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BMW Sauber retain Villeneuve 01 Dec 2005

Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, 1 September 2005

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve will be on the grid for BMW Sauber next season after he was confirmed as Nick Heidfeld’s team mate on Thursday. Villeneuve will have his first test with the new squad at Jerez in Spain next week.

Villeneuve made an initially low-key return to fulltime Formula One racing with Sauber this season and following BMW’s purchase of the team, there had been speculation that the Canadian may lose his seat. However, with his future now secure, he can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.

“Between 1999 and 2004 I experienced first-hand the difficulties and complexities involved in setting up a new team,” said Villeneuve, referring to his time with BAR. “But I’ve never been afraid of a challenge. Sauber was already a good team and now we also have the resources of BMW behind us. I will do everything I can to contribute to the success of the BMW Sauber F1 Team.”

Explaining the team’s decision to retain Villeneuve, BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen said: “We took a close look at Jacques’ performance level at the end of last season. After an extremely tough first half of the year, which showed that even a former world champion cannot come back after a period away and be competitive from day one, he got closer and closer to his team mate over the second half of the season. We are in no doubt that Jacques will make the BMW Sauber F1 Team stronger.”

Villeneuve, who now lives in Villars, Switzerland, made his Formula One debut with Williams in 1996. After winning the drivers’ title with them the following year, he switched to the all-new BAR squad. He was dropped at the end of 2003 and then made a three-race return with Renault at the end of last season before securing his 2005 drive with Sauber.