Symonds, Willis Defend Villeneuve

Former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve received the support of his former technical chiefs, with Renault's Pat Symonds and BAR's Geoff Willis defending the Canadian and refuting claims against him

Symonds, Willis Defend Villeneuve

Villeneuve has been under fire after a poor performance in the Australian Grand Prix, followed by suggestions that his relationship with the Sauber team has hit a rocky start. This, after Villeneuve also failed to impress in the final three races of 2004, when Renault replaced Jarno Trulli with the 1997 Champion.

Renault's chief engineer Pat Symonds, however, came to Villeneuve's defence, stating: "When Jacques came to our team I didn't know him terribly well, and a lot of my opinion of him, I think, was formed by what I had read about him and I found a very different character.

"He certainly has a reputation of being very laid back and he's not laid back, he actually works quite hard and he has a lot of interest in the car and what's going on. During the race, he's very good. He's on the radio all the time, talking through the race, talking to his engineer; a lot of very, very positive points about him as a driver and I can understand how he won the World Championship."

Symonds admitted that bringing Villeneuve for the final three rounds of the 2004 season was a mistake, but the Briton emphasised Villeneuve was not entirely to blame for that.

"He suffered a lot with us, I think, because the rate of progress in Formula One had been so rapid that his short time out made a big difference," Symonds said. "We were going to three quite hard races at the end of the year and I think he was disappointed in his performance, but it certainly wasn't through lack of effort."

Another voice of support came from BAR's technical director Geoff Willis, who also worked with Villeneuve in Williams.

"He's a hard-working driver, who's got a lot of experience in the car," Willis said. "I think he's very sensitive to what the car does, what the engine does and he gives a lot of feedback. He's an extraordinarily competitive character and I'm sure he will be trying to get it back."

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