BAR boss: Villeneuve to gain new spark

BAR boss David Richards has predicted that Jacques Villeneuve will raise his stock in the Formula 1 driver market next year, when the team gives him a competitive car to race

BAR boss: Villeneuve to gain new spark

The Canadian has promised to quit F1 if he cannot secure a top drive for 2004. His manager Craig Pollock has stated that this will be Villeneuve's last season at BAR and is targeting Ferrari for his next move (see tomorrow's AUTOSPORT magazine for more).

Richards told Autosport.com that it was "too early" to begin talking about his driver plans for 2004, but did deny that today's signing of Takuma Sato on a three-year contract was an indicator that Villeneuve's fifth season at BAR will definitely be his last.

"Our focus is on the short term - 2004 is a long way off," Richards said. "I'm totally convinced that Jacques' performance next year is going to be very different from the last few years, when he is given a car that he can use to full advantage.

"He appears very motivated and excited about the challenge, and I believe he is going to be very much in the frame as a sought-after driver by the end of the year."

Villeneuve has always been publicly critical of the team's failure to become competitive since its first season in 1999. Richards believes Villeneuve must shoulder some of the blame for BAR's lack of results, but is confident that the ex-world champion could be about to show the form that took him to the title with Williams in 1997.

"He has been part of a team that has underperformed to date. Yes, the equipment hasn't been there, but we all play our role in that and we all have to share in any failings in that respect. But I am quite convinced that next year will be a different kettle of fish altogether."

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