Formula One has lost its magic, according to former world champion Jacques Villeneuve.
You do wonder, don’t you, what motivates drop-out drivers like him to air such crass nonsense. Is it sour grapes? Could be because he is no longer, and has not been for eight years, on the grand prix grid. He has had to switch to rally driving.
His one title-win career from 163 F1 outings, peppered with 19 accidents, was hardly the stuff of legend and now, in his race dotage, never having driven one of the updated cars, he assumes an attitude of dismissal bereft of good sense.
It seems to me he has hastily based his loaded criticism on the rather trouble-torn opening test session in Jerez, Spain, when, as to be expected, the new range of cars, almost without exception, suffered problems on their first tentative outings.
A similar bunch of setbacks could blight this week’s second test show in Bahrain and, with completely different rules, changed engines and body shapes, it would not be surprising. My feeling is that in the break between Jerez and Bahrain, the boffins will mostly have got their acts together and ironed out the majority of issues that plagued their new wave challengers in the opener.
Villeneuve, a Canadian hard charger in his pomp, somewhat reckless at times, fears that the grand prix show is a gonner even before it gets underway. Has he got a crystal ball? Is he reading the stars? Or is he merely being subjective?
There will not be a single driver in the upcoming season’s line-ups who would put his weight behind Villeneuve’s awry assumption. The same goes for the team bosses and the legendary likes of Red Bull’s designer Adrian Newey, who will relish the challenge of change.
Of course, as with all revolutions, there could be problems and an infusion of uncertainty, but surely that only makes for more excitement.
Villeneuve, the son of daredevil grand prix ace Gilles, killed during practice in Belgium in 1982, adds: “The epic has been taken out of F1.”
And, yawningly, he goes on: ”Overtaking happens now because a driver presses a button, not because he makes a special move.”
He is critical of the upcoming engine and rule changes — V6 1.6l power units from V8 2.4l — that he reckons are detrimental to the championship show.
“I’m a purist,” he claims. “I love the sport. I loved the 60s and 70s, when the fans enjoyed the races where sometimes only four cars finished and they were two laps apart.
“You respected what those drivers had done and what they had achieved. A lot of decisions now are not in the long-term helping Formula One.
“With the new engine regulations everything is so restrictive — and that’s not F1 anymore. There is now nothing special about it.”
Villeneuve sarcastically and extremely short-sightedly goes on: “The cars look asleep.”
Oh yeah…at 200-plus mph? Where is he coming from?
— The writer is a motorsport expert based in the UK