Q and A with Jacques Villeneuve

June 9, 2005

Sauber driver Jacques Villeneuve hosts a pre-Canadian GP press conference every season,  the following is a transcript from yesterday:

What makes this race different for you to the others?
This is home. This is where I come from so itís very special.

At this point in the season are you where you thought you would be, in terms of expectation?
Definitely not. I could see how competitive Sauber was last year and how much progress they made throughout the season. I had a fair idea on the tire difference and where they would have been had they been on the tire last year. Then when we got the tires on last yearís car the car was extremely fast, it was a big improvement, compared to anything that had happened to them before. So we were all surprised and disappointed when the new car came out and it actually wasnít as competitive. Itís doesnít feel bad to drive, itís just slow on the lap times, and itís very hard to pinpoint.

Regarding tire changes, are your new rules in f1, from a strategic and safety point of view, wasnít it better last year?
No, definitely not. I think youíve seen some better races this year. Safety wise why should it be dangerous? Iíve said before, the only reason there was a problem at the last race was because of flat-spotting a tire and braking vibrations, and that could have happened even with last yearís rules. Last year you wouldnít have come into the pits to change your tire, you would have tried to survive until the end of the race if you are in the lead, thatís just the way racing is so the new rules had no effect on that and you could damage your front wing or suspension by banging wheels with someone and you would still try to stay on the race track until it broke so the new rules have a very tiny effect on that.

In terms of qualification are you happy that itís back to one day?
I wasnít happy qualifying on Sunday, but I was happy with the fact that at least one of the qualifying was with low fuel. Now itís back to being with high fuel and you never know who is quick. You determine your qualifying lap by deciding how much fuel you put in, so itís not a pure qualifying lap anymore. Itís part of the race and itís purely strategy. Iím not a big fan of that.

How much difference is there in how you feel today than this point two years ago before your last race here?
I feel a lot better than I did two years ago. The last two years at BAR were hell, so anything is better than that. It wasnít because of the car or the people; it wasnít the engineers or the mechanics. It was only down to one person who was on a mission at the time to discredit me. That made life very difficult. The year off has allowed me to take a breather, to see what was going on and relax, to come back and not be affected by stuff like that anymore.

Peter Sauber has made some comments that youíve been a little slower than he expected. How do you react to that?
I donít want to react. Itís the kind of comment that can get you really angry and really have a negative effect on the way you drive, so Iíd rather not pay any attention to it and just take it as humor. As little as possible that gets in public the better it is. Anything of that kind that gets into the public shows a weakness in the team, and makes the rest of the team weaker. Itís not constructive to performance.

What was going through your mind when this event [Canada] was held last year?
That I wasnít here for the party after the race! It was good to be away from racing for a while but of course I was missing not being here. Itís always a special weekend because of the atmosphere, the people and the fans. It wasnít nice to not be at this one.

When you started with the new team it got off on a bad foot, today are you comfortable or is there still pressure?
Of course Iím not satisfied. There was Imola which was good and Monaco we were competitive but other than that weíre the slowest Michelin car right now so thatís definitely not a good position to be in. Apart from changing springs and anti-roll bars thereís very little we are doing on the car so from that aspect from the way I enjoy working thatís not very satisfying, but thatís just the way it is so I have to make the best of it.

You are getting older, how many more years do you see yourself doing this?
Well one more year means more experience, so itís only a positive. You should carry on as long as youíre hungry, you enjoy working and fighting, pushing the limits and you enjoy figuring out problems. Working on a race car is not only driving it, itís figuring out what you can change on it to allow yourself to drive faster. Thatís fun, but you need the budget and the team to try different aspects and right now we donít have a big budget so we canít do that.

You obviously would love to win a race, but what would be satisfactory this weekend?
Iíll know on Friday what I want to shoot for. Of course going home without points would be a disappointment definitely. 7th and 8th are points but what feels like real points are from 6th onwards, because thatís how the rules used to be. 7th and 8th are good to bring home but they arenít that satisfying.

Did you watch the Indy 500 and what did you think of Danica Patrick?
She did a very good job. The funny thing is her mistake allowed her to be in the lead at some point so it would have been a little bit unfair if she had won at that point. Thatís all. But she did a very strong job all weekend so sheís a strong racer.

Given the right package, do you still think youíre one of the quickest drivers in the world?
Definitely. If not I wouldnít have come back to race if I didnít believe I could do it.

If you look at F1 at the moment you have Alonso dominating and Schumacher off the pace. Whatís been most surprising for you?
Even before we started winter testing I was discussing with a few people, and I didnít expect our competitors tire-wise to be able to bridge the gap with Michelin, but it felt like I was the only one thinking that and everyone else didnít believe me. Since the beginning of the season thatís how itís been so Iím not surprised at all. I expected the McLaren to be leading the championship, not the Renault, and Kimi definitely has the faster car but somehow they havenít managed to get the points and so Alonso is off on another planet. When youíre in that position itís difficult for you to miss it. The way he feels right now they can lose the championship if they do something stupid, thatís all.

Being with a weaker team, have you given up hope of catching onto one of the big teams?
With the way the season's going it definitely wonít allow you to be on strong end of negotiations and get with a team thatís winning races. But I enjoy working with the team even if youíre not at the front, as long as you are going forward, so it depends on what we plan for next year. If the team wants to progress and make leaps forward then I will be very happy to keep working on the project.

Ferrari has always had this dream to drive Villeneuve with Ferrari. If Schumacher retired, is there an opportunity for you?
Nothing has shown that it could be an opportunity so itís not something I can comment on.

What reception do you get from fans when you come back to Canada?
When you meet people you feel like you are part of the country. Itís become more like that over the years. At the start because I grew up in Europe and it took longer for the people to accept that, but over the years itís become more and more respectful.

There are suggestions that Andrew Ranger might be ready to make a step to F1 sooner rather than later. What advice would you offer him?
Not to jump bridges. Heís still very young and has a lot to learn. He definitely has a lot of talent, but itís difficult to know whatís going on when youíre in Europe - I try to see as much as I can. So many things can happen psychologically when youíre racing and that will often have a bigger effect on your future than pure talent. Getting wins and crashes can affect the way you drive. I think itís important not to get into F1 too early, although if you get the chance then you take it.

When you look at your rivals theyíre all basically kids. The last few years have seen more and more of the characters leave the sport. Do you see younger guys with good talent but robots?
Itís more difficult now to judge talent because there are so many driver aids in the cars that any good driver will be able to drive the car. You just brake as hard as you can, throw the car into the corner and step on the throttle and the car will take care of it. Itís easy for a driver new to F1 to adapt to it than a driver thatís been there for a while. If a driver arrives in F1 without experience then, of course, it will be much harder for them to express themselves. They are 19 or 20 and just happy to be there. They will have a big sponsor and a big team owner who wants to be a star himself and will not want the driver thatís the star. So the driver will just be happy to be there and drive the race car and thatís just the way itís evolved. Thatís partly the mediaís fault, not only the team owner. Thatís because of the way they take comments out of context on purpose that puts a whole marketing department or sponsor on the back of a driver. So everyoneís at fault for that. The media makes and breaks heroes, so if they keep making characterless people as heroes, then thatís what weíll keep getting.

Did you make up your mind about what will happen after 2006?
No idea. If it continues like this year there wonít be much choice.

Has the media been too hard on Jacques Villeneuve?
No, itís okay, I can take it. The mediaís only been harsh because more is expected. If I hadnít won in the past, then there would be no criticism now. Iíll take criticism any day if itís because Iíve won in the past. You donít get anything for nothing. Thereís always a price to pay.

How is your relationship with Felipe Massa?
Surprisingly very good. When he first arrived in F1 he didnít go down too well because he arrived very young without experience and at the time he was making mistakes. Since then heís improved a lot and heís matured a lot. He spent one year as test driver at Ferrari and heís become a very strong driver. Heís much calmer than he was so heís controlled his Latin blood a lot and thatís made him a stronger driver. Thereís a mutual respect and we get along well now. We work together on the same lines so that makes life a lot easier.

After this you are on your way to a department store to do an autograph session, is that still fun for you in the lead up to a race?
No, sitting in a department store is definitely not the most fun thing you can do! Itís part of the weekend craziness.

In terms of tires, how does this track play as far as tires go, because itís high speed but slow corners, with a lot of braking? How do you expect the tires to perform?
The high speed straight lines put a lot of stress on the tires and so they need to be hard, but depending on how the suspension works, the tires will make bubbles. But then you still need a soft tire because the corners are very slow and you donít have the downforce to keep the tire on the ground. So thatís the trade-off you have to make.

Source: Yam Lefort

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