Former Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve says he has joined the FIA Formula E ranks because he wanted to be involved in a series where the cars are developed to get ever-faster.
Villeneuve, who will race for the Venturi team in season two of the all-electric open-wheel series, claims he is excited at the prospect of developing the new technology and its future potential.
He said he was “upset” not to be a part of season one, and is looking forward to get back to street-course racing.
“If you look at most series, they try to make [the cars] go slower every year, and this is the other way round, which is no bad thing,” said Villeneuve after testing at Donington Park in England today.
“I’m a racer. What matters is that when you get in the car, you step on the throttle and it goes. That’s the primary focus – I’m not here as a whizzkid, it’s because I love racing, and there’s potential for good racing [in this series].
“I was watching the races and they looked pretty exciting – I was upset I wasn’t part of it. The level of drivers is very good, and it’s always downtown; I always used to love street courses.
“So at some point I started looking into it and 10 days ago, when I was in Hungary doing TV commentary, I got a call to ask if was available to go testing. I was supposed to go to Canada so I had to change my plans, but I said ‘sure, that should be fun.’"
Cars “quite cool” to drive
Villeneuve, who has raced in many categories around the world from F1 to sportscars to IndyCar and NASCAR to rallycross, said he found the cars appealing to drive.
“I had fun driving the car – I found it very complex, difficult to get the most out of, and learning how to harness the energy was quite cool,” he added. “The atmosphere in the team reminded me of why I got into racing.”
“It’s a proper race car. You don’t have the same top speed or power on exit, but once you get into the braking and cornering, it’s a proper race car. You don’t have the horsepower to get you out of the corners, so you have to maximise your speed through the corners and how to do that is quite complex.”
Villeneuve’s deal with Venturi was made more attractive by the fact it’s a manufacturer entry, which is producing its own powertrain for season two.
“Not only does Venturi have a lot of experience with electric powertrains, with their straight-line speed records, but they have the right attitude,” said Villeneuve. “Having grown up in Monaco, the link was easy.
“Now everybody has a new powertrain, and everyone thinks theirs is the best in the business so we’ll just have to wait and see. I’ve no idea where we’re at yet, but I’m not here on holiday.
“I love racing and I’m here to compete and run at the front. Everything I’ve done in the last 10 years I’ve managed to run at the front and fight for podiums and wins, so that’s what I want to be doing. It’s good to have the whole season, not only two or three races, and to build as the year goes on.”
Interview by Tim Biesbrouck and Guillaume Navarro