Formula one ex-Champion Jacques Villeneuve was one of the toughest critics of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, but according Villeneuve, the Dutchman has learned something new and has bettered his chances of an F1 world title.
Following two successful years in CART, a defunct breakaway series of Indycar, Villeneuve moved into Formula One with the front-running Williams team in 1996 alongside Damon Hill. In his debut season, Villeneuve challenged teammate Hill for the title, winning four races and taking the fight to the final round in Japan, where Villeneuve retired and Hill won the race, and the title.
Villeneuve, however, did win the following year’s title, this time challenging Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, once again taking it to the final round in Jerez, where Schumacher retired after the two collided. 1997 would be the last year in which Villeneuve would win a championship level race and finish the season in the top three.
Often a critic of Verstappen since his arrival in F1, Villeneuve last year really laid into the Dutchman in the media, particularly after the Red Bull debacle in Baku this time last year.
”Verstappen makes mistakes in every race. It happens all the time. It is a bad sign. For example, Ricciardo was not at all to blame for their crash in Baku. He did nothing wrong.” said Villeneuve.
While the many Formula 1 experts and fans cheered on Max Verstappen’s early promotion to Formula 1, Jacques Villeneuve criticised from the outset, often being outspoken for the youngsters questionable hard racing style and confident manner.
In June 2018, the 47-year-old Canadian told “Le Journal de Montreal”: “You have to be aware of your mistakes in order to move forward. But this is not the case with Max. Instead, he has revealed a lack of respect and education.” And he judged: “He’s just overrated.”
But now the 1997 World Champion has changed his mind about the fast Red Bull driver, as he reveals in an interview with RacingNews365.com Villenueve now admits: “Of course you’ll take the chance when you get a chance to compete in Formula 1.”
“As a young driver you never know what a season in Formula 2 can bring you, so you have to choose Formula 1 when the opportunity presents itself. And Max has also chosen the right racing team in Red Bull Racing.
“The team goes very well with hi, because it always relies on one driver. I think if he was driving for another driver, he might not be there that long.”
“But Max has done well in recent years, and it’s hard to deny that he’s not the same rider he was three years ago,” Villeneuve says.
“In his current form he could compete for the title in a strong car. This opportunity may not come this season, but it may come in the years to come, and now he’s ready for it.”
In Formula 1 you have to be competitive as a driver right from the start, Villeneuve knows.
“This means that you have to learn as much as possible before your promotion. It should have been the same with Verstappen’s debut, but he got the chance to move up at a much younger age and with much less experience than usual.
“I can understand that you accept this tempting offer because you just can’t refuse it.”
TJ13 expects that Verstappen may well look to leave Red Bull racing by the end of the year should the Honda packaging continue to disappoint. What hasn’t been widely reported in the media is a contract clause thought to be related to Honda’s performance. (read more here)
This might be a handy method to leave the team as it seems that the real problem with the 2019 Red Bull is less about the Honda power unit, but more the Newey designed aero. It’s very possible that we have a rare instance of a poor Adrian Newey design for 2019, further lessening the chances of a title for Verstappen. (read more here)
Rumours have already started that Toto Wolff at Mercedes has been sounding out Verstappen as a possible driver next year. Rumours Red Bull strongly deny.