BAR shoulders blame for Villeneuve woe

With Jacques Villeneuve taking some flak as yesterday's man in the local Canadian press, and finishing at the bottom of the Friday qualifying times after a last-corner spin, BAR boss David Richards has held his hand up and taken responsibility for the 1997 world champion's difficult first half of the season

BAR shoulders blame for Villeneuve woe

With the locals speculating on Villeneuve's long-term future, Richards poured cold water on the media frenzy.

"The situation of drivers we tend to leave until after the British Grand Prix [on July 20]," he said. "We have a long-term contract with Jenson Button but I admit that Jacques has had a poor start through the reliability from us and Honda, and we have to address that ourselves. I told him that at the Monza test last week and he feels confident."

Villeneuve's three-year BAR deal is believed to have earned him in excess of £30 million and it is unlikely that his contract would be renewed on such lucrative terms. In any event, there is believed to be a commitment from the team and from Honda to Takuma Sato, who is fulfilling the role of test driver this year after driving alongside Giancarlo Fisichella at Jordan-Honda in 2002.

Where could Villeneuve go? There are no seats at Ferrari, the Williams drivers are contracted to the end of 2004 and it is unlikely that McLaren would replace David Coulthard with the French-Canadian.

The most feasible alternative would appear to be Renault. Villeneuve won the Regie's last world title, is French-speaking and might fit the bill at a time when the team is ever more competitive. Against that, however, Fernando Alonso appears to be team's new rising star and current incumbent Jarno Trulli is managed by team boss Flavio Briatore.

Villeneuve was third fastest in Saturday's first free practice session.

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