Interview with Jacques Villeneuve, Formula One World Drivers Champion 1997
Iberianmph.Com managed to catch up with Jacques during his inaugural Whelen Euro Nascar Fest held at the Circuito de Ricardo Tormo, Valencia during the weekend 13 – 14 April 2019.
Tony Hall: Jacques, thank you for talking to us and answering some questions. Where to start? You are the 1997 Formula One World Drivers Champion and before that you were the 1995 PPG Indy Car World Series champion. You’ve raced in Le Mans 24 hours, won the Indianapolis 500, raced in NASCAR, Formula E and much more. What has brought you to Euro Nascar?
Jacques Villeneuve: I love racing. I always had a blast when I raced in NASCAR in the States so I thought this would be fun and with some weekends off.
TH: Are you enjoying the driving here at the Circuito de Ricardo Tormo and the lovely weather?
JV: Yes I am. The track I know very well as we used to test here in Formula One. It’s a great track but so far I have not enjoyed my weekend so much as the car is not very good. There is very little you can change, you cannot change the springs or anything. There is very little you can do. So far the driving has not been too much fun but we will see how the races go.
Tony says, ‘Clearly Jacques was unhappy with the handling of his car and its set-up. This was the first time that he had really had the opportunity to try out his race car in anger and to set it up, apart from a quick private test a couple of months ago. You have to remember that there is very little that can be done to these stock cars and that is what Jacques was referring to. The suspension settings are basically soft, medium and hard, maybe a slight adjustment of the tracking but that is basically it. Remember in the cars Jacques has recently driven, they were much more sophisticated (which is not always the way to go if you wish to create and successfully run a pure drivers’ championship) with a lot more components that could be adjusted to suit the driver. He even said he hoped in the future these cars would come with some improvements. Give him time and I am sure he will conquer the beast.’
TH: In your opinion, with the experience you have, do you think there is anything NASCAR or Indy-related rules, regulations or format that you think could help or be applied to Formula One to help improve it?
JV: No, it’s two different worlds. Formula One has to be different. It has to be Formula One. It is supposed to be extreme to a point where it is not human and it has gone away from that and that is the issue. Formula One shouldn’t be about 3 engines a season it used to be a race engine per weekend. That’s an issue. They are really trying hard to create a show and it just becomes artificial and the fans don’t like that. I’m sure a lot of fans think it was better in the past, that’s what I think.
TH: What are your views on very young drivers coming into Formula One directly from the FIA F2, F3 or lower feeder series and some as young as seventeen years old? Probably half the current Formula One drivers fall into that category?
JV: Yes I agree they are too young. Just look at other sports, Federer is still playing great tennis at his age and been doing so for many years and he is still winning. If a younger player beats him he feels special. If a young player wins because Federer is retired then there is nothing so special about it. That is what has happened in Formula One. A lot of teams got rid of the older serious drivers and replaced them with the younger ones and I don’t think it has worked. Look at Jenson Button: he was sent home when he was on a par with Alonso, why – because they said we need a young driver who nobody really notices. They just put them in and out of the car. That is bad for Formula One. So no. Just putting a bunch of young drivers in Formula One is not good you need the one who deserves to be there and can beat the establishment then he becomes a special driver. Not the other way round. Also they need a personality a bit like Leclerc.
TH: You are driving this year in Euro Nascar, it seems to be growing in popularity and there are more drivers coming from the USA, Canada and Mexico. Do you think there is a good future for it?
JV: I think the current format is a little restrictive because you cannot do very much with the car, so if it doesn’t suit you, you might as well go home. Maybe in the future there will be some upgrades for the car but it is fun and we go to some great tracks and there are a lot of drivers. Yes it’s fun and it has a good future.
TH: Jacques, thank you very much and we wish you well in your races this weekend.