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Jacques Villeneuve stands by criticism of F1 rookie Lance Stroll

Jacques Villeneuve maintains he was right to call fellow Canadian Lance Stroll's early Formula 1 performances "pathetic" despite the Williams driver's Azerbaijan Grand Prix podium

Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 world champion and now a pundit for both French and Italian television, earned the wrath of media and fans in his home country earlier this year by suggesting that Stroll was not doing a good enough job relative to Williams team-mate Felipe Massa.

Stroll took his first F1 points with ninth at home in Montreal two weeks before his Baku podium, but Villeneuve said that did not mean his previous criticism had been unfair.

"I always said until Montreal that it was pathetic, and it was," Villeneuve told Autosport.

"But I always said he won in everything he did with work, and the same thing would probably happen here, as long as they look at reality in the face.

"You have to admit when you are not good enough. That's all.

"So I don't know why people are getting so upset.

"You can't go out and say, 'he's amazing' when he's a second off the pace of Massa.

"You still have to be real. Montreal was helpful and [Baku] was good, but that won't change what I said earlier in the season.

"Wake up. People have to pay attention to what's being said.

"You have to be realistic and understand the truth, that's all.

"Look at last year: when [Max] Verstappen was to be criticised I would, and when it became good, I was positive with Lance.

"I won't back down on what I said before, because he wasn't at the level. This race he was, very simple."

Villeneuve believes Stroll's Montreal breakthrough gave him the confidence to do a better job in Baku.

"The points in Montreal helped him," said Villeneuve.

"He wasn't quick in Montreal, but everybody broke down, he kept his nose clean, he got points, and that took a weight off his shoulders.

"You could see it [in Baku]. When everybody was banging into each other, he wasn't.

"Yes he was lucky, but he was also quick, he didn't do any stupid things, and he got on the podium. Nothing wrong with that."

Stroll conducted an F1 testing programme with a 2014 Williams around his title-winning European Formula 3 programme last year and has continued doing some running in the three-year-old car this season too.

Williams's chief technical officer Paddy Lowe suggested a test at Austin between Montreal and Baku had been particularly beneficial.

Villeneuve said he was uncomfortable with Stroll getting that extra running.

"He's the only driver who tests between races," he said.

"That's a little bit tough to swallow.

"Money has to have a limit, and that's pushing it.

"But [Baku] was the first race where he was not hanging on for dear life behind the steering wheel.

"He was actually relaxed, he was driving normally.

"Why would I criticise that?

"But that doesn't mean the beginning of the season was good."

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