Button Sorry to See Villeneuve Go

Briton Jenson Button was sorry to see his BAR teammate Jacques Villeneuve pulling out of the Japanese Grand Prix and probably out of Formula One too.

Button Sorry to See Villeneuve Go

Briton Jenson Button was sorry to see his BAR teammate Jacques Villeneuve pulling out of the Japanese Grand Prix and probably out of Formula One too.

Former World Champion Villeneuve may have driven his last Formula One race after quitting BAR on Thursday before the season-ending race. The team said Japanese test driver Takuma Sato, the man who was to have replaced the Canadian in 2004, would step in - a move likely to see a late rush of local fans to the Suzuka ticket office.

Team boss David Richards said he had received a call from Villeneuve's manager Craig Pollock informing him that the Canadian did not want to drive. Briton Jenson Button, Villeneuve's teammate at BAR who has scored twice as many points, said Sato faced a tough weekend.

"Hopefully, Taku will do a good job and the pressure won't get to him," he said. "It's disappointing that he (Villeneuve) won't be here for his final race. But things change. He's been there five years and had ups and down. It's disappointing to see him leave Formula One."

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, who tried to run the Canadian off the track in a 1997 title-deciding race that saw Villeneuve crowned and the German condemned, chose his words carefully when asked about his old foe in a news conference.

"I think he was quite strong, in particular in the last races when the conditions were clear. He was very strong. He was obviously still adapting, that there were certain moments when he wasn't yet fully into the system of Formula One, but whenever he was, he was going very well," he said.

Sato finished fifth for Jordan on his home debut last year, a result that had thousands of fans still chanting his name hours after the finish. The team announced on Tuesday that he would replace the 1997 champion in 2004, a decision that left the Canadian out in the cold with no drive lined up for next year.

The top teams have no vacancies and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said this week that none were interested in the maverick Canadian, whose earnings were second only to Michael Schumacher's.

Barring a surprise comeback or unlikely late offer, history will record that his last race was a retirement in the September 28 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis - the circuit where he won the Indy 500 in 1995.

Son of the late Ferrari great Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques last won a race in 1997 and last scored a point with sixth place in Italy in September. The Canadian has scored just six points this year and BAR are in urgent need of more in a tight battle for fifth place with Sauber, Jaguar and Toyota.

The team are sixth, level with Jaguar and a point behind Sauber.

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