Symonds predicts stronger JV

Although Jacques Villeneuve's two races with Renault after an 11-month absence from the cockpit have hardly set the world alight, the team's director of engineering, Pat Symonds, is predicting a better showing from the French-Canadian in this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.

Symonds predicts stronger JV

Symonds, while acknowledging that perhaps the team underestimated the difficulty that Villeneuve would have in re-adapting to F1, is far from critical of Jacques and, in fact, was highly complimentary about his work ethic.

Speaking after first practice in Sao Paulo, he said: "I didn't know Jacques particularly well. He was high on our list as a potential driver a few years ago and so we saw a bit of him then, but the perception, largely through the press, was that he is a very laid-back guy and perhaps a little bit undisciplined. But we've found that to be completely untrue - the guy works very hard."

Symonds admitted that Villeneuve's recruitment was always a risk and that it was a close call between the 1997 world champion and Renault's test driver Franck Montagny. However, he added that with the situation not working out with Trulli, for whatever reason, and having taken the decision that it was unlikely to improve, then the risk assessment involved was considerably reduced because the team could only gain.

"It has been difficult for Jacques," Symonds conceded. "In his first test at Silverstone he was taking a bit of time to get into things, but pointed out that while his times weren't great, they were 2s faster than he's ever been around Silverstone before.

"Physically he's found it hard because no matter how much training you do, there's nothing like driving a racing car. And he's had to get used to different tyre characteristics. We sent him to Jerez last week to do a bit more work with that.

"In Japan, a place where he's done well before, circumstances conspired against him a little bit because we didn't get the set-up right, largely because we didn't know him. It's been hard for him but I think he's a guy with plenty of ability. He's doing well here in Brazil and I think he'll have a strong race."

Villeneuve finished the opening day 12th quickest, just 0.3s adrift of Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso, who was seventh fastest.

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