Tag Archives: Jacques Villeneuve

Former F1 Champions Critical Of Vettel

Jacques Villeneuve critisised Vettel's behaviour this season

Jacques Villeneuve critisised Vettel's behaviour this season

Two former F1 world champions are critical of F1′s reigning title winner, Sebastian Vettel.

Sebastian won the 2010 world championship, despite many incidents tarnishing his reputation, such as crashing into Button in Spa, or his behaviour at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve said he recognises the young German’s talent but was less impressed with his overall behaviour this season:

"He's very fast but I feel he has trouble controlling his emotions."

"I saw him raising a finger to the stewards in the pitlane and 
I find it hard to comprehend doing that at this level, that's 
more like a little kid."
"He's been treated the same for his whole career. At 14, he 
knew already that he would be brought into F1.
"When he makes a mistake, he is told 'no, you did nothing 
wrong, everything is fine'. We'll see how he reacts now as 
a champion."
"Hamilton was a bit like that at first, but after his title, 
he had a bad season and this year he was finally a man.
"This year, Vettel stupidly took out Webber but the team said 
it was Webber's fault. Let's see what happens is it going to 
get worse, or will he get more mature now? If he goes in the 
direction of Hamilton then he will win more championships. 
Otherwise he will never learn from his mistakes."

The four-time world champion Alain Prost, however, admits he is now a fan of Vettel after spending some time with the Red Bull driver at the recent Race of Champions event:

"He is very young but already very mature, I also see a 
freshness, an enthusiasm that I really like. This is not 
the case with all young F1 drivers. That's one thing that 
surprises me, you don't feel the passion in some drivers, 
it's like they're there just for the business. But in 
Vettel, I feel the freshness and passion and I hope he 
keeps it as long as possible."

Prost also hailed Vettel’s finish to the 2010 championship:

"Like everyone else, I was a bit critical when I saw 
the mess he created on some occasions. But in a driver 
with such panache and character, it is difficult to 
contain. After August, I saw a radical change. Then, 
without the incident in Korea, he would have won all 
of the last four races. He is a great champion, there 
is no doubt, You might have judged differently in the 
middle of the season, but at the end, we can say 'bravo'."

A look at the F1 2011 applicants

The FIA has opened the process to accept one more team into the Formula 1 paddock for 2011. After the epic failure of USF1, more stringent measures are being put in place this time to ensure the same does not happen again. It has not, however, deterred teams from their interest, and we will now have a look at their applications.

Durango/Villeneuve Racing


This application is a tie-up between the racing team Durango, who currently compete in the AutoGP series (formerly European Formula 3000), and 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. It is understood that this team would be named after Villeneuve if they are successful.

AutoGP isn’t a bad place for a racing team, but Durango only ran 1 car in this series, which will damage their application. However, they have previously raced in Formula 3 and sports cars. They also competed in GP2 between 2005 and 2008, where they took 3 wins. While this is good, they have since dropped out of the 2009-2010 GP2 Asia Series, due to financial problems. However, despite winning races in GP2, they blatantly broke the rules regarding standard-spec parts.

In 2006, they manufactured their own parts, instead of using Dallara’s own spec equipment. At Silverstone that year, Lucas di Grassi’s rear wing came off, and it emerged that instead of sending the car back to Dallara, Durnago decided to repair it themselves, and did a terrible job of it.

Then, it got even worse in Spa 2008, when Stefano Coletti’s steering column snapped (probably another botched repair job) at Eau Rouge. When the team turned up at the next race in Monza, Dallara had impounded one of their cars, as it was too unsafe for use, as the team had badly repaired it once too many. Interestingly enough, no official explanation came out for either of these 2 incidents I mentioned, I had to dig deep to get a hold of them. Therefore, you can’t rule out Durango trying to cover up this farce, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.

It gets even worse. Last year, it emerged that Durango was being investigated for criminal tax evasion and fraud, and that it had been using a system of companies which constantly changed their names to issue bills with inflated figures in order to reduce costs and lower the payable tax. It has been reported that Durango has €12m of unreported revenue, €11m of false invoicing, €3m of unpaid tax, and they reduced their base tax illegally by €16m. Nice.

Despite all of this, the team still believes they have the funds to enter F1 (even if they can’t afford to stay in GP2), and claim that they have 2 major international finance suppliers or sponsors. It is believed that one of these is Russian.

However, Durango is the last team I would look at for an F1 spot. They look completely unprofessional, may well have covered up their troubles (I can’t allege it though, no proof), and at the end of the day, they can’t even properly repair their own car. They look as viable as USF1.

Pros: Good experience in a variation of motorsport categories. And a nice livery.

Cons: Can’t repair their own car, huge amounts of tax evasion and fraud, broke GP2′s standard-spec equipment rule multiple times, no clear investment, very little known about their actual team.

Overall: Not a hope in hell of them getting through.

Stefan GP


A name that should be easily remembered, if you were following this blog in January-March.  Stefan GP has not raced in any other categories of motorsport at all, but have more technical partnerships to prop them up than Durango. Toyota’s technical details, as well as the chassis  from their 2010 car which was never raced, has been obtained by the Serbian team. It certainly wasn’t a bad piece of kit for them to get themselves experienced, as the TF110 features a triple-decker diffuser, and a radical aerodynamic profile.

Stefan GP had obtained this car before the 2010 season began, but were turned away by the FIA, as they felt they wouldn’t have time to get up to speed. However, the team are trying again next year with the same car, and they have talked to many drivers, such as Sebastien Loeb.

However, like Durango, Stefan GP have a shady background which does not inspire confidence. The team owner, Zoran Stefanovich, owns a Serbian engineering company called AMCO. This company convinced Toyota that they were involved with space and military technology, to get Toyota to support Stefan GP.

To convince Toyota, they set up web pages, that said that AMCO worked with Germany’s Federal Defence Force on flight drones and contributed to the European Space Agency’s orbit launch rocket Ariane 5. But, the German Defense Force then responded that “there are no technologies of the AMCO”.

Furthermore, after looking at the company’s registry, it emerged that the AMCO was founded with capital of… €500. The company has only one employee, took in €3315 in 2009, and after deductions (no info available), ended up with a net total of €42 profit. Yeah!

So, it is obvious that Zoran Stefanovich and his companies are complete frauds, and I’m praying that this is the reason why the FIA turned them down. Of course, the FIA cannot allege what I said, since concrete facts cannot be obtained without a criminal investigation, and I’m not convinced the Serbian government can get that done.

Pros: Very eager to get into F1, despite the probability that they wouldn’t get in, excellent technical partnership with Toyota.

Cons: A fraud company owned by the team owner, too aggressive towards FIA.

Overall: Up to a while ago I wanted them to get in, but never again.

Epsilon Euskadi


While there are very suspicious operations behind Durango and Stefan GP, no such problems occur with Epsilon Euskadi (try saying that 5 times quickly). At the moment, this team competes in the Le Mans Series, World Series by Renault, Formula Renault 2.0 West, and the European Cup.

The team have a history of promoting well known and sometimes very successful drivers, such as Robert Kubica (won the 2005 World Series by Renault with the team), Jaime Alguersuari (won the Formula Renault 2.0 Italia Winter Series), Brendon Hartley ( winner of the 2007 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0) and Albert Costa (winner of 2009 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0).

The team itself it fantastically well-equipped, with an Innovation and Technology Centre to design their F1 car if they are accepted. Also, they have backing from Carlos Garcia, the president of the Spanish Automobile Association, which is an important factor when considering the teams.

On the other hand, their financial situation is unclear, so we will have to wait and see can they get any sponsors on board. Despite this, I firmly believe that Epsilon Euskadi are the best team for the job, and I would also love to see them replace the disastrous Hispania team, which throws out its perfectly good race drivers just to stay financially afloat.

Pros: Impressive technical facilities, huge experience in motorsport, great eye for upcoming young drivers, titles in many racing categories, well supported from the region.

Cons: Unclear financial situation may hamper their budget.

Overall: The best option for the empty grid slot, and even if they were somehow rejected, they could replace Hispania instead.

Durango confirms partnership with Villeneuve Racing

Durango, a GP2 team who have submitted an entry to the 2011 F1 World Championship, have announced that they are entering a partnership with another potential entrant, Villeneuve Racing. As the name suggests, this plan was started by 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve.

The Italian Durango team had applied for a grid spot months ago, but there were large obstacles in their way. They didn’t even have enough money to stay afloat in GP2, and there have been many controversies about the team, who are currently under investigation for criminal tax evasion, and also badly and dangerously repaired their GP2 cars in 2006. (More in a separate article)

However, it is unclear what Villeneuve and his original plan will bring to the table. His manager, Rick Gorne, was one of the founders of BAR, and that seems about it. After looking for a drive with Stefan GP last year, it is possible that he could drive for Durango, provided they get the spot, as well as run it.

Little is known about this combined plan. Durango’s base will still be in Italy, and they have talked to Toyota about a technical partnership, like Stefan GP did last year. Also, Dallara could be a possibility for supplying the chassis.

Still, Durango looks like a dodgy choice for the 2011 spot. I’m currently writing a separate article on all of the new applicants, more on this story soon.

Stefan GP fires up car for first time

Zoran Stefanovich with Mike Coughlan

Zoran Stefanovich with Mike Coughlan

The Stefan GP team, who have yet to be placed on the entry list for this year’s world championship, have fired up their SF01 car for the first time.

The SF01 was actuallt designed by Toyota, which Stefan took over when Toyota dropped out of F1 last year.The engine start-up happened in Toyota’s old Cologne factory, which Stefan GP now uses, apart from two small exclusive areas.

Speaking to Autosport, Zoran Stefanovich says that everything is going according to plan, and the car will be ready for its initial test in Portimao later this month. However, they are still working on a tyre supply deal for this test. In a radio interview, he said:

“This morning, 19 February 2010, was another stepping stone for Stefan Grand Prix. This morning at 8:00, the first car – Stefan 01 – was fired up for the first time.”

“The car ran faultlessly, there was no problem whatsoever, and we could race or test on a racetrack, but we’re just waiting for tyres.”

At the moment, the Stefan GP team is compiled of 60 people, plus the former workers of Toyota, because of the two teams’ collaboration deal.

However, even if the test runs smoothly, Stefan GP still do not have a place on the entry list for 2010. It is believed that the team will only get a place if Campos or USF1 drops out, which seems likely. Stefanovich stated that he is expexting news from the FIA soon:

“We are expecting it to be clarified relatively shortly because all of us know what the situation is. In the meantime we are working very heavily on sorting out the drivers’ contracts.”

I mentioned last month that one of the drivers would be Kazuki Nakajima, and I was right, with Stefanovich confirming this today. Also, he revealed that the team are in negotiations with former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve.

“At the moment we have to say that we are very near. We are very near to a contract with Jacques Villeneuve, and probably also with another driver as our reserve driver. But the first one which will be with us is Kazuki Nakajima.”

I’ll be honest, I really don’t trust this team. First of all, Bernie Ecclestone has been in talks with the Serbian Prime Minister regarding Stefan GP, and when Bernie gets involved, the results rarely go well. Then, of all the engineers Zoran could have got, he went for Mike Coughlan. I hope you remember him as the McLaren engineer who stole information from Ferrari in 2007, and then went straight to Honda (with Nigel Stepney) for a job application. He allegedly attempted to sell the technical information on to other teams as well. I’ve never trusted him since, and I won’t trust any team around him.

Even if Campos or USF1 do drop out, the FIA don’t hand out places on the grid that quickly. Hopefully we can wait until 2011 and see more about this team.

Petrov moving in on deal with Renault

Vitaly Petrov

Vitaly Petrov

There are reports that Russian Vitaly Petrov is closing in on a deal that will see him race at Renault this season alongside Robert Kubica.

The 25-year-old, who finished 2nd in the GP2 Series last year, has many reports from Enstone that he is in consideration for the job. He has a huge amount of backing from the Russian government (another example of politics in these situations) and current Renault sponsor MegaFon, who are also Russian.

It is understood that Petrov is being considered alongside an F1 driver with recent experience. This may be Romain Grosjean, but I doubt it. Jacques Villeneuve hasn’t got recent experience, so he is out of the picture also. It seems that USF1 is the only option left for JV. The other driver may also be Christian Klien or Takuma Sato.

If Petrov fails to get the seat at Renault, he may also get a role in Campos. This is because he used to race for them in the GP2 Series (2007-2008) and Gp2 Seies Asia (2008-2009). Also, Campos seem to be in difficulty financially, so Petrov’s huge backing will be a large incentive.

Petrov also seems to have a good amount of talent along with his backing. In the complete GP2 series, he finished 13th and 7th in 2007 and 2008 with Campos. He then moved to the GP2 Asia series, another popular series for upcoming F1 drivers, and finished 3rd and 5th in 2008 and 2009.

Whichever team he may join, it is my opinion that we will almost definately see the first Russian Formula 1 driver in 2010.

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