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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.”
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.
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?