This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. Truth be told, BMW could not bring itself to pay Villeneuve $15 million per year to weed his garden. 11/23/05
Jacques Villeneuve’s chances of remaining at Sauber BMW appear to have been strengthened after Renault boss Flavio Briatore claimed Heikki Kovalainen will remain under his wing in 2006. Kovalainen was the favorite to take the Canadian’s place and BMW may have decided that it would cost too much money to pay Villeneuve off. 11/20/05
BMW seems to be balking at paying a reported $15-million (U.S.) buyout clause in Jacques Villeneuve's Sauber contract for 2006. His annual salary is thought to be about $2-million annually with an incentive program of a $100,000 bonus for each point he scores. This is the only way that the team is going to keep the Canadian and we're sure it's going to be an unpleasant season for the team and Villeneuve as BMW will resent being stuck with a driver they really didn't want. It is not a secret that Villeneuve clearly did not fit into BMW's long-term plans from the moment it bought the team in June.
"There were a few contacts with BMW and for a while I was pretty optimistic, but there was a holdup over Villeneuve's contract," Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais told the France's L'Ã‰quipe newspaper following his talks with BMW. "It seemed they could not part with him," because of the $15 million buyout clause so he signed on with Newman/Haas for a 4th year.