SKY Italy recruit Jacques Villeneuve to commentate on F1

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SKY launch in Italy: There are times when as a collective, humanity stands together in unity. Man with fellow man (okay person…whatever), nation with nation and both friends and foes alike – are as one – in the face of such monumental horror wreaked upon a foreign land.

Well my Italian friends its time to join the lamentable union that is pitied with deep empathy from around the globe. We in the UK have ‘awight me ole cocker?’ SKY pundit Johnny Herbert and you’re about to get the controversial self publicist that is the one and only – Jacques Villeneuve.

For those who only remember the TV footage of his thrilling driving antics, here’s a potted extracts from a history written by F1Rejects.com. (Full article)

A potted history

“It was a messy and inglorious exit from Formula One, little better than those of fellow ex-World Champions Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill. But for Jacques Villeneuve, there was more than a touch of acrimony surrounding his departure from BAR on the eve of the Japanese GP in 2003.

For a man who in his career had already polarised the paddock into either his admirers or his detractors, his sudden withdrawal split opinions even further. It wasn’t long before the mudslinging began in earnest, with the most blame apportioned to BAR boss David Richards, Honda, and Jacques himself.

Jacques was considered by many to be a real talent, and there was an expectation that we would see a great era defined by Schumacher vs Villeneuve. When asked about winning a second title, Villeneuve responded, “The first is the one where you really have to prove yourself. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to fall asleep, because I don’t enjoy doing anything without being in front.”

This competitive spirit unable to express itself in a winning car appeared to drive Jacques inside himself. In 1999 he was lured to BAR and the rhetoric from Pollock et al was indeed grandiose for a new team. Villeneuve’s problem became evident over time. “Where Michael had built a team of the best possible people around him, Jacques remained the grunge individualist, not a team player, nor sponsor-friendly.”

a heroic year

Jacques drove heroically in 2000, dragging a badly designed car into joint 4th place with Benetton in the constructor’s championship. By now Schumacher had united the vying parties at  Maranello into a united irresistible force yet at BAR, “Jacques remained the individual, the alternative loner, instead of becoming the team developer.”

This isolation was exacerbated when Pollock decided to make a driver change and evicted Zonta and replacing him with Olivier Panis. “Panis the man with no enemies in the paddock. Panis the man who every mechanic likes. Panis the ultimate team man.”

“F1 is not just a matter of racecraft; it is also one of teamwork and psychology. Panis entered and immediately had a huge impact, pushing the team forward. If BAR up to this point had been to a large extent Jacques’ team, then as soon as Olivier arrived at Pollock’s behest, it was no longer.”

personal tragedy

However, BAR stood still in 2001 and Villeneuve had a tragedy with which to cope. “His horrific crash in Melbourne, where an errant wheel killed a marshal, had overtones of the incident that had killed his father. He had also left his sobering relationship with Dannii Minogue.”

On top of that, the year was epitomised by Villeneuve “wrestling an inadequate car with a gutless engine” around the circuits of the F1 season. This finally took its toll on Jacques’ form. To add to Villeneuve’s woes, the one person he could trust implicitly, Craig Pollock, was ousted from the team in 2002 by David Richard. He simultaneously cleared out about 40 of the Brackley staff and with them Maclom Oastler, the chief designer.

Richards then entered into a public debate on Jacques £15m a year salary and worse still. Jenson Button – another affable team player – joined the squad and it was clear Jenson was Richard’s favoured driver. With just 4 points on the board that year, Villeneuve’s stock was at an all time low.

Jacques tearing at what's left of his hair

In a last ditch effort to assert himself, Jacques made a number of very public derisory comments about Button in early 2003. This merely succeeded in making Villeneuve look like a spoilt brat and sound arrogant for a driver whose best results were becoming ancient history.

writing on the wall

“For all his devil-may-care exterior, Jacques was a man who desperately wanted to prove himself after 1997. When he finally did so during 2000, he failed to grab the fruits of his labour, just as Pollock unknowingly undermined his position by bringing Panis into the team.

Jacques found himself caught in the vicious cycle of decreasing leverage within the team and diminishing returns on the track, as the team’s focus progressively shifted away from him. Those who were there observed that there was a new atmosphere that eventually left Villeneuve out in the cold.

So this afternoon, at the big SKY launch event at Monza, the news is that Villeneuve with be race commentator along side Ferrari test driver Marc Gene for the TV station’s inaugural year. How the Italians will react is not yet known. Though it should be noted though that Jacques’ father Gilles Villeneuve, is among the most revered Ferrari drivers of all time.

This may cut Jacques some slack with the Tiffosi. Yet never to miss a moment of opportunity to declare his intent, Jacques went on the offensive when he remarked, “Watching the races on TV, sometimes I would get angry about what others are saying. Now maybe someone will get angry at me,” he laughed.

Time will tell. TJ13 Italian readers – what do you think?

 

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14 responses to “SKY Italy recruit Jacques Villeneuve to commentate on F1

  1. Villeneuve’s problems at BAR were fundamentally caused by two things which went hand in hand: Pollock’s lack of F1 management skills and BAT’s ownership.

    Pollock didn’t have a clue about running an F1 team and should never have been involved, but with BAT seeing the writing on the wall over tobacco sponsorship simply dumped as much money as they could into the team before the tobacco ban occurred. I’m convinced that BAT probably didn’t really care about results as having Villeneuve in a Lucky Strike / 555 livered car got them all the advertising they wanted. Ten years earlier or ten years later the BAR F1 experiment would never have happened.

      • Ouch!

        F1 teams ought to have one of those sticker they put on the back of white vans: “No cash, tools or valuables are stored here over night”. (well, I forget the wording I last saw, but hope you get the drift). IIRC JV had equity in BAR, and that was a reason persuading him to stay. Cruel irony. Sold for a pocket full of beans. I mean JV sold himself, even if he made out financially, I cannot accept he was not bitter for not sticking to his racing.

        Too much coffee in the system still, but in Men In Black, I think their trick was called a “neuralizer” that would erase any memory the subject had. So my wierd and silly fantasy for the moment is if we could “neuralize” all the teams every few years. Or a Pol Pot “Year Zero” kind of annihilation of built up tech and advantages.

        Okay, I’ve not lost all my marbles just yet. (Think so, anyhow, time wil tell!) But it’s the way of all success that it builds on success, yet since a little boy I always had a fascination with how anyone would cope if all technology ceased to exist. Thoughts like how long would it take a infinite number of geeks to create the first silicon chip, if dumped on a planet with nothing but maybe a abundance of raw elements.

        Shoehorning that clumsily into the real world, I think it’s a rare exception for truly great drivers to have done anything but hop skip and jump to whoever is the best team, and Jacques and his BAR shares may just be another proof. Must be a lesson in there somewhere for anyone with a real talent, along the lines of just accept you’re a product of a sophisticated society, and will always be reliant on the associations you make, not your ability alone. I know enough to my own cost what “going it alone” or “striking out” can do to stymie chances.

  2. Villeneuve added a bit of colour to proceedings when he was around even if he did say a few stupid things particularly concerning Button.

  3. Benneton were by the time Villeneuve was ready to move in decline. Byrne, Brawn and most of the rest of the mid-90’s team were now at Ferrari. While Tyrrell were struggling, the injection of huge amounts of BAT money and the promise of Honda engines must have been to much to turn down.

    • Very good point, right there.

      But is t not also a bit of a half life thing, where Benneton may have been able to carry on some momentum, and BAR were two steps backwards, at least at first. Or, connected, if JV had not agreed a long contract with Benneton and kept himself in the picture, could he have moved on again to a better team?

  4. Am I the only person thinking this but are there any similarities between Hamilton and Villeneuve? From LH’s actions he seems like a bit of a gig maintenance character and not so much a team builder. I hope he proves me wrong but I have my doubts.

    • Hamilton moving to Brackley Mercedes team reminds me very much of Villeneuve wasting his years at same Brackley BAR team. Also agree with the team builder statement. You have two very disruptive characters(Hamilton & Lauda) in the team replacing two ultimate team players(Schumacher & Haug)

      If things are good there’s no problem but if things go wrong they will go very wrong.

      • Absolutely, utterly agree with your team players comment, madmax. In my own work, I started out being a controlling primadonna, and learned the hard way that’s a whopping risk in any complex business (or sport). I’ve a few times I fantasised about time travelling to slap the younger me in the face!

  5. Well we’ve known Sky was taking over a while now. I am inclined to think that medium term, this is just wonderful for Sky. They can gouge the die hard fans who have the pennies, whilst destroying the key markets by cherry picking the major cultural homes of F1, until there’s no option but to sell a devalued sport to the only obvious bidder. Whenever people think CVC is smart, just consider they wouldn’t be offloading their equity as they did last year if they wanted to be around as much as they once did.

    For those who can afford, please note that if you can tolerate the variable means of delivery and have good friends, you can effectively share a subscription, because the sky box and a PC and a ipad or android tablet are treated independently. My good friend and neighbour sets things to record on my box from his PC, and we hang out to watch whenever we’re free in the evenings. Therefore, although it’s not all equal in quality or service, we do share the bills. If I couldn’t share a the cost as well as the pleasure I highly doubt if I could stomach the expense. It’s very clever marketing for Sky.

    Sorry to say I have done a 180 about turn on this. I’m now happy about everything, as a non television owner for years, adamant I would remain steam powered Luddite as long as I could (races watched at my pal’s place) I confess to being a sucker for the service. I think the experience really does make me inclined to think Sky are a monopoly, because as far as I allow I like a bit of goggle box, movies and so on, I would not ever think the terrestrial FTA offering is a scratch on what I have now. All except the principle of the situation and the damage I feel it is doing to F1.

    I guess there must be a outrage in Italy, but for those I know here Italian or who read the press, is it as vocal as / more vocal than the furore over the BBC capitulation?

    Guess in summary, I’m a happy hostage, but definitely a hostage.

  6. ” Jacques was considered by many to be a real talent. ”

    If you saw him driving in the CART series – which I did – he appeared to be nothing more than mediocre ……

    I feel sorry for the poor Italian fans 🙁

  7. So does Jaques speak Itaiano then? I thought he was Canadian and spoke French and American.
    (My Japanese boss used to tell me how good he was speaking English, but I always told him “No Bob san you speak American” Now I live in Lincs and am still learning the language.)

    Do the tiffosi actually realise yet that they will not see their heroes on normal tv (RAI) I cant help thinking there may be riots.

    • I thought the same about the language. Guess he must as don’t think subtitles would work!!

    • Identical thoughts about language and riots, Rpaco. I don’t even know the right papers and magazines to look for to embarrass my tourist Italian, but ought we not to hear the uproar from here?

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