Villenueve won’t last out the year

UPDATE #5 Jacques Villeneuve gave Sauber more ammunition to replace him when he lost control of his car under braking for turn one on lap 29 and spun into the gravel trap and out of the Malaysian GP race. 03/19/05 In Malaysia Jacques Villeneuve remained a second or more slower than teammate Felipe Massa in every session. The latest rumor in the Formula 1 paddock on Saturday morning is that Sauber will do a deal with McLaren to get Alexander Wurz into the second car to replace Jacques Villeneuve. 03/16/05 As reported exclusively by back on February 13th that Villeneuve would not last out the year with Sauber due to poor winter testing performance, now reveals – Sauber have opened talks with Anthony Davidson as a possible replacement for Jacques Villeneuve. The BAR third driver was approached by Sauber to ascertain his availability to race for the Swiss team this season, and according to the magazine, should Villeneuve fail to meet performance clauses in his two year contract, the team can dispense with his services.

Villeneuve's poor performance in winter testing, sharpened by his public failure at the Australian Grand Prix, is a matter of some concern to Sauber. Disputes over tire choice caused tension within the team, which was heightened by his disappointing result relative to teammate Felipe Massa.

However, speaking exclusively to Autosport, Villeneuve remained defiant, arguing that the team has done little to accommodate him. "There has to be some adjustment on both sides, and that means from the team as well, working on set-ups and whatever," the 1997 World Champion said.

"If I had arrived here as a Formula One rookie then I would expect to be told what to do, but when you arrive with eight or nine years' experience and you want to take things to the highest level, you have to push and maybe that's uncomfortable."

03/11/05 Jacques Villeneuve struggled for pace in the Australian Grand Prix recording just the 15th fastest lap of the race. Villeneuve told his own website why he was unable to lap on the pace of his one-stop teammate Felipe Massa. “I did not get any front grip in the first few laps and I lost many positions," said Villeneuve of his start that saw him slide backwards from his fourth position on the grid. “After this, my car did not have enough downforce and I struggled to keep the pace with the rest of the field. I had soft tires on and I think it clearly wasn't the right choice. The car was moving a lot and after the first pit stop – it was just too slow." 03/10/05 More evidence Villeneuve has lost the edge and won't last out the year. What Sauber appears to struggling with at the moment is the pace of Jacques after that. Felipe Massa, at the back of the grid and starting with a heavy load of fuel, running only one stop, managed a best time of 1m26.893s on his 55th lap of the race. Jacques Villeneuve's best lap, set on lap 54, was 1m27.745s, eight-tenths of a second slower than Massa, despite the fact that Villeneuve was running a two-stop strategy. This performance begs a number of questions because in theory at least Massa's tires should have been in a lot worse shape than those of Villeneuve when they got into the final laps of the race. Instead Massa was considerably quicker and had gone from the back of the grid to 10th place, while Villeneuve had gone from fourth to 13th. Five of those positions can be blamed on the first lap but the rest – another four – were due to Villeneuve's lack of pace. Peter Sauber may not be saying much but he is obviously disappointed. "I'm reluctant to make a judgment," he said. "I really can't explain the difference, which is a big one at that. It's actually bigger than it seems. For the start, and after the first pit stop, Felipe Massa was driving with a heavy fuel load – in contrast to all the other drivers, who made two pit stops, Massa was driving with a one-stop strategy." 02/13/05 Rumors are already starting that Jacques Villeneuve won't last the full year at Sauber. He was smoked by teammate Jenson Button at BAR that resulted in him being fired by the team after 2003. Renault picked him up for the last three races of the 2004 season and teammate Alonso easily beat Villeneuve in every qualifying session and race. So far this year at Sauber teammate Felipe Massa has buried Villeneuve in just about every test session. Villeneuve has used the excuse that the new Sauber suits Massa's driving style and not his, the fact of the matter is that Villeneuve appears to have lost the edge, and in F1, where performing on the track is everything, that means he won't be around much longer.

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