Villeneuve pulls out of Japanese GP

Jacques Villeneuve has decided not to race in the Japanese Grand Prix, following the decision of the BAR team to replace him with Takuma Sato for next season. The Japanese driver will now make his debut for the squad in his home race this weekend

Villeneuve pulls out of Japanese GP

BAR announced on Tuesday that Sato would replace the 1997 world champion in the team for 2004, although the team insisted that Villeneuve would race in Suzuka. However, the Canadian has requested an early release from the team, according to BAR boss David Richards.

"I was travelling down here on the bullet train this morning [Thursday] and I received a call from Craig Pollock informing me that Jacques wanted to be released from his contractual obligations," said Richards.

"I've agreed to this. If somebody doesn't want to drive, they don't want to drive and so Takuma will be driving on Sunday."

It is now conceivable that Villeneuve has driven his last grand prix, unless mentor Craig Pollock is successful in concluding a deal with Frank Williams to return to the Grove team if and when Juan Pablo Montoya leaves. The Colombian is widely expected to join McLaren in the future.

The highly paid Villeneuve's future at BAR was in jeopardy the moment Pollock was ousted as team principal and replaced by David Richards, and this was the final season of the driver's $50million-plus three-year deal negotiated in the middle of the 2000 season.

BAR is currently embroiled in a battle for fifth place in the constructors' championship.

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