Formula 1 Champion Jacques Villeneuve is not very impressed with Ferrari’s young driver F1 programme, the so-called Driver Academy – “For me, only Charles Leclerc stands out, everyone else brought money with them.”
Ferrari has supported twenty drivers in the Driver Academy so far, and the young driver programme has brought four drivers into Formula One as regular drivers – Jules Bianchi from the south of France, the Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, the Monegasque Charles Leclerc and the German Mick Schumacher.
Sergio Pérez dropped out of the programme to join McLaren, Lance Stroll’s father Lawrence sensed an opportunity with Williams and dropped out of a development programme with Maranello.
Stroll is a prime example for Villeneuve of why he is not particularly impressed with the FDA (Ferrari Driver Academy).
The eleven-time GP winner tells Italy’s Sky:
“Apart from Charles Leclerc, all the drivers had to pay money to get into the academy. Leclerc was the only driver who came to Ferrari virtually penniless.
“The others were able to fall back on sometimes lavish means, which of course helps with their careers.”
Villeneuve, Formula One champion in 1997 with Williams, adds:
“At the end of the day, I think a lot of the FDA drivers would have made their way into motorsport the same way regardless.”
Mick Schumacher, like Leclerc, is also an exception for Jacques Villeneuve, but for different reasons:
“Mick has been under tremendous pressure in recent years because of his famous surname. I am convinced that he has learned a lot from that. And that’s a big difference to the other drivers from the academy.”
Villeneuve’s Sky F1 associate Marc Gené takes a positive view of the academy’s work, unsurprising when the Italian Sky GP pundit still works as a test driver for Ferrari.
“I think the academy works at a high level. The best proof for me is how the Ferrari juniors did in Formula 2 in the 2020 season – Mick was champion, Callum Ilott second, Robert Shwartzman fourth.”