AUGUST 20, 2004
Why Jacques Villeneuve has a problem
Jacques Villeneuve wants to come back to Formula 1 after a year sitting by the sidelines. This is a nice idea because Villeneuve can be a very exciting driver. The problem however is that while there is no shortage of talk about where Villeneuve could end up, there do not appear to be any serious offers. Villeneuve may be a former F1 World Champion but for the teams considering him as a possible driver there are a lot of question marks.
Villeneuve is going to need to be very convincing to get around them. The first problem is that Jacques is 32 and so he is not a youngster and there are always suspicions that older drivers are less motivated. Villeneuve's motivation during his final season with BAR was suspect and this was compounded by the fact that he did not take part in the final race of the year. The major problem however was that Villeneuve did emphatically outperform his BAR-Honda team mate Jenson Button when opportunities arose to do well. It must also be said that Jacques's lack of desire when it comes to doing promotional work will count against him, even if he is now willing to do whatever is asked of him.
The major problem however is not one that the teams need to answer but rather one for Villeneuve himself. The cars he might be able to get his hands on are unlikely to enable him to win races. BAR is his best bet but it is hard to see that relationship working again after the problems in the past. Sauber is not expected to be a strong challenger for victories and nor is Jaguar. In theory there is a drive open at Toyota but everyone knows that this is going to Jarno Trulli and it is hard to see why Jacques would be interested in the likes of Jordan and Minardi.
In other words while he might still love racing and want to race, Jacques is unlikely to scale new career heights with the drives on offer and there is a strong argument that he might be better off going after victory in the one event that would make him unique: the Le Mans 24 Hours.
If Villeneuve were to win that race he would become the only man in the history of the sport to win the Indianapolis 500, the Le Mans 24 Hours and the World Championship. The only man to have done that was Graham Hill, but he never won a US national championship, which Villeneuve did manage to do.
Mike Hawthorn, Jochen Rindt and Phil Hill all won the F1 World Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours but they never won the Indianapolis 500. Jim Clark, Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi all won the World Championship and the Indianapolis 500 but they never won Le Mans, while AJ Foyt won Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 but never figured in F1.
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