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15 Jul 2006 11:05
Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve believes Formula One is becoming a bore.
The 1997 world champion, who at 35 is one of the senior men still on duty in motor racing’s elite division, said he believed most teams now preferred to recruit young, cheap and “corporate” drivers.
“You just have to look at what is happening to see it. I think most teams have decided that they can find the rare diamond that will be the next [Fernando] Alonso themselves.
“And that guy will stay with their team and cost no money—or so they believe, but what they fail to realise is if one day he becomes quick, another team will spend money for him so they will not keep him and the few years that they groomed him serve no purpose.
“Ultimately it doesn’t serve much, but because this kind of theory has worked with one, they don’t realise that it hasn’t worked with the 20 others.”
Villeneuve’s reference to “one” success was to defending world champion Fernando Alonso who this weekend is racing for Renault in their home Grand Prix, on the 100th anniversary of the first French event held in 1906.
But Alonso announced last year that he was leaving for McLaren Mercedes for 2007, a decision that has left Renault in need of new blood themselves.
Alonso could be replaced at Renault by Finnish test driver Heikki Kovalainen, another of the youngsters recruited at little cost and then groomed through the Renault school by team chief Flavio Briatore.
But Villeneuve said he would prefer to see older drivers kept on because they provide more to the sport.
“Some older drivers are very cheap, cheaper than ones who haven’t won races for example,” he added.
Villeneuve said Formula One would miss departed Colombian racer Juan Pablo Montoya who has been dumped by McLaren after making it clear he was leaving at the end of the year to go to join a team in American Nascar racing.
Villeneuve said: “It depends who replaces him really as to what the future will be like.
If it’s a 20-year-old who is out of Formula Ford, then no, it won’t be exciting—because he will be groomed corporately.”
Montoya’s replacement for this weekend is 35-year-old Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa.
But he is not likely to remain long in the team because McLaren are grooming upcoming young British stars Gary Paffett and Lewis Hamilton for the job.
And Villeneuve himself is fighting for his own future and his seat with the BMW Sauber team.
Polish youngster Robert Kubica, the team’s test driver, is favoured because he is cheap and has done well in his reserve job.
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