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Jacques Villeneuve on Leaving BMW Sauber

In an interview with Autosport Magazine, Jacques Villeneuve has denied that there was acrimony in the split between himself and BMW Sauber. Apparently, the team wanted to assess Robert Kubica in a race situation and asked Jacques to step down for a while; he was not prepared to do so.

Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve

“After having been in F1 for 10 years and having won the championship and so on, even though it’s quite a few years ago, I wasn’t ready to stay home some weekends just to see how the other guy would go and to then be compared to him,” said Villeneuve.

Jacques has a point. As mentioned in my article, Driver Contracts, F1 team managers sometimes regard the driver as just another component that can be swapped in and out of the car at will. If we are now going to have a situation where the teams can “test drive” anyone in a race while the contracted driver waits on the sidelines, the balance of power shifts far too much towards the employer.

It is hard enough for a driver to stay in F1 already, never mind the long struggle it takes to get there. To expect the contracted employee (that’s what he is, after all) not to object when another driver is used in a race, purely so that the team’s choice of driver is made easier, is making a mockery of the whole business of contracts and team loyalty.

Is it too much to expect that a team makes its choice of drivers before the season starts and then sticks by it? All potential and existing F1 drivers have served a hard apprenticeship in other formulae, so it’s not as if the choice has to be made in the dark. Just occasionally, a driver will prove to be unsuited to F1 for one reason or another; but that’s life – nothing is guaranteed. And a contract is a contract, a document designed to protect the rights of both parties.

Jacques seems to have accepted the situation in a very mature fashion, even so.

“This time there wasn’t really bitterness, it was just matter of fact. This has happened, OK, it doesn’t make me happy, I don’t want to work my butt off for the rest of the season if it’s like that, and then to wait until November and maybe there would be a decision for the year after.”

That is what I always liked about Jacques – he was straight and honest, sometimes quite controversial, but never afraid to speak his mind. F1 could do with more like him.

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