Jacques Villeneuve Q&A

Jacques Villeneuve's career took a turn for the better when he went to the Japanese F3 series in 1992. Competing against current BTCC stars Rickard Rydell, Anthony Reid and Tom Kristensen, he scored his first victory and was regarded as a serious prospect for the first time. Since then he's had a soft spot for the country. In 1996 and '97 he took pole position for the Japanese GP - and is thus the only man apart from Michael Schumacher in the current field who has been on pole at Suzuka. This weekend he returns to Japan as a works Honda driver, and having fought for a podium finish in the last two races, he could be a contender again this weekend. Adam Cooper spoke to the Canadian star

Jacques Villeneuve Q&A

Q: Japan was very important to your career when you raced there in 1992. How do you feel about going back each year?
"It feels great. I have lots of memories because I was there for a year, and not only the racing was good. It helped me because I got away from the basics of international racing. When you're in Europe all you think about is F1 and you're thoughts about anything else in racing are completely blocked. Going to Japan allows you to have an open mind and just to race for the sake of racing. That's great. But it was also important as a growing up thing. Partly because you leave everything you know behind, and there's nobody you know around. You get there, you arrive in the airport, you don't know anybody, you get in a bus and go to the hotel and start living, and figure out your way in life. That's mostly why it was important, more than the driving side itself."

"Yes, because it was very open between drivers. It was like being at university. You have the races, a little of studies basically, and then you go out and have a drink. Even the lunch during the day when you're testing and qualifying you might have a coffee, see the other drivers, and have a laugh. Then it would be time to get back in the cars. So it was very laid back."

"I love Suzuka, the track is beautiful. Qualifying has gone well, but the races themselves definitely have not worked for me."

"I was happy that I was starting from pole, but then I had a bad start and lost a wheel later in a race. Every year the race has not worked well. In my championship year (1997) I was disqualified before the race because of speeding under yellow flags on the straight, so it's never been a very successful Sunday for me. It's been better on Saturday!"

"We're not quick enough yet. I don't want to see the reaction yet, I'd rather wait until next year, once we get more competitive."

"Japan is always special anyway. There's always a huge crowd, and it's a little bit special. Of course going back there as a Honda driver, I'm sure it will make a difference."

"Yes, it's very important to have an official engine supplier that works hard, that puts all the energy and all the engineering they have without stopping, to make sure that the project works. That's very important."

"Yes. Communication at first was a little bit difficult of course, compared to working with French people or English people, purely because of the language barrier, and also because of the way you were brought up and the way you think about things and the way you react to things. But the experience I have from Japan, the one year when I was racing there, has been really, really helpful for the work I can do now with Honda."

"It's good seeing the engine progress, because at the same time it forces the team to have car progress. Now the team can't blame the engine, for example! So the team has to make progress itself. So it's good, because it pushes both ways - the team pushes the engine, and the engine pushes the team as well."

"There's been a lot of progress from the team, but the other teams have also made a lot of progress as well. If we gain a second, then the other teams will gain half a second, so that still leaves us behind. So the results haven't been good lately, but the car is competitive, so it's not too bad. I think Hungary was the most difficult race. We qualified very poorly, but once we got into the race the car was really competitive, and actually that was one of the races where we were the quickest, and that was on a track that really didn't suit us. So I think it's looking good for the rest of the season."

"Our high downforce package is not good, and we can't put enough downforce on the car. Our maximum downforce is a lot less than other people's downforce, so on tracks like Hungary and Monaco, where you just bolt a lot of wing on the car, we're quick down the straight - but that's not very useful on a track where there's no straight!"

"I'm very happy to see the public reaction after two very difficult seasons. More people recognise what I do now than when I won the championships. So that makes life easier."

"Yes. This year was a building year. Next year for once there will be a continuation, and we won't be starting from scratch."

Rubens Barrichello’s Lap of Suzuka

Previous article

Rubens Barrichello’s Lap of Suzuka

Next article

Irvine Tips Schumacher for the Title

Irvine Tips Schumacher for the Title
Load comments
The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Plus

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed

The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break Plus

The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break

OPINION: Formula 1 is about to break up for summer 2021, with the title battles finely poised. But it’s not just the latest round of Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton that will be worth watching this weekend in Hungary, as plenty of drivers are eying big results to change the stories of their seasons so far

Formula 1
Jul 28, 2021
How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Plus

How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but 
flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Plus

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021
How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't Plus

How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't

Last year's Formula 2 runner-up Callum Ilott could be on his way to becoming the first Briton to contest a grand prix in an Alfa Romeo since Reg Parnell in 1950. But, says OLEG KARPOV, the Ferrari Driver Academy protege is having to temper his ambition at the moment – outwardly at least…

Formula 1
Jul 25, 2021
The signs that point to F1's rude health Plus

The signs that point to F1's rude health

OPINION: Formula 1's calendar might still be facing disruption as the pandemic affects travel but, says MARK GALLAGHER, the business itself is fundamentally strong thanks to the epic rivalry taking place on track and the consistent arrival of new sponsors

Formula 1
Jul 24, 2021
The unexpected benefit of F1’s sprint race repeat Plus

The unexpected benefit of F1’s sprint race repeat

OPINION: Formula 1's sprint race trial at Silverstone drew mixed feedback on Saturday, but there remained the true test of how it would impact Sunday's Grand Prix. While fans were busy marvelling at Fernando Alonso's progress, a key lesson was being learned that would directly contribute to the dramatic lap one clash at Copse the following day

Formula 1
Jul 22, 2021
The off-track considerations that led to F1’s Hamilton/Verstappen Silverstone shunt Plus

The off-track considerations that led to F1’s Hamilton/Verstappen Silverstone shunt

OPINION: Formula 1’s 2021 title fight turned ugly last weekend when Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collided at the start of the British Grand Prix. Verstappen thankfully walked away unharmed, but this had been a clash long-since coming

Formula 1
Jul 21, 2021