DRS, Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel have one thing in common: In the past few days, they’ve all been criticised by Jacques Villeneuve. The 1997 World Champion clearly has no problem with speaking his mind and is, in that respect, a breath of fresh air in the PR-centric world of Formula One.
DRS, the system that allows a chasing driver to reduce drag and therefore increase straight-line performance, was introduced in 2010 to make overtaking easier. But critics of the system believe that DRS makes overtaking too easy and, in Villeneuve’s words, “It destroys every good battle.” Villeneuve’s comment is fair enough, as DRS makes defending practically impossible on most circuits. It cannot however be denied that DRS has dramatically increased on-track action, and it is therefore not likely to disappear any time soon.
Perhaps unexpectedly, Villeneuve has taken aim at Mercedes for not retaining Michael Schumacher. Villeneuve beat Schumacher to the 1997 World Championship after an incident in the final race of the season where Schumacher deliberately drove into Villeneuve’s Williams. Villeneuve suggested that Schumacher should have stayed with the Silver Arrows to partner Lewis Hamilton and was quoted by yallaf1.com as saying, “I don’t understand. Hamilton-Schumacher would be much better than what they do have for next year.” There were rumours of a possible Hamilton-Schumacher pairing for 2013, but that was before Schumacher announced his retirement from the sport.
Most recently, Villeneuve has criticised Sebastian Vettel, saying the current World Champion “reacts like a child” when under pressure and is only able to win from the front of the grid. While the accusation of winning only from the front has followed Vettel for a while, he has produced a a few superb drives through the field, including at the last race in Abu Dhabi where he finished third after starting from the pitlane. Villeneuve, however, cited incidents in the Abu Dhabi race where Vettel showed a lack of maturity, including contact with Bruno Senna early in the race and a crash into a trackside sign-board during the first safety car period.
While Villeneuve’s opinions can be debated, that does not diminish their value. Formula One needs prominent figures to be outspoken in order to push the sport forward. Villeneuve, as a former World Champion, knows what he is talking about when it comes to Formula One, and is thankfully prepared to speak his mind.