Villeneuve marks 25th anniversary of F1 title win with ‘incredible’ test run at Monza
Jacques Villeneuve recently returned to the wheel of a Formula 1 car to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his title win, with Alpine giving him the opportunity to try out their 2021 contender.
After a fierce battle against Michael Schumacher, which ended with a dramatic collision at the season finale in Jerez, Villeneuve won the 1997 crown for the then Renault-powered Williams team – the French manufacturer claiming six consecutive constructors’ and five drivers’ titles as an F1 engine supplier between 1992 and 1997.
On September 14, some 25 years on from his championship triumph, Villeneuve took to the Monza circuit for a run in Alpine’s A521 car, which Esteban Ocon piloted to victory in the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix.
According to the team, Villeneuve completed 18 “faultless” laps of the Temple of Speed, with regular driver Ocon on hand to give the Canadian first-hand insight into modern F1 power unit and car behaviour.
In another reunion, Villeneuve spent time working with Alpine Sporting Director Alan Permane, who served as his race engineer when he moved across to Alpine’s predecessor team, Renault, in 2004.
Villeneuve’s test was filmed by CANAL+ France, with a full-length feature set to be broadcast during the CANAL+ pre-show for the Singapore Grand Prix on October 2.
“Testing the 2021 Alpine F1 car at Monza was an incredible experience. The last F1 car I drove was in 2006 and the cornering speed of the modern cars is unbelievable,” said Villeneuve, who won 11 Grands Prix and made 163 F1 starts across a career that began in the mid-1990s and stretched to the mid-2000s.
“It was fun to work with engineers and team, taking it seriously – it brought back many memories. I drove three races for the team in 2004 and even saw some familiar faces.
“It’s not every day you can drive an F1 car in your 50s and the time spent in the garage and driving around Monza was total bliss. The professional approach Alpine had made during that test was amazing and a memory now forever inked.”
Permane added: “It was a real pleasure to welcome Jacques to Alpine for a short time at Monza. Many of the team remember his 1997 win and some were there when he raced for Renault in 2004, myself included!
“Jacques approached the day very humbly; wishing to learn and fit in to do the best job he possibly could. He was exceptionally professional and chipped away at the performance and times throughout the day.
“He can be very proud that he was not far off the lap time from last year’s race – it shows that a thoroughbred champion never quite loses the magic touch!”