Honda website
Honda website

JUNE 30, 1997

Could Villeneuve be dropped?

JACQUES VILLENEUVE's negotiations with Frank Williams for a contract in 1998 could end up with the French-Canadian being kicked out of his Williams seat. Although there is a basic agreement in place with the Williams team, Jacques's manager Craig Pollock was recently quoted as saying that Jacques was not certain to stay with the team next year.

Villeneuve and Pollock appear to want more money than Frank Williams is willing to pay. Frank is also not very keen on the idea that Pollock is setting up a rival F1 team for the 1999 season which will almost certainly use same Mecachrome engines as Williams itself. For Frank Williams and Patrick Head there is little point in giving Villeneuve more information which can later be used against the team.

The team is also believed to be less than impressed with Jacques's recent performances - particularly in Canada - and with his recently-developed habit of being controversial for the sake of it.

After his outburst against his fellow drivers on Thursday Villeneuve was quoted in several newspapers criticizing the team for not listening to him. This resulted in Jacques being read the riot act on Saturday evening at Magny-Cours.

Jacques decision to bleach his hair blond is not in itself a problem but Williams's main backer Rothmans is understood to be annoyed as it has just printed up enormous amounts of promotional material for the British Grand Prix, featuring a black-haired Villeneuve.

All this has put Jacques in a less powerful bargaining position than was once the case. Williams will no doubt be forcing the issue, offering Villeneuve less money than he would like. The team has a ready-made replacement in the form of test driver Jean-Christophe Boullion, although there have been suggestions in the paddock that Frank may simply ask Damon Hill to forget their past problems and return to the fold.