Jacques Villeneuve Sumar
Jacques raced in the Italian Formula Three series from 1989 until 1991. He ranked sixth overall, despite not winning a single race. Villeneuve then moved to the Japanese Formula Three in 1992, finishing runner-up after winning three times.
Moving to the North American Toyota Atlantic series, he won five times on tracks that he had never seen before.
He moved swiftly to Indy Car racing, and was Rookie of the Year in 1994. This same year saw him take second
place in the Indianapolis 500 and the win at Road America, for the Forsythe team, ranking sixth overall for the season. 1995 saw him take the Indy title, as well as winning the Indianapolis 500.
Jacques made his Formula One debut with Williams in 1996, almost winning his first race, after qualifying in pole, but teammate Damon Hill took the victory. His first victory came at the European Grand Prix, followed by wins in Britain, Hungary, and Portugal. He chased his teammate all the way to the final round of the season, but an accident saw Jacques out of the race, and Damon Hill drive on to take the title.
In 1997, he won three out of the first six races, then a further four wins, saw him one point behind Michael Schumacher at the final race in Jerez. Controversy surrounded this race, but Schumacher retired, and Jacques drove the ailing Williams over the line in third, but it was enough to clinch the title.
Losing the Renault engine for 1998, Williams never seemed to be able to match the speed of their competitors, and the highest place Jacques finished was third, for both Germany and Hungary. He finished fifth overall with 21 points.
1999 saw him as the number one driver for the revamped Tyrrell team, British American Racing, where he hoped to reaffirm his status as World Champion for a second year, but things didn't go as he had hoped, with the majority of the season seeing him retiring from race after race. A few good qualifying sessions didn't follow through to fruition and he finished the season pointless.
The year 2000 saw him remain with BAR and together with the added power of the Honda engines in the new season, he had hoped to see victory once again. However, the domination of Ferrari and McLaren proved to be too strong and podium finishes for the Canadian still failed to eventuate. Despite the lack of wins, the team moved up to fifth in the constructor's championship and was regarded as the most improved outfit on the grid.
Partnered with old time friend, Olivier Panis for the 2001 championship, Jacques finally made it to the podium however, wins were still far from coming. Toward the end of the year there were complaints that the car just wasn't up to scratch and the Canadian finished out the year hoping for better performances in 2002. However, on the eve of launching the new BAR004, long time friend and mentor, Craig Pollock stepped down from the outfit, leaving Jacques questioning his future with the Brackley based squad. Only four points were forthcoming in 2002 and although there were many rumours he was to follow Pollock's path and leave the Brackley based squad, Jacques remained for 2003 alongside Jenson Button.
2003 would prove to be a particularly unhappy final year with BAR. Two sixth positions gave the Canadian six points but team-mate Button had twice the number of points. The US Grand Prix would prove to be Villeneuve's final race with the team, with the driver travelling to Japan for the season finale, but not participating as Takuma Sato took his seat. It was never clear who made the decision not finish the season, but the Villeneuve-BAR relationship was over once and for all.
Villeneuve started the 2004 season without a drive but the call from Renault came for the final three races of the season as the squad had become frustrated with Jarno Trulli and deemed a change was needed. After a season of waiting for the phone to ring, an offer to drive with Sauber Petronas followed and the 1997 Champion was confirmed alongside Felipe Massa for 2005.
Villeneuve's final three races of the 2004 season with Renault proved little as he was unable to get particularly close to the pace of Fernando Alonso - particularly in race trim and was unable to score any points as the team finished third in the constructors' championship.
On a two-year contract, Villeneuve got his season off to a shaky start at Sauber. By the San Marino Grand Prix rumour was rife that he would be dropped by the team, but that rumour never came to much of anything and Villeneuve picked up his pace as the season progressed. His fourth position at the San Marino Grand Prix would be his best result of the year, but he did manage to take the challenge to his highly rated team-mate Felipe Massa in the second half of the season and scored a fine sixth position at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Behind the scenes, Peter Sauber sold his team to BMW who will run the team as BMW Sauber in 2006 and as it stands, Villeneuve seems pretty confident that the season finale in China was not his final race in Formula One and that he will be racing with the new squad in 2006. The glory days may be over, but Villeneuve still has the talent. It just remains to be seen whether he has the desire to give it his all week-in week-out in a car not capable of race wins.
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