F1 Champion Villeneuve makes Formula E debut at Donington Park
Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula One World Champion made his public FIA Formula E debut at Donington Park today (10 August) driving for the Venturi team.
The French-Canadian was an Indy 500 winner in the USA before making one of the most sensational F1 debuts of all time with the Williams Renault team in 1996. He won four races, and came close to winning his first ever race in Australia, pushing Damon Hill all the way in pursuit of the championship. He went one better in 1997 though, clinching the crown in the final race of the year at Jerez, but only after an infamous collision with rival Michael Schumacher. He went on to race with the BAR, Sauber and BMW teams in F1 before then moving on to race in Le Mans, NASCAR and more recently, Rallycross.
His appearance at Donington today was the first time he’d visited the circuit since his F1 days with Williams, and commented; “I drove here in a Renault Spider when I was with Williams in F1 on a PR day, but I only did two or three laps and very nearly crashed in the pit lane!
“Today’s been much better, we’ve focussed on installation laps and then when we were about to get going it rained, so I can’t wait to get a proper dry and aggressive lap in to see what the car can do.
“Donington is a very tricky track, because once you’re at speed it’s really difficult to get a lap time and it’s very complex and a lot of fun. It’s an old school type of track with a lot of blind corners and with good rhythm.
“This [Formula E] feels very much like I’m going back to my roots. I started my career in open wheel racing and it obviously drives like an open wheel racer. It feels good to be back in a single seater, but mainly it feels good to be competing at an international level again and to be looking forward to a full season, and not just an odd race.”
Villeneuve was reserved when it came to predicting potential outcomes for the season ahead, especially with new technology coming into the series for the new season. “Everyone has a new power train and we all believe we have a new invention,” he commented. “At the moment no one knows who is going to be competitive, so we will just have to wait and see, but my goal is to compete at the front, it would be nice to return to winning ways again. That’s why I’m racing, I want to be competitive and that’s what I’ll strive for.
“What attracted me to Formula E was watching the races and I could see right away that it was professional, with racing on street courses which I love. They’re tough, bumpy, it looks difficult to drive which makes it fun, and the racing looked exciting. I’m looking forward to getting involved in something which will keep getting faster every year. When you look at most racing series they’re trying to make the cars go slower because of the rules, and this is the other way round so that’s a great positive.
“There are a lot of guys I’ve driven against in different categories that I’ve seen around which is going to be nice and there’s a great atmosphere and a lot of respect from the other drivers.”
Formula E testing resumes tomorrow (11 August), with additional tests on 17/18 August and 24/25 August. All dates are open free of charge to members of the public who apply in advance through the Formula E website at www.fiaformulae.com. For more information on events at Donington, visit www.donington-park.co.uk.