Thanks Jacques Villeneuve!

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The 2007 Formula One season will start without seven times World Champion Michael Schumacher, but earlier during this 2006 season, F1 already lost another great champion: Jacques Villeneuve. Villeneuve will be sorely missed by the world of F1 and his many fans all over the world!

'From the very beginning, the marriage between Jacques Villeneuve and the BMW Sauber F1 team looked ill-starred. The two parties never really appeared to be in love. After the race in Hungary it was announced that the contract between the BMW Sauber F1 team and Villeneuve was being ended immediately by mutual agreement. The chance of the 35-year-old Canadian Jacques Villeneuve ever getting behind the wheel of a Formula One racing car again is therefore small. For the time being his track record reads 11 victories and 23 podium places from 162 starts over 11 years. Not a bad record, but not an outstanding one either. And yet the 1997 Formula One world champion will be sorely missed: Below we list seven reasons why.

Lap One: My Helmet – My Colors – My Soul

For the uninitiated observer, it is difficult to tell the racing drivers apart in their fast cars. The cars look similar, and even the helmets that poke out of the cockpit are as alike as eggs in a box. With one exception: Jacques Villeneuve's helmet, with its gaudy colors, hardly gives the impression that it was the brainchild of calculating marketing experts. “Lots of people have said to me I should change the design, that this would be better for my image and would allow me to earn more money through merchandising,” JV has stated in an interview. “I take completely the opposite view. You only have one helmet and you should keep it for the whole of your life.” The stubborn Canadian and his helmet have pledged their eternal troth. As Villeneuve sees it, the helmet is like the soul of a racing driver. Which is why he has been wearing it since he was 18, deaf to all criticism. The colors have remained the same, exactly those he had to hand all those years ago when he created the design in question: “It was important for me to design my helmet myself, and not to go with something ready-made.”

Lap Two: Pop Star of the Racetrack

JV has often stood out. But this bothers him not one iota. The color of his hair has altered so often that to list all the changes would challenge the limits of any single article. When it comes to trips to the hairdresser, he has had no trouble keeping up with the likes of footballer David Beckham or pop star Robbie Williams. His hair has now rather thinned, and he has accordingly opted for less spectacular styles. His short sight is not something that worries his vanity, and he wears his nickel spectacles with panache. Fashion trends are of no interest to him. His racing overalls are a couple of sizes too large as a rule. Many people see this as a fashion gimmick, but he never tires of pointing out in interviews that this has a purely practical underlying reason. He simply feels better that way, needs the air circulating around him in order to breathe, and takes the view that it's not so much a case of his overalls being too large as those of his competitors simply being too small.

Lap Three: The Rebel Who Isn't

Being who he is, Jacques Villeneuve has frequently rubbed people up the wrong way with his honest and direct answers. Meaningless patter and reserved, diplomatic statements are simply not part of his communications armory. Nonetheless, he doesn't see himself as a rebel. He’s not interested in drawing attention to himself by making noise and causing scenes. He just tells it as it is. And he's not afraid to defend himself against the rebellious image that others like to foist upon him. “A rebel is someone who is simply against the establishment for the sake of being against it, and not because he has his own ideas. A rebel usually has no real reason for his behavior.” His speech is clear and direct, and he doesn't beat about the bush. And if he doesn't want to say anything, then he won't. Journalists often wait in vain for the words they want to hear. The ever-recurring questions about his father, for example, will always be met by the same standard phrases.

Lap Four: The Canadian Who Votes Swiss

When it comes to racing in Europe, Villeneuve prefers to travel with his own motorhome. Otherwise he feels most at home in an environment he knows. A racing driver like Villeneuve has to be on the road much of the time, however, and be at home wherever he is. Yet he is always drawn back to Villars-sur-Ollon in French-speaking Switzerland, to the place where he went to boarding school when he was young. Somewhere where he can enjoy peace and quiet and not be continually pestered. For the French-speaking Swiss, Jacques Villeneuve remains the greatest. Or at least for the transport company VMCV, who have the number “1” next to the name “Villeneuve” emblazoned on a number of their buses. For passengers of the line between Vevey and the small village of Villeneuve, nothing has changed since the former world champion's departure from Formula One.

Lap Five: Car, Listen to Me!

When it comes to the tuning of his car, Jacques Villeneuve has his own opinions. He contributes his own ideas, though these have driven many an engineer to distraction. He finds the electronic driving aids cumbersome. He simply doesn't like the whole electronic song and dance. If he had his way, they would have no part in his setup. But he’s a realist, and tries to make the best out of the situation. Villeneuve's unconventional ideas were also the source of much debate in the Sauber team last season. But his then racing engineer, Giampaolo Dall’Ara, provided emagazine with some mitigating words: “Working with Jacques is no more difficult than working with any other driver I’ve encountered in the past. He doesn't like driving a different car in every race. The philosophy of the team so far has been: ‘The car is set up to match the characteristics of the race circuit in question’. The driver plays the role of a craftsman who has to drive the car we have set up as fast as possible. With Jacques it’s different, he wants certain fixed settings that we are not allowed to play around with whether we're racing in Monaco or Monza. And sure enough, when we incorporated his wishes the car duly went even faster.”

Lap Six: Sing Me a Song

There's no doubt that JV is a man of many parts, with plenty of talent. He has just recorded his first song, which can be listened to on his homepage ( It can also be downloaded via the download portal iTunes. But as well as working away at his singing career, for many years he has also been a proud restaurant owner. The restaurant in question in the middle of Québec is called “Newtown”, the English translation of his surname. In a town where French is fiercely guarded as the spoken language, this is tantamount to an insult. But not content with crooning and catering, Villeneuve still has to fit in ice hockey. Oh yes, and then there’s skiing. But despite the evidence that this is a very busy man, even away from the race circuit, his heart still craves the whiff of petrol even today.

Lap Seven: A Heavy Mantle Although Jacques Villeneuve grew up amid the Formula One circus and used to accompany his father Gilles to race circuits when he was still just a child, for a long time it was unclear whether he would tread the same path. The mantle is a heavy one, for the name Villeneuve carries expectations. His father was one of the most charismatic Formula One personalities ever. Niki Lauda said of him: “He was the craziest devil I ever came across in Formula One. And yet so sensitive and lovable.” His all-or-nothing approach endeared him to many fans. A number of his traits are reflected in his son. And Villeneuve Junior managed something that his father never did: winning the World Championship.

Mission complete, Jacques! Thanks for the memories, and good luck for the future.'

Source Credit Suisse emagazine