Villeneuve Expects BAR to Dump Him in 2004

Canadian Jacques Villeneuve said on Friday that he will retain his drive with British American Racing for one more season but is sure to be forced out at the end of 2003 no matter how well he drives.

Villeneuve Expects BAR to Dump Him in 2004

Canadian Jacques Villeneuve said on Friday that he will retain his drive with British American Racing for one more season but is sure to be forced out at the end of 2003 no matter how well he drives.

The team announced Briton Jenson Button as one part of its 2003 driver line-up following the French Grand Prix in July and team boss David Richards told Atlas F1 at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago that Villeneuve will be staying.

But BAR have not yet officially named Button's 2003 partner and the hold-up has led to confusion. Villeneuve, who has a contract for 2003, is certain the team cannot force him out next year, but he knows he is no longer welcome.

"I will need a good season (next year) if I want to get a contract with another team the year after because it is obvious that I will not be wanted here," he admitted to reporters in the Monza paddock.

"I don't think it is fair actually. After having worked hard here since the beginning and after having stuck with the team when there were other good opportunities I find it very unfair. But that's life."

Villeneuve, who helped set up BAR with his manager Craig Pollock in 1999, was surprised at the end of last year when Pollock was replaced by David Richards on the day of the car's launch. He admitted then that the move had left him surprised and angry, and although he has worked on his relationship with new boss Richards, it was always going to be strained.

But Villeneuve claimed working with Richards is "fine" and insisted that he expects to receive the full support of the team next year even though he is not part of the long-term plans.

"If you have teams with 10 drivers then you could not support one but you have two drivers so you have to give the best cars to both," said Villeneuve, the 1997 World Champion.

Villeneuve was linked, earlier this year, with a move to the Forsythe team in the United States ChampCar series, where he made his name before moving across to Formula One with Williams in 1996. But he insisted he has "never ever seen an offer" from the team and said his firm contract at BAR leave the team no option but to keep him on until it is concluded.

Richards' refusal to make an official announcement, however, left Villeneuve asking journalists to demand a statement from his boss to make the situation clearer. And the Canadian claimed that the whole situation is not healthy for the team.

"It is becoming very tiring," he said. "It shows that the energy is not spent in the right areas. It is ridiculous, I don't understand it. I have known forever, for a long, long time, I have been telling everybody, but everyone has not believed what I was saying because of other voices...it is just very annoying.

"There has never been a discussion going on because I had no reason to re-negotiate. This is just making a joke of it, it's playing with the media and if that is what the team wants to do that's not my problem."

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