Jacques Villeneuve set for F1 comeback as team owner

By Gareth Llewellyn
Jacques VilleneuveJacques Villeneuve (Photo: Freewheeling Daredevil)

Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve is set to launch his own team alongside two controversial figures from the world of Formula 1.

The former world champion made it known earlier in the week that he was looking to return to the sport as a team owner, but few details were given about his financial backing.

It has now emerged that technical director Pat Symonds and disgraced former Renault boss Flavio Briatore are to aid the Canadian in his bid to become the 13th F1 team.

Both Briatore and Symonds are banned from being directly involved in F1 until 2013 due to their involvement in the ‘crashgate’ scandal, but could operate in the background bringing people together to head up the Villeneuve project, with a view to joining in an official capacity when their ban expires.

So far, Villeneuve has jumped through every FIA hoop in place to become an F1 team, and is expected to be one of the shortlisted names on the FIA’s entry list ahead of their announcement at the end of this month.

Villeneuve had previously tried to come back to F1 with the Serbian Stefan GP project last year following the collapse of USF1, but their entry was too late to take the grid in time for March.

Unlike the Stefan GP team, Villeneuve can boast a UK-based infrastructure. It is understood that personnel from the former Arrows and Super Aguri team are likely to see the team based at Leafield, near Witney in Oxfordshire, the site of the Arrows development centre and later Super Aguri’s headquarters.

French GP2 team ART had been favourites to take the 13th place but withdrew citing “insufficient financial guarantees”.

Villeneuve Racing’s other contenders are believed to be Basque-based Epsilon Euskadi, Italian GP2 team Durango, or the mysterious American Cypher Group.

Epislon Euskadi have experience in other forms of motorsport, including Le Mans, World Series by Renault, and Formula Renault. Team principal Joan Villadelprat has over 30 years experience in F1 including time with McLaren, Ferrari, and Benneton.

Durango are an experienced Formula 3000 and GP2 team and have been in motorsport since the early 1980s. Recent graduates to F1 include Virgin Racing’s Lucas di Grassi and Hispania’s Karun Chandhok, but they have suffered financial problems in recent years.

The Cypher Group is behind the rebirth of USF1—albeit without Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor—but little is known about the new backers and whether they can provide suitable infrastructure to make the grid.

The USF1 team is now disqualified from FIA-sanctioned events following their failure to take the grid in 2010 and it seems unlikely that the governing body would allow Cypher to take the grid without officials visiting their facilities at an early stage.

Villeneuve has a good chance of becoming the 13th team. His main rivals are Epsilon Euskadi, whose experience in motorsport racing coupled with the experience of Villadelprat and Sergio Rinland in F1 could be enough to defeat him on this occasion.

Rumours have suggested that Durango could drop out and go into partnership with Villeneuve, with staff transferring to Leafield.

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