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Villeneuve signs Sauber race deal 15 Sep 2004

Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) tests the Renault R24 for the first time. Formula One Testing, Silverstone, England, 15 September 2004. World © Capilitan/Sutton

Jacques Villeneuve, busy testing with Renault at Silverstone today, will race for Sauber next season, the Swiss team have announced.

Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion, has entered into a two-year agreement with Sauber commencing at the start of November. He will partner Felipe Massa for the team’s 2005 campaign, replacing the Renault-bound Giancarlo Fisichella.

"I am extremely excited to be back in Formula One with the Sauber Petronas team, and I appreciate the confidence everybody is showing in me,” said Villeneuve. “It is my goal to work with Peter (Sauber) and his team to bring them forward in the championship during the next two seasons.

“In my recent visit to Sauber I have been extremely impressed by the professionalism which is apparent throughout the factory. I am looking forward to seeing the results that will be developed by the state-of-the-art wind tunnel."

Expressing his enthusiasm about signing Villeneuve, team principal Peter Sauber added: "I have to admit that signing a former World Champion is something truly special for me. However, I want to make it clear that this was not the decisive factor. When I was talking to Jacques, I could feel that he is absolutely keen and committed to return to Formula One. He was always a great fighter and I am convinced that together we can achieve a lot.

“I fully realise that signing a former World Champion is also an obligation for the team to provide him with a car that meets his expectations. Sauber Petronas has made considerable progress this year, and I am confident that we are ready to tackle this challenge."

The announcement would appear to end Vitantonio Liuzzi’s hopes of racing for Sauber next season. The recently-crowned Formula 3000 champion is due to test for the team for the first time at Jerez on Thursday.

Villeneuve is also in action this week, at Silverstone, where he is testing for Renault. If all goes well he is expected to race for the French team in the final three grands prix of the season following Jarno Trulli’s departure.