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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot