Villeneuve signs for Sauber

Jacques Villeneuve has agreed a two-year deal to race with Sauber from the start of next season - just hours after getting back into an F1 car with Renault during testing at Silverstone

Villeneuve signs for Sauber

The deal, which was exclusively predicted by autosport.com before the Italian Grand Prix, means he will line-up alongside Felipe Massa at the Swiss team. It comes after months of speculation about the former world champion's future - having also been linked with drives at Williams and BAR.

Villeneuve said: "I am extremely excited to be back in F1 with the Sauber Petronas team, and I appreciate the confidence everybody is showing in me."

The capture of Villeneuve is a massive coup for Sauber and marks the first time that a former champion has raced for the outfit since it entered F1 in 1993.

Team boss Peter Sauber said: "I have to admit that signing a former world champion is something truly special for me. However, I want to make it clear that this was not the decisive factor.

"When I was talking to Jacques, I could feel that he is absolutely keen and committed to return to F1. He was always a great fighter and I am convinced that together we can achieve a lot."

VIlleneuve added: "It is my goal to work with Peter and his team to bring them forward in the championship during the next two seasons."

Sauber had been weighing up whether to race with an experienced driver alongside Massa next season, or opt for a young rising star like Anthony Davidson or Gary Paffett. The team will still test International F3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi at Jerez on Thursday.

Villeneuve will not be the first F1 world champion who has driven for Sauber, because Michael Schumacher once tested one of the Swiss team's cars as a favour to Peter Sauber.

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