
After the initial clash of personalities, Villeneuve now thinks the Englishman has done a good job. "I was suspicious before last season because Jenson was being hyped beyond what he had achieved as a driver. Since then, we had a really good relationship. Jenson did a great job for BAR last year, and I have got a lot more respect for him."
BAR boss David Richards, however, is definitely not one of Villeneuve's favourite people. Richards made some choice comments about the Canadian's salary compared to his results earlier this year and the situation between the two deteriorated as the season went on. By Japan, Villeneuve had reached the end of his tether.
"There was no way I was going to risk my life for him," he said of Richards. "It had nothing to do with the team -- it was all to do with David. If David had told me last May I would not be racing for the team then there would have been no problem, but he told me I could trust him and that we could do something special together. I just could not listen to that and respect him in the end."
"Everyone knew that Takuma would be in the car next year. I got a rubbish offer from BAR. It was insulting because there was no money involved. We went back with a counter offer but heard nothing. I put more than five years into the team, I put my career into them, and it will be hard to see someone else reap the benefits next year."
As for the future, a return to F1 seems unlikely for the former world champion. "Unless I can get a top car I am not sure I would consider it," Villeneuve remarked. "If there are no opportunities for 2004 then why should there be any in 2005? I would not rule it out, but I am not working towards it."