Motor Racing: Villeneuve's candid rebuke

The underlying confidence that has prompted Jacques Villeneuve so comprehensively to rock the Formula One boat of late carried over on to the track as he secured his fourth pole position of the season, but this time he had to fend off his team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen as they held Ferrari's challenge in check.

On Friday afternoon, shortly after the red cars of Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher had temporarily asserted themselves, Villeneuve enlivened the slow time when those drivers unlucky enough to be selected for the regular media conference often have trouble staying awake. The World Championship leader warmed to his favourite theme of candid comment, and to hear a racing driver speak his mind and abandon politically correct soundbites was, to say the least, unusual.

"It was a joke, basically," he informed a rapt audience as he outlined a recent test run on the grooved tyres that will become mandatory next season in yet a further effort to slow cars down. "You cannot do much, because you don't have a clue where the car is going. I think it's ridiculous to drive race cars like that." Next year the regulations also call for narrower cars, a move that only the Ferrari team appears to welcome. "I'm positive that keeping the regulations the way they are for as long as possible is going to bring the teams closer together," Villeneuve continued. "If you keep changing them then the top teams can react more quickly and the medium and lower teams won't react and it's just going to make the gap bigger."

As if this was not an embarrassing enough situation for the sport's governing body, the French-Canadian did not exactly defuse suggestions that he might be moved to quit the category in which he is the favourite to follow his former partner Damon Hill as world champion. "If it becomes boring to drive, the best racing will probably end up being IndyCars, and it could have a big influence on my decisions. I enjoy the racing and if that's taken away, just the money side isn't going to be enough to keep me for a long time."

Villeneuve had little time for the FIA's view that it is too soon to draw conclusions. "Too early? I mean, it's pure logic and it's fairly simple. I think the best ones to ask are the drivers because we're sitting in the cars and know how they react. But if nobody does that, then you are just going to take decisions and find out two years later that it was a big mistake."

Having recently expressed the view that F1 risks emasculating itself, Villeneuve also said: "It's frustrating because we are the ones risking our lives out there." And he held little hope of discussion with the FIA president, Max Mosley, adding trenchantly: "Talking is one thing, but listening is another."

Whether speaking or driving, Villeneuve remained flat-out yesterday afternoon as qualifying began with a fight for fastest time between the Jordan- Peugeot drivers Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella, who are waging their own cold war after the former pushed the latter out of third place in Argentina. Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher soon traded the lead position before Frentzen took over. With half an hour to go, the Ferrari split the Williams pair again, and Ralf momentarily got in on the act, but in reality it was always going to be a battle between the blue-and-white cars.

Villeneuve improved his time to go quickest with 27 minutes left, but this time Frentzen's response fell just short. It was still Frentzen's most convincing performance since joining Williams.

For the first time he was using a differential setting that has been available to him all season, and found the handling of his Williams-Renault much more to his liking. "This is the first time since I started driving this car that I have felt comfortable in it," he said. It showed. Villeneuve and Frentzen were later given a suspended one-race ban after failing to observe a yellow hazard flag. If either of the two transgress in the next two races, then the ban will be imposed.

Speed comes at a price, and at Imola this afternoon it will demand payment in brakes and tyres. Whoever maintains the best speed, while preserving these components, will pose the strongest threat. For once this may not necessarily be a Williams-Renault driver. With Olivier Panis in the Bridgestone- tyred Prost lurking alongside Schumacher's Ferrari and the Jordans on row three, this race is not a foregone conclusion.

Voices
Numbers of complaints about unwanted calls have trebled in just six months
voices
News
people
Arts & Entertainment
Picture of innocence: Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington in ‘Derek’
tvReview: The insights of Ricky Gervais's sweet and kind character call to mind Karl Pilkington's faux-naïf podcast observations
Life & Style
Looking familiar: The global biometrics industry is expected to grow to $20bn by 2020
tech
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Higher expectations: European economies are growing but the recovery remains weak
newsThe eurozone crisis has tipped many into despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues economist Philippe Legrain
Arts & Entertainment
Tangled up in blue: Singer-songwriter Judith Owen
musicAnd how husband Harry Shearer - of Spinal Tap and The Simpsons fame - helped her music flourish
Sport
Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the opening goal
sportReal Madrid 1 Bayern Munich 0: Germans will need their legendary self-belief to rescue Champions League tie in second leg
Arts & Entertainment
Paul Weller: 'I am a big supporter of independent record stores but the greedy touts making a fast buck off genuine fans is disgusting'
music
Arts & Entertainment
William Shakespeare's influence on English culture is still strongly felt today, from his plays on stage to words we use everyday
arts
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes has claimed supporters understand the need to look at
sportScot thanks club staff and fans, but gives no specific mention of players
News
Foster and Hedison have reportedly been dating since last summer
peopleOscar-winner said to be 'totally in love' with Alexandra Hedison
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
Life & Style
Balancing act: City workers at the launch of Cityfathers
lifeThe organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group boasting more than 3,000 members
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Construction Solicitor – Surrey

Excellent Salary Package: Austen Lloyd: This is a rare high level opportunity ...

Construction Solicitor NQ+ Manchester

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: This is an excellent opportunity within...

Corporate Finance

£80000 - £120000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: US QUALI...

Banking / Finance Associate - City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: Banking / Finance Associate - We have an exce...

Day In a Page

Migrants in Britain a decade on: The Poles who brought prosperity

Migrants in Britain a decade on

The Poles who brought prosperity
Philippe Legrain: 'The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - we need a European Spring'

Philippe Legrain: 'We need a European Spring'

The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues the economist
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj
Judith Owen reveals how husband Harry Shearer - star of This Is Spinal Tap and The Simpsons - helped her music flourish

Judith Owen: 'How my husband helped my music flourish'

Her mother's suicide and father's cancer also informed the singer-songwriter's new album, says Pierre Perrone
The online lifeline: How a housing association's remarkable educational initiative gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression

Online lifeline: Housing association's educational initiative

South Yorkshire Housing Association's free training courses gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression
Face-recognition software: Is this the end of anonymity for all of us?

Face-recognition software: The end of anonymity?

The software is already used for military surveillance, by police to identify suspects - and on Facebook
Train Kick Selfie Guy is set to scoop up to $250,000 thanks to his viral video - so how can you cash in on your candid moments?

Viral videos: Cashing in on candid moments

Train Kick Selfie Guy Jared Frank could receive anything between $30,000 to $250,000 for his misfortune - and that's just his cut of advertising revenue from being viewed on YouTube
The world's fastest elevators - 20 metres per second - are coming soon to China

World's fastest elevators coming soon to China

Whatever next? Simon Usborne finds out from Britain's highest authority on the subject
Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture that causes men to miss out on seeing their children

Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture

The organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills, a chief operating officer who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group that now boasts more than 3,000 members
Ian Herbert: Manchester United broken so badly they need a big personality to carry out overhaul

United broken so badly they need a big personality to carry out overhaul

The size of the rebuild needed at Old Trafford is a task way beyond Ryan Giggs, says Ian Herbert
Mark Schwarzer: Chelsea keeper aims to seize unlikely final chance

Mark Schwarzer: Chelsea keeper aims to seize unlikely final chance

The 41-year-old calmed his nerves to perform a classic 'Superman act' when he replaced Petr Cech in Madrid. One clean sheet later, he is now determined to become a club hero
Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?