JANUARY 4, 2002

Wishful thinking from Villeneuve?

Jacques Villeneuve has made the unlikely statement that he would like to drive for Ferrari.

JACQUES VILLENEUVE has made the unlikely statement that he would like to drive for Ferrari.

This was of course the team with which his father Gilles entered motor racing legend. From replacing Niki Lauda in the team at the end of 1977 to his untimely death in qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder Gilles Villeneuve inspired a generation and is lionized by the Ferrari faithful to this day.

Throughout his career Jacques has been cautious about the public's will to see him pick up where his illustrious father left off, and has from the earliest days in Italian Formula 3, been forced to repeat: "I am Jacques Villeneuve, not Gilles Villeneuve."

Now however the 1997 champion is apparently letting it be known that he is open to offers and is not ruling out the reuniting of the names Villeneuve and Ferrari that many race fans have been longing for - even if it meant teaming up with Michael Schumacher.

"I would be very happy to have Michael as a team mate. Definitely," he said.

Quite how new BAR principal David Richards feels about Villeneuve's latest pronouncement is not known, but hearing your star driver apparently more positive about racing with his bitter rival than with his present team is clearly not an encouraging development.

At the launch of the 2001 BAR team Villeneuve was sprightly and doubted Schumacher's ability to "behave like a human being" when racing wheel-to-wheel - a legacy of the infamous 1997 European GP when, as Villeneuve overtook, Schumacher attempted to ram him out of winning the world championship.

A year later and Villeneuve was a surly figure at the launch of the 2002 BAR-Honda, when it was announced that Richards was taking over control of the team from the Canadian's mentor Craig Pollock. He had little overtly positive to say about the situation, and the Ferrari line is one of many barbed comments to be expected from Villeneuve in the coming months.

Sadly for F1 romantics however the prospect of Villeneuve joining the Scuderia Ferrari looks a barren one. With Schumacher hinting that he will stay at Maranello until beyond the end of his current contract in 2004 it is extremely unlikely that Villeneuve would put himself into a team molded exclusively around the German, which under the current set-up it is likely to remain until an heir is found - possibly in the form of Felipe Massa.

Enzo Ferrari would doubtless have adored the chance to have two world champions battling one another in his team, but in the modern era it would be fairly unthinkable.