F1 2005 Championship

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On a two-year duration contract, Villeneuve made his F1 full season comeback with Sauber Petronas Team and. Eventhough Villeneuve had a shaky - rusty start and was defined as one of the slowest drivers on Michelin tyres his pace was improved in comparison to his highly-motivated team-mate Felipe Massa who was a Ferrari protege. In the end of the season he collected 9 points, 2 less than his team-mate and he was ranked 14th in the driver's championship.


His Sauber debut at the Foster's Australian Grand Prix saw him start the grid in fourth position. In Saturday’s rain-hit session he was the first driver brave enough to drive on dry rubber – a gamble that paid off and despite the spunning behavior of his car he managed to keep it on track undamaged.


"The weather made things pretty difficult for us today. When it was my turn it was a very tough decision which Michelin tyre to go for. It was a choice between intermediates and dries, so we went for the latter. As you saw, it was slippery on them during my out lap but I was fortunate not to hit anything when I spun. After that I wasn't too aggressive on my qualifying lap. It was pretty good, so in the end I guess it was our lucky day."



Surprisingly, in the race, Villeneuve experienced one of his worst start ever. Initially he was overtaken by Nick Heidfeld, and as a result he lost momentum on the run down to Turn Three, where Christian Klien squezzed him inside the turn. That meant five places were lost in the first lap, and Villeneuve never looked like making them up again. Villeneuve, then struggled to hold off a charging Alonso who started the race in the 13th position. The Spaniard soon managed to pass Villeneuve only to have the Canadian retaken his position back in the following corner. A very usual to his performance scene, as many times in the past Villeneuve kept battling and re-gaining his position after being overtaken by faster cars. However, just before the first round of pit stops, Alonso finally found a way to overcome former champion and achieved a podium finish. On the contrary Villeneuve kept having pace problems and finish the race back in 13th position and a lap down to race winner Giancarlo Fisichella
After the race he claimed that the wrong tyre choice contributed to his disappointing performance.



Rumors about an imminent replacement of Villeneuve after the three opening races were proved unfounded and at the "Gran Premio Foster's di San Marino" in Imola he scored his first points for the season with an excellent fourth place as the BAR-Honda drivers were disqualified when Button's car was found illegaly under the 600 kg minimum weight requirement when drained of fuel. "I feel great because we took every opportunity there and maximised it. The team had a fine strategy and did a good job with the pit stops. In addition, the characteristics of the car were such that I could really push it to the limit for the first time."



During Saturday's free practice session of the Grand Prix de Monaco, Villeneuve was involved in the pileup collision with Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard. The incident took place when Montoya was driving without reason too slow on a fast part of the circuit as he headed up the hill towards Massenet, shortly after he had passed Schumacher who was exiting the pits. The result was that as Schumacher slowed behind the McLaren, Coulthard was obliged to pull out to pass, just as Villeneuve was coming up behind him. The Canadian collided with Coulthatd who spunn and hit Ralf Schumacher's Toyota. After the incident Montoya's qualifying time has been deleted after stewards decided he was the one who triggered the accident.



At British Television footage David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher explained how the accident happened. Still, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard accused Montoya for reckless driving during the free practise session.



Villeneuve explained also how the accident happened from his own point of view.


While both of Sauber's drivers were in scoring positions on lap 62 Villeneuve, in an over-optimistic move, tried to overtake Massa at at Ste Devote turn. However, after pushing his team mate off the track he lost the braking point and he hit the barriers destroying his front wing.
The Canadian finally finished the race in the 11th position and Massa just 9th. Villeneuve explained about his fault:
"Towards the end I caught up with Felipe again and I could see that his rear tyres were finished, whereas my car felt pretty much as good as it had been all through the race. I was told to reduce the gap to the guys in front of me because a lot of us were closing up in the fight for points, and I tried something that unfortunately didn't work"


However, the team lost 9 valuable points and a frustrated Peter Sauber claimed that, “What happened today is the most depressing thing that a team can experience” putting Villeneuve under pressure for more succesful performances until the end of the season



Ahead of his home race, Jacques Villeneuve was interviewd by press about this weekend’s Grand Prix, life at Sauber, the Indy 500, his future and Ferrari…


At the "Grand Prix Air Canada", the local hero Villeneuve pushed hard for a successful result. Qualified in the 8th position behind McLaren Mercede's Kimi Raikkonen he wa ready for a strong finish in the race. However in the very 2nd lap of the race, he lost his front wing following a collision with Takuma Sato. Fighting hard for the whole race he finished 9th just outside the scoring position while his teammate finished in the 4rth position and accepted Peter Sauber's congratulations for his performance.
Villeneuve just commented after the race:
"At the start the grip was poorer than expected and the car just didn't want to get off the line so I lost ground immediately, and then in the second corner Sato came across me and damaged the front wing so I had to pit straight away for a replacement nose section. That was effectively it for me because I just lost too much time. That was a great pity because the car was fast today. At the end I could attack Klien, but he was exiting the corners well and I could never quite get close enough to challenge him."



At "Foster's British Grand Prix" Villeneuve made another disappointing appereance. Qualified back in 11th position just behind Michael Schumacher but he kept fihgting with the backmarkers for the whole race. During his first pit stop and while being into battle with Christian Klien, Villeneuve got distracted and left his pitbox prematurely, running over his refueller Silvan Ruegg’s foot. Fortunately there was no injury to the mechanic but that delay put the Canadian ace among the incoming traffic. So, for the last 20 laps Villeneuve was in a strong fight between Nick Heifeld, David Coulthard and Christian Klien for 12th position but the Canadian finally finished the race back at 14th position. Villeneuve explained about his accident: “Unfortunately"I screwed up my first pit stop. I was looking at the lollipop, but then I got distracted by what was happening in the Red Bull pit and when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye I mistakenly thought it was my lollipop signal to go and moved too soon. My apologies to our refueller Silvan Ruegg, whose foot I hit. Fortunately he is okay. “That incident cost me some time and because of that I got stuck in some traffic and had a pretty cut and thrust race all the way to the finish with Heidfeld and the Red Bull cars. My car was hard to drive today, so it was a tough race.”



At the "Gro├čer Mobil 1 Preis von Deutschland" Villeneuve had a very messy race as he kept colllided 3 times with other drivers. Qualified in 14th position he had an early collsion with Rubens Barrichello on lap 1 which made him to lose his position from the incoming cars. While he was chasing Robert Doornbos' Minardi on lap 4, the rookie driver braked prematurely and Villeneuve fell on him.



Much later on lap 27 he was pushed off the road inadvertently by another inexperienced driver Tiago Monteiro when the Portuguese driver of Jordan didn’t realised Villeneuve's overtaking move from the outside. A frustated Villeneuve commented: "I seemed to get hit by everybody today! On the first lap Rubens came into the side of me at the hairpin; I think maybe somebody pushed him. Then I had the thing with Doornbos on lap four. He was being very over-aggressive in his first race, and he moved over on me while he was braking so we touched. That was Formula Ford stuff, unnecessary. As for Monteiro on lap 27, I really don’t think that he saw me."



Eventhough he was obliged to change his broken front wing, the damage due to his collison was more extensive as he was experiencing a serious vibration of his car. The team tried to cure the problem by changing his front tyres but that cure didint work and then Villeneuve chose to slow his pace for the remaining of the race instead of retiring, just to finish back in 15th position 3 laps behind the race winner Fernando Alonso: span style="font-weight:bold;">"The funny thing is that the car was still good after all that contact, but eventually it developed a serious vibration. We changed the front tyres but that didn’t fix it, and it began to get worse and worse, so I had to ease off a little. There was no point in risking everything by then."


At the Marlboro Magyar Nagydij, the Sauber team faced many overheating problems. Both cars were qualified back on the grid and Villeneuve was 15th behind his teamate. During the start of race he experienced a tyre contact with Christian Klien at the first turn. However this time Villeneuve escaped undamaged from this contact while while Klien was sent into a spectacular barrel-roll. Fighting back in 12th place, Villeneuve finally retired from the race on lap 57 when his engine blew up into fire. After the race he commented: “It was a hot, disappointing race, particularly as we will now have bad qualifying starting positions in Turkey. We tried to make the finish to improve that situation, but unfortunately I was unable to make it home. I had the same problem as Felipe, losing power because of an overheating spark coil, but otherwise the car was strong today. Our strategy was good and it looked quite promising that we could challenge for points at one stage. Now the summer break will help everyone in the team, and we will try again in Turkey."




His disappointing races for the whole racing summer put him in an incomfortable condition but his performance finally improved at the Belgian Grand Prix.




Even though he was qualified for one more race back in 14th position, his one-pitstop strategy, the various accidents during the race and the wet conditions of the circuit helped him to finish at the 6th position earnign 3 points for his team



A heavy fuel-loaded Villeneuve managed a brilliant save after his Sauber went completely sideways in Eau Rouge on the 29th lap while he was under pressure from Narain Karthikeyan's Jordan.






Fighting through the straight, the two went on to bang wheels at Les Combes. Karthikeyan cut the chicane and went airbone in his 4 wheels as he was driving through the grass and managed to overtake Villeneuve.



Once his fuel load diminished, his Sauber became lighter and quicker and so Villeneuve was able to make up places again up to 6th place. While he was almost caught by the recovering Schumacher Jnr's Toyota on the last lap after having to lap a Minardi, he managed to hung on the German by a tenth of a second. A smiling Villeneuve explained after the race:
"This result makes it all worthwhile going into qualifying with a heavy fuel load! The decision to stay out when the safety car was deployed was exactly the right thing to do. As the race progressed things got better as the fuel load decreased, but I had plenty of adventures along the way. I was completely sideways in Eau Rouge on one lap and I really thought that was it. But I saved it, and then had some wheel-banging with Karthikeyan up at Les Combes, so it wasn't a dull race for me! As the track started to dry it got difficult on intermediates, but the reason Ralf caught me so much on the final lap was because I had to lap a Minardi in a tricky place and lost time. Overall this was a great result that brought me a lot of satisfaction, especially on this challenging track."


At the "Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix" Villeneuve had a storng and promising qualification at 8th position. He quoted: "I had so much oversteer that I thought the lap was really slow until I saw the time. It felt like I was driving a rally car I was so sideways but that's the way I like it, at least over a quallie lap. If it was like that through the whole race it would be more difficult, but overall I'm happy with the way things went and it's looking good."



At the beginning of the race, Villeneuve had a contact with Juan Pablo Montoya's McLaren Mercedes. The Canadian appeared to run wide at the final corner, forcing Montoya off the circuit. The McLaren skipped through the gravel and collided with the barriers, sustaining heavy rear damage and forcing Montoya to retire early from the race. Villeneuve continued to finish 11th. After the race the stewards examined the incident and decided to penalty Villeneuve by adding 25 seconds to his racing time after deeming him responsible about Montoya’s crash when he in fact forced him off the track, which brought out the safety car at the end of lap one.
His subsequent penalty droped him to 12th place in the results which was little cncern but Montoya’s retirement dealt a blow to McLaren’s constructors’ championship hopes, leaving just team mate Kimi Raikkonen to pick up points, as rivals Renault got both cars home and regained their lead in the standings.


Villeneuve commented about the incident:
"....As for Montoya on the first lap, I never even saw him so I have no idea what he might have been trying to do when he went off."



When Peter Sauber sold his team to BMW Motorsports there was much uncertainty about Villeneuve's contract. However, in late 2005 BMW Sauber F1 confirmed that Villeneuve would race for the team in 2006. GP2 frontrunner Heikki Kovalainen and Indycar champion Dan Wheldon had both been linked with the seat, but BMW opted to honour Villeneuve's contract; to cut the contract would possibly have been an expensive exercise that would have cost them around $2 million, and Villeneuve was popular with the sponsors and team personnel. The new Team Manager of the team Dr. Mario Thiessen quoted:
"We took a close look at Jacques’ performance level at the end of last season. After an extremely tough first half of the year, which showed that even a former world champion cannot come back after a period away and be competitive from day one, he got closer and closer to his team mate over the second half of the season. We are in no doubt that Jacques will make the BMW Sauber F1 Team stronger."