F1 2001 Championship

Although there were rumours about joining McLaren or Benetton Renault, Villeneuve decided to stay focus at Graig Pollock's B.A.R. project. After further persuasion from his close friend, manager and mentor, he signed a new 3-year contract with an estimated salary of $25 million per year. Formula One world started then whispering the possibility that the Canadian ace had entered already the "cruise-and-collect" phase of his motor-racing career.
Villeneuve replied instantly to these accusations. "Lots of people are pissed off, because they don't understand why I re-signed with BAR at the end of last season. They just won't forgive me for it. I think it accounts for a good chunk of the bad press I've had recently. People decided I'd signed again for the wrong reasons ...I didn't sign for the money, I could have had a similar salary from lots of teams. I believe in this team. I believe in Craig Pollock. I believe in him more than any other person on the planet."

Nevertheless, Ricardo Zonta left the team and Villeneuve was partnered with his old friend since 90s, Olivier Panis. The team seemed most powerful than ever after the successful 2000 season but smiles very quickly went down. The 2001-spec BAR003 was the culmination of two years of steadfast development, thousands of miles of track-time, and immeasurable blood, sweat and (gallons of) tears.
Villeneuve hopped into the car for the first time in January testing in Jerez, did three shakedown laps and reported frustrated back to the pits. "The car is terrible".

During the 5th lap of the "Qantas Australian Grand Prix" in Melbourne, B.A.R. Honda of Jacques Villeneuve hit the back of Ralf Schumacher's Williams BMW and crashed into the wall.

Just like in 1999 in Spa, Villeneuve's horrifying accident woke up again sad memories from his father Gilles fatal accident in Zolder, back at 1982.

Onboard view of the Crash
Its clearly shown that Ralf Schumacher slowed down prematurely much before the braking zone of turn 3

Unfortunately, during the accident a race marshal died after being struck by a wheel that broke free after the high-speed collision.

Footage of the accident by the German Television

Despite, the recent fatal accident in Australia, Villeneuve competed as normal at the following Malaysian Grand Prix. He was qualified in an hopeful 7th position and seemed to have overcome the unpleasant accident both in physical and psychological way. Still, a sudden monsoon hit the circuit by the start of the race. Villeneuve was forced to retire after spinning off into the gravel and while he was on his way to enter the pits for a tyre change.
It was a very bad start of the 2001 as Panis' engine blew up at the 1rst start of the race just before the start of the heavy rain and fears of another scoreless season were strong obvious at Graig Pollock's eyes.

At the "Grande Prêmio Marlboro do Brasil" in Interlagos, Villeneuve finished the race 7th just outside the scoring points. However, the scene where BAR's pit crew stormed to change Villeneuve's tyres and to supply him with fuel while Panis has been waiting for his turn, was really embarrassing for the team.

Although the awful start, Villeneuve managed to achieve 2 podium finishes in Spain and in Germany.
At the "Gran Premio Marlboro de Espana" in Barcelona, he earned team's first-ever podium finishing 3rd when the race leader Mika Hakkinen retired on the final lap when his engine blew up.
In the press conference after the race a bearded Villeneuve quoted: "It's great. The whole team, everyone in the team, has worked really hard for the last three years, and the beginning of the season has been really, really hard and to finally get a podium is great."

Despite a chase by Giancarlo Fisichella during the last laps of the "Grosser Mobil 1 Preis von Deutchland", Villeneuve retained his 3rd place and managed his second podium finish of the season. It was a result Villeneuve described as "more pleasurable than the one at the Spanish Grand Prix because this one had more work put into it than in Spain. Here today the whole weekend we worked really hard, we improved session after session and we knew that the car would be competitive so this one."

However, later he admitted that the true obvious reasons of his podium instant successes had little to do with car's real capabilities.
"The two podiums didn't happen because we were quick. We got those 2 podiums because a whole load of people retired. This year's results are not the ones I'd been promised."

Towards the season, the car kept suffering lose of grip.
At the "SAP United States Grand Prix", Villeneuve qualified back in 18th even behind Fernando Alonso's Minardi. For the first time, Formula 1 world questioned the French-Canadian's motivation. A rumor had been spread in the paddock that Villeneuve had finally given up.
The Canadian repelled the false rumors once again. "I got ripped to shreds by the media. Some team members accused me of not trying. That's pretty hard to take after three hugely effortful seasons, especially since, right from the start, BAR made a whole load of mistakes that the drivers covered up to protect the team.
I think the team and some of our sponsors didn't appreciate my frank speaking in a few interviews I gave, to be honest. But then they shouldn't capitalise on my image and hate me for it afterwards, should they?"

The following day, in the race, Villeneuve retired once again, on lap 45 due to a suspension problem. The problem was caused by a collision with Pedro de la Rosa's Jaguar while fighting for the 12th position.

It was an appalling result for the team in comparison to the previous year performance when he was battling for a podium finish against Heinz Harald Frenzen.

At the "Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix" in Suzuka, it went really obvious that even BAR's staff started doubting over Villeneuve's leading role within the team.

The Canadian just finished the year hoping for better performances in 2002.
However, tiny cracks had just begun to appear in the façade of Villeneuve's spirited, energised, potent character and then slowly widened as the somber 2001 season was finishing. The marriage was clearly souring.

Apart from his racing duties in the 2001 F1 Championship, Villeneuve starred also as a racing driver, in Sylvester Stallone's movie about motorsports; "DRIVEN".