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Villeneuve Staying in F1, Says Richards

Friday October 11th, 2002

By Alan Baldwin

Jacques Villeneuve will stay in Formula One with British American Racing (BAR) next season, team boss David Richards said today.

Richards confirmed that a proposal had been made some months ago by the Players Forsythe CART team for the Canadian former World Champion to return to the U.S. series in 2003 but it had come to nothing.

"We clearly needed a replacement for Jacques and when the time drifted on and when Olivier (Panis) had the offer from Toyota, without the replacement driver it wasn't practical for the team," Richards told a news conference at the Japanese Grand Prix.

"I think Jacques was not particularly enthusiastic," he said of the proposal. "He was willing to work with the team on it, if that was to the benefit of the team, but he wanted to stay in Formula One.

"He is a Formula One driver and he is committed to Formula One and he wants to be here and I am very pleased that he will be with the team here next year."

BAR signed Briton Jenson Button from Renault in July on a long term contract but left open the question of who would partner him.

Poor Results

Villeneuve has been at BAR since 1999 and is, according to paddock speculation, the second highest paid driver on the grid after Ferrari's Michael Schumacher even though the Honda-powered team have produced poor results.

Richards has said he would rather spend money on developing a competitive car than on expensive drivers and was interested in farming Villeneuve out for a year to reduce his overheads.

Speculation that the deal might still be on, despite Panis taking a job at Toyota for next season, resurfaced when Villeneuve attended a CART race in Miami last weekend with manager Craig Pollock. But Richards said it was misplaced.

"From my position there is no question about it," he said. "He's driving with us next year. He has a contract with us. The fact that he visited a CART race in Miami and saw all his old mates seems to have started the speculation again"

Pollock, Richards' predecessor as BAR boss, has said before that Villeneuve would be willing to return to CART for a year if the offer was right and the Canadian had a drive guaranteed in Formula One afterwards. The Scot rejected reports in August that he had turned down a $50 million offer from Players.

Villeneuve, son of the late Ferrari great Gilles, was CART champion in 1995 before moving to Formula One with Williams and winning the title in 1997.

Published at 09:28:54 GMT
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