Exclusive: Honda Dismiss Villeneuve Speculations

Honda did not ask Jacques Villeneuve to sit out of the Japanese Grand Prix, Honda Racing president Shiochi Tanaka told Atlas F1.

Exclusive: Honda Dismiss Villeneuve Speculations

Honda did not ask Jacques Villeneuve to sit out of the Japanese Grand Prix, Honda Racing president Shiochi Tanaka told Atlas F1.

Canadian Villeneuve was informed last week that BAR would not renew his contract for the 2004 season and instead had signed Japanese driver Takuma Sato to partner Jenson Button for next season.

The Japanese Grand Prix, held this weekend at Suzuka, was set to be Villeneuve's final race with BAR and possibly in Formula One, seeing as the former World Champion does not have other options with other teams.

But Villeneuve's manager, Craig Pollock, notified team principal David Richards on Thursday morning that the driver wishes to withdraw from the Grand Prix, citing "lack of motivation" as reason. Since then, speculations have been rife in the media and among fans that Villeneuve was paid off by Honda to sit out of their home Grand Prix so as to allow local favourite Sato to take his seat.

"It's not true," Tanaka told Atlas F1 when asked if his team asked Villeneuve to withdraw from the race or offered him financial incentive to do so.

"I am aware that there has been a lot of speculation surrounding the team's 2004 driver line-up and Jacques' decision to withdraw from competing in the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend," the Japanese added.

"Regarding the driver line-up - being a partner, we were obviously consulted, but ultimately the decision rests with BAR. Regarding this weekend, we were told about Jacques' decision not to race on Thursday morning, just before it was announced to the media.

"I would like to offer my thanks to Jacques for his support over the four years that Honda has been with the team. We wish him every success for the future."

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