Villeneuve denounces budget cap as 'pure socialism'

Former Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has come out strongly against proposals to introduce a strict budget cap of $175 million per year starting with the 2021 season.

The idea is to stop the top teams from ‘buying their way to success’ by throwing money at problems and innovation. Formula 1 bosses hope that constraining spending will close up the field and make for tighter racing.

But Villeneuve is far from convinced, saying that it was wrong to skew the rules to favour smaller teams like Williams that have been struggling to keep up with the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari.

“What is the idea of helping the little ones who do not deserve it?” he told the Journal de Montréal in Austin at the weekend.

“Does an organisation like Williams have the right to go as fast as Mercedes or Ferrari?” he continued. “The answer is no, obviously.

“For me it’s pure socialism,” he fumed. “F1 deserves better than that. This situation will allow the poorest teams to continue to hire drivers who pay for their seats.”

Villeneuve won the 1997 title with Williams, but now had little sympathy for the plight in which the independent constructor finds itself.

Robert Kubica and George Russell are routinely found at the back of the grid, and the squad had managed to pick up just one championship point in 2019.

“Frankly in the way they have been working for a few years now, they are not in the same category [as the rest of the team],” Villeneuve complained.

The 48-year-old Canadian driver added that he very much doubted the proposed cost cap would help Williams anyway, at least not at the levels of expenditure that it will allow.

“Only the top three teams will spend the $ 175 million,” he stated. “The rest of the pack will not reach that ceiling.”

And Villeneuve pointed out that a one year wait before the new regulations were introduced provided the big teams with a loop hole if they wanted to use it.

“[Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull] could spend a billion if they wanted to in 2020, to prepare for the next year,” he suggested.

Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) with his wife Camilla Lopez (BRA). 11.11.2018

In fact, Villeneuve questioned whether Williams even wanted to catch up with the top teams given that the current situation is proving to be quite acceptable in terms of corporate financed.

“Williams put about $16 million in their pockets last year while driving last. The management of the team is happy, its shareholders too. If they can make even more profit, they will be even happier.

“If, say, you impose a cap at $50 million, Williams would spend only 20 [million] to continue to stay at the bottom of the grid,” he suggested.

And in the final analysis, his view of the budget cap as a whole was characteristically clear and boldly stated: “All that is to say that this initiative is a joke. Nobody is a winner.”

And Villeneuve was no happier with the rest of the proposed new technical regulations that could see heavier cars going three to four seconds slower per lap.

“We do not care if they are slower, all you need to do is design cars that are hard to drive,” Villeneuve said. “The speed has nothing to do with the quality of the races.

“Now the cars will be heavier by 25kg. The heavier they are, the more stable they are, so it will not help,” he argued. “We need a show where the cars are lighter, more nervous. This will not be the case [with the new rules].

“In fact it’s not the ‘show’ that needs improvement anyway, as they claim. We must improve the sport. In particular we must allow more freedom to the teams.”

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JV on reverse grids: It will destroy F1

Jacques Villeneuve has joined the chorus of people who have voiced their opposition to reverse grid in Formula 1, saying “it’s not racing”.

F1’s rulemarkers are looking to make the sport more exciting and one of the ideas that they are exploring is running reverse grids at some races next year.

However, the proposal has not gone down well with most of the drivers with the likes of Sebastian Vettel calling it “bulls***” and Lewis Hamilton describing it as a “gimmick”.

Ross Brawn, though, says Liberty Media has “unanimous team support” to trial it in 2020.

Former F1 Champion Villeneuve is also not a fan of the reverse grid and he goes as far as saying it could destroy the sport.

“It’s fun, but it’s not Formula 1, it’s not racing. This will turn professional sports into a game,” he told Championat.com. “If you want this – okay, but there will be almost no sport in this.

“Formula 1 was built for 70 years. I don’t think you make any changes in order to make the show on TV more fun. Racing should remain a sport, there are some unshakable foundations that should not be changed.

“Honestly, I don’t understand why people complain – racing has never been so good. Everyone constantly recalls the 50s, 60s, 70s, the era of [Ayrton] Senna and [Alain] Prost at McLaren and they say that it was great then. But Senna and Prost left everyone in a circle, there was no overtaking, no intrigue – is this great? The fact is that at that time the drivers were gladiators, they fought for 15 laps to create an opportunity for overtaking – and when the overtaking was obtained, it was magnificent.

“Now we have a lot of overtaking – thanks to DRS, but this is not so exciting. Back then the drivers blocked each other much less, you always left the door open, and now the locks are part of the races. And therefore, there are fewer actions on the tracks than there could be, although now there are still more of them than ever. So why are we complaining? Or is it such an era when every five seconds we need something new? I do not know. But if you change the championship in this direction – we will destroy it. Similar problems were with NASCAR, and in any other championship that moved in this direction.”

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Villeneuve: 'Vettel on the wrong side of Ferrari energy'

Jacques Villeneuve says Sebastian Vettel is a victim of an irreversible shift of energy at Ferrari, insisting the German’s struggles will likely continue.

In the first half of the 2019 season, the balance of power between Vettel and Charles Leclerc weighed slightly in favour of the four-time world champion.

But after the summer break, Leclerc’s four consecutive pole positions and two wins, at Spa and Monza, set in motion the Monegasque’s inexorable rise, and a change of the internal dynamic at Ferrari.

“The energy is not right,” Villeneuve told Motorsport-Total.com.

“Everyone wants Leclerc, Leclerc, Leclerc, the media, the fans … and you cannot do anything about that.

“It does not matter how well you drive, you’re on the wrong side of the energy, and if it’s like this, you’re suffering for a while, that’s a law in this sport.”

Pundits have suggested that the characteristics of the Scuderia’s low-downforce SF90 are better suited to Leclerc’s style while Vettel has struggled to extract the full potential from the car.

However, Villeneuve rubbished that claim, insisting that Ferrari’s 2019 contender was partly designed based on Vettel’s input.

“It has nothing to do with the concept of the car,” added the Canadian.

“The car was designed with feedback from the drivers who drove before, and these were Vettel and Raikkonen – not Leclerc.

“So he [Vettel] has his share in the design of this car.”

Villeneuve suggested that Vettel may still be feeling the impact of his demise from last year’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, when he crashed out of the lead, a mishap that had significant repercussions on his title fight with Lewis Hamilton in 2018.

“Of course, because you make a mistake and you know that you are to blame yourself, which probably changed the entire championship – also psychologically,” Villeneuve said.

“The whole media and fans are talking about it, so you feel the pressure, of course, that has an impact.”

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Palmer and Villeneuve criticise use of new 'yellow card'

F1’s decision to reintroduce the mothballed black-and-white driver standards flag as a ‘yellow card’ first warning during races has been criticised by two former drivers, following the way it was used in the Italian Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc was on the receiving end of it after his block on Lewis Hamilton going into the second chicane on lap 23 send the Mercedes into the run-off escape road.

But former Renault driver Jolyon Palmer felt that using the warning flag in this fashion had allowed the race director to be too light on Leclerc. In Palmer’s view, Leclerc should have received a time penalty for his actions.

“In my view, the decision was clear-cut,” he wrote in his regular column for BBC Sport. “Much as I didn’t want to see a penalty, as it would have inevitably ruined the race, the rules are the rules.

“They must be adhered to for the good of the sport over the entertainment factor of the show,” he continued. “You can’t do it because everyone wants to see a more balanced [race] for the remaining 30 minutes.

“I found it extremely uncomfortable watching Masi trying to explain the situation after the race,” he added.

“The revival of the black-and-white warning flag … means drivers are potentially allowed to commit one offence in a race and get away with it. What sort of racing is that going to produce? And how is that ethical or fair?”

Race winner Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90 is congratulated in parc ferme by third placed Lewis Hamilton

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve had a similar view of the situation.

“It’s like being allowed to do a stupid action in the race,” Villeneuve told Motorsport-Magazin.

“They’re going to start abusing it soon – depending on whether the yellow card is transferred to the next race, in which case of course the driver won’t have that option.”

“When [Leclerc] made the move before the second chicane, at the most dangerous place, if that was on another track – or if it was another driver – that move would normally have been a penalty.

“You have to judge him the same way as any other driver and this Sunday he did ‘a Magnussen’, that’s the truth,” he added. “He knew he could risk it, so he played with the limits and it worked for him.”

Mercedes principal Toto Wolff was also unhappy with the new yellow card system and agreed it could end up making drivers more reckless.

“I think more cars will be touching and it will be more of a common practice,” he said this week. “My opinion is that it will end up in a collision.”

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