F1 2004 Championship

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After the Goodwood event, Villeneuve visited Sauber's factory in Hinwill and he has made no secret of his desire to return to Formula 1 racing while the Swiss team had a vacant race seat for 2005. During his visit, Villeneuve checked out the team’s facilities and discussed with Team's boss Peter Sauber the potential about driving for his team.

Still, it wasn't until the September of 2004, after almost 12 months off the track, when Villeneuve was called up by Flavio Briatore as Jarno Trulli’s replacement whose commitment in the team was in doubt after signing to Toyota for the 2005 season.

"We are very excited to welcome Jacques Villeneuve to Renault for the final three Grands Prix of the 2004 season. He is highly motivated and has impressed us with his performance this week
The Renault F1 Team's objective is now to claim second place in the Constructors' Championship and we are focused intently on doing so."
Renault's Managing Director Flavio Briatore commented.

Villeneuve agreed to drive for Renault for the final three races of the season, in China, Japan and Brazil in order to help the team to secure the 2nd place at Constructor's Championship. After all, Villeneuve was Renault’s last champion back in 1997 when he was driving for Rothmans Williams Renault, since the French manufactured withdrew from F1 and returned as a complete F1 team in 2003.

Yet, it was to prove a pointless partnership. After being a year away form F1, Villeneuve’s fitness was significantly affected. Although his quick adaption to the car and to its driving behaviour on track, he was unable to get close to the pace of Fernando Alonso - and he score no points. Still his telemetry data during these 3 races contributed to team’s following victorious seasons.

At the "Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix", Villeneuve was made to look an ordinary driver by his team mate Fernando Alonso, as he finished 11th to the Spaniard's 4rth.

At least Villeneuve was in good company as he found himself battling hard with David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher – also suffering from disappointing performances relative to their respective team mates. Undoubtedly it must have felt like old times... back in mid 90s.

After the race Villeneuve quoted;"I learned a lot during the race this afternoon. I know the R24 better, I have got a full race distance under my belt and I have also understood what a 2004-style race is like. To be honest, I just needed too long to get into the rhythm at the start of the race. I made a good start but I hadn’t warmed up the tyres enough and lost a lot of positions I had made up."

At the "Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix", Villeneuve was expected to bounce back and prove his driving capabilities. But, it was another mediocre performance for him. He qualified back in 9th position and after a rather boring race he finished 10th a lap down to race winner. On the contrary, Alonso finished 5th securing 4 points for Renault.

"When the race started, we quickly found that the set-up was not ideal for the dry conditions. The car was understeering a lot, so we added front downforce at both pit-stops, but I could not increase my pace in the final stint. It's a disappointing result, especially as our main rivals scored points with both cars this afternoon." Villeneuve said later

Embarrassing was the moments that both Sauber's of Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa overtook Villeneuve at the end of the start-long straight, eventhough Villeneuve pushed hard to keep them behind.

Fisichella finished 8th scoring 1 point and Massa 9th just ahead of the Canadian ace.

By the end of the season it was officially announced that Villeneuve signed a 2-year deal with Peter Sauber’s team, confirming a full-time return to F1 for 2005.
"I am extremely excited to be back in Formula One with the Sauber Petronas team, and I appreciate the confidence everybody is showing in me. It is my goal to work with Peter (Sauber) and his team to bring them forward in the championship during the next two seasons."

Expressing his enthusiasm about signing Villeneuve, Peter Sauber also stated; "I have to admit that signing a former World Champion is something truly special for me. However, I want to make it clear that this was not the decisive factor. When I was talking to Jacques, I could feel that he is absolutely keen and committed to return to Formula One. He was always a great fighter and I am convinced that together we can achieve a lot.
I fully realise that signing a former World Champion is also an obligation for the team to provide him with a car that meets his expectations. Sauber Petronas has made considerable progress this year, and I am confident that we are ready to tackle this challenge."

Villeneuve was ready to make a new F1 beginning driving for Peter Sauber's team