F1 2003 Championship (Part II)

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The "Allianz Grand Prix of Europe" that held in Nurburgring was catastrophic.
Hoping that the race conditions might deteriorate, Villeneuve was the first driver out during the rainy Friday's Qualifying session. Inevitably, he spun off and exited in the gravel without acquiring any time as the track was too wet and aquaplaning by then. When he returned to the pits, he commented: "Halfway round, the wheels weren't even touching the ground; I was just floating like a boat,” he said. “Normally when you aquaplane it's only for a tenth of a second or something, but there it was all the way down."


Villeneuve started the race back in 17th position, and he kept struggling during the whole race with the backmarkers when he finally retired at the 51 lap due to a gearbox failure. "... Just as it looked as if I was at least going to be able to finish the race, second gear broke and it was over. I'm pleased to see the end of a very bad weekend."


The "Foster's British Grand Prix" in Silverstone was one more race that Villeneuve finished 10th outside the points ranking. However it would be more remembered when a now-defrocked priest Neil Hora, wearing a saffron kilt and waving religious banners, invaded into the track along the Hangar straight and ran ahead to the 280 km/h train of cars.



During the race, Villeneuve had also a duel with his team mate who tried to overtake him, while he has been lapped by Michael Schumacher's Ferrari.


The "Gro├čer Mobil 1 Preis von Deutschland" was again disappointing for Villeneuve. Even though there wasn't any mechanical failure during the race, the Canadian finished 9th, 2 laps behind Juan Pablo Montoya who was the race winner. The race was destroyed when Villeneuve was hit at the first corner by Justin Wilson’s Jaguar and the subsequent change to an one-stop strategy proved to be a wrong choice.
"A frustrating end to a very tough race for me. I got hit from behind in the first corner and that just destroyed my race. It's a great shame because the car was good today and we had a good strategy. Because of where we were on the track, we changed to a one-stop strategy. This wasn't the best choice in the end, but we decided to take a gamble and it didn't work out. The engine worked well and the car was quick, so we had a good chance of points today and it's very disappointing."
Even Dave Richards was sympathetic for the race outcome, acknowledging that "...Jacques' race was also impressive, given that he was hit by Wilson in the first-corner incident and this upset his planned race strategy..."



However the latest appalling results during the summer races, made clearer that Villeneuve and Richards’ frosty relationship was about to crack soon.
Jos Verstappen, Minardi (12th):
"I had a good start and made up some places and once the race settled down, I was able to lap consistently. I think this has been one of the better races of the season for us although it is clear that we are still not able to run at the speed of the other cars yet. From a personal point of view, I thought this race might also be a tough one physically, but I was pleased to find that I felt good when I climbed out of the car at the end. All told, it has been a positive weekend for us."


At the "Gran Premio Vodafone d' Italia" in Monza, Villeneuve had an excellent performance finishing 6th. However, he had to struggle hard the whole weekend with setup difficulties that made him spin up during Friday's unofficial testing and losing valuable racing time.
"I'm really pleased to finish sixth today and get three more Championship points for the team. The race was a great team effort and the guys did a fantastic job during the pitstops. We didn't qualify as well as we hoped yesterday but we were working for the race, so it was great to stay reliable and be able to make the most of a good race set-up..."


Still, Richards seemed not to have been so excited with Villeneuve's race and no renewal proposition for his contract was yet offered to his driver.


At the unpredictable "SAP United States Grand Prix" - due to weather conditions, Villeneuve had no lack on his side. During the practice sessions, he was found off the pace due to setup problems caused by his Bridgestone tyres and he qualified back on 12th position. Jacques Villeneuve, BAR (12th, 1m 13.050s):
"We've had some trouble with the driveability of the car this weekend, mainly due to lack of grip, and this morning it was very close to being undriveable. It was a little better in warm-up then we made some changes prior to qualifying, which is always a bit of a gamble. It helped the car a lot and finally I had grip. There was still some time left in it because that's the first lap I've done all weekend where the car has been working well. The car will be good for the race but if we had found the set-up much earlier we would be a few tenths quicker than we are now."


Unfortunately, with only 9 laps on the race and following a false forecast for rain, Villeneuve took the risk for an early pitstop in order to change to wet tyres. However, team's decision proved only a rushy misjudgment as the rain didn't last and the driving line kept being dry. Consequently, within 2 laps Villeneuve was forced to return to the pits switching back to slick. The damage, though, had been done and Villeneuve was already a lap down on the field with no hope of a successful performance.

Villeneuve quoted afterwards;
"There was no grip off the start or during the first lap but then the car improved and we were really quick on wet tyres. When it started raining we came in first to put on wets but it stopped raining at the same time, which was really bad luck. It was havoc out there. One lap too many and you're on ice and can lose 30 seconds, one lap too early and you overheat your rain tyres. We took the risk and it didn't pay off..."


Against all odds, as the rain started pouring soon again, Villeneuve kept battling and with 10 laps to the race finish he was 9th, just outside the points-scoring positions, hunting Justin Wilson's Jaguar. Yet, his Honda engine blew up and Villeneuve's scene climbing out of a stricken, smoking BA005 on lap 63, soon proved to be his last act in the team.


On October 3rd, when Villeneuve traveled to Suzuka for the final race of the season he was informed by phone that his contract with the team would not be renewed for the 2004 season. The frustrated Villeneuve decided then to pull out from the event, and insisted that "I don't have the level of motivation that I need."
Pollock explained Villeneuve's decision, saying: "Jacques is extremely disappointed not to be staying with the team next year, and he simply felt that his heart would not be in it for the coming weekend. As a result he asked that he be allowed to stand down. We are grateful to David Richards, and the team, for releasing him early from his contract."


Richards lost no time and Villeneuve was immediately replaced by Honda's protege and team's test driver, Takuma Sato, who was due to replace the Canadian the following season.
"I've agreed to this," said Richards about Villeneuve's request. "If somebody doesn't want to drive, they don't want to drive and so Takuma will be driving on Sunday... The end of our season has been rather dramatic, and I certainly was not expecting this, but you have to respect a driver's decision if he feels he cannot give his best when facing these circumstances."
Richards continued on a typical tribute over the Canadian;
"The team very much appreciates Jacques Villeneuve's commitment over the past five years," he said. "However, as his contract with the team has come to an end, we believe this is the appropriate time to refresh the driver line-up."

Ironically, Sato managed to finish 6th in the race, helping the team to secure the 5th place in the Constructor's standings.
After the race, Richards, having a wide grin on his face simply quoted I think we have a lot to be excited about for 2004,"


Jenson Button admitted that he was sorry about his team-mate's departure from the team in such way.
"Jacques has been here at BAR for five years, up and down, and it's disappointing to see him leaving F1."


Villeneuve's manager Graig Pollock made also a statement.
"We received a call from BAR Managing Director, Dave Richards, on Friday evening informing us of their decision. What is so disappointing is the fact that this team was built for and around Jacques, and he underwent all sorts of trials and tribulations over the years as BAR struggled to find its place in Formula One."


Jacques Villeneuve and British American Racing 5-year relationship was finally over once and for all.