Villeneuve faces up to Ferrari challenge

Motor racing
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The Independent Online
Jacques Villeneuve, the pre-season favourite for the Formula One world championship, believes complacency has cost his Williams team dearly and that he now must work harder to revive his title challenge in the British Grand Prix on Sunday.

Villeneuve has fallen off the pace in recent weeks, allowing Michael Schumacher to steal a 14-point advantage in his Ferrari. "This is obviously a very important race for us," Villeneuve said. "But I am reasonably confident. We went well in testing at Silverstone and I feel sure we can achieve a good result. We need one as we have to cut the gap.

"We went very well at the start of the year, perhaps too well," the Canadian added. "It meant the team started to concentrate on next year's car, the 1998 one with the new regulations, instead of working on developing the new one.

"Maybe we got caught out because it allowed Ferrari in particular to catch up. Now we have got our work cut out to stay in the fight and it is important we do well at Silverstone."

While Villeneuve plots a comeback on Williams' "home" track, the closest to their Grove base in Oxfordshire, Schumacher goes for a third successive victory in his challenge for a third world title in four years.

"I have never won at Silverstone," Schumacher said. "That is something I would like to correct as soon as I can. For me, it would be something special to win at Silverstone, but of course it would also be another big boost to my championship chances."

Schumacher said he did not expect to lead by 14 points at the half-way stage this season, but admitted: "The team has made fantastic progress with the car in recent weeks, both in reliability and performance."

This year's race is on a revised 5.14-kilometre (3.19-mile) track and should be the fastest race of the season so far. "It is a good compromise between speed and safety and I expect our car to go well there," said Villeneuve's team-mate, Heinz-Harald Frentzen. "I hope I can bring the team their 100th win on the track where they won their first."