Villeneuve turns his back on F1 again

Last Updated: Jul 05, 2011, 09:18 AM IST

Grove: Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve is done with Formula One, not just as a driver but now seemingly as a spectator as well.

The 40-year-old Canadian who last drove for BMW-Sauber in 2006 but has been linked to several possible comeback drives since then, said on Monday that he now had eyes only for NASCAR.

This weekend, when British fans will flock to Silverstone for their home grand prix and the hope of seeing McLaren`s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button challenging for victory, Villeneuve will focus on something else.

"I don`t watch the races any more. I`m done, for the first time ever," he said at the Williams factory, where his former employers trumpeted a new engine deal with Renault - the company that powered the Canadian to his 1997 title triumph.

"I just can`t be bothered. Halfway through the race I`m yawning and its really tough...and I just get upset," he added.

"When I see these guys not even being able to defend, like Michael (Schumacher) - he should have been on the podium in Montreal."

Former Indy 500 winner Villeneuve has been competing most recently in the NASCAR nationwide series with Penske Racing and he enthused about the experience.

"It`s so much fun. It reminds me of why I got into racing in the first place," he said. "You get in the car and you are there to do your race and nothing will get in the way of that, not regulations, nothing.

"It`s amazing. It`s human against human, beast against beast. It`s great. You can muscle your way through, you can work around problems, I love it."

Dirty Driving

The big problem with Formula One, the bespectacled Canadian said, was overtaking. Not the lack of it but too much thanks to the DRS (drag reduction system or adjustable rear wing) which has introduced a new element this season.

Villeneuve, whose late father Gilles won the enduring affection of Ferrari fans both for his racing passion and his ability to beat faster cars by keeping them at bay for lap after lap, said DRS should never have been allowed.

"I really don`t care to see overtaking with DRS," he said.

"I prefer to see Lewis going for it and sometimes it ends in tears but at least it`s fun. All the other overtaking with the DRS, I`m just falling asleep...useless, boring, it`s not even racing.

"I don`t understand why that thing is on an F1 car right now," said the Canadian. "People now think `Oh, he`s going to overtake me. Why bother?` And that`s it. No excitement. Nothing."

Villeneuve was defensive of Hamilton, who has repeatedly fallen foul of stewards this season after controversial collisions.

The Canadian, who had several run-ins with Schumacher when the seven-times champion was at Ferrari, including the notorious 1997 season-ender that led to the German being excluded from the standings, said officials should focus on real offenders.

"F1 is giving penalties for people making mistakes instead of for people driving dirty," he said, his comments perhaps reflecting a lack of recent viewing. "And that is wrong. Mistakes happen. You run into each other, that`s life, that`s racing and too bad.

"Then you see a lot of weaving and nasty stuff happening and there`s no penalties for that. That`s where it`s wrong. “

"Lewis is racing very aggressively and he forgets to use his head once in a while so he ends up crashing into people. But that should not be stopped, it`s racing. That`s what you want to see: battles.”

"If every time someone tries to do that there`s a penalty, what`s the point? You need to let the drivers go for it and if they bang wheels, too bad. It`s fun, it`s a good show, the fans are up in the grandstands and they can scream and shout about it...that`s good, that`s what you want."

Villeneuve had little time for a suggestion by Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone that world champion Sebastian Vettel`s wins for Red Bull this season meant more than Schumacher`s because of the quality of the opposition lined up against him.

There are five world champions on the current grid, including Schumacher in his comeback with Mercedes at the grand old age of 42.

"Vettel is fighting no-one right now. If you look at it, anytime Vettel has to fight someone he collapses. Look at Montreal," said Villeneuve.

The 24-year-old German lost that epic race in Canada to Button after making a mistake on the final lap as the McLaren driver was bearing down on him.

"(Red Bull team mate) Mark (Webber) has collapsed and the whole team has taken a step forward so he`s in a world of his own. He`s super-fast, he`s faster and stronger than he was last year and when you are on a cloud like that it`s very hard for things to go wrong," said the former champion.

"Unless something really bad happens, I don`t see how he could lose a championship this year. Maybe he could lose his marbles, I don`t know."

Bureau Report