August 7, 2006

Former champion Villeneuve leaves F1

By Alan Baldwin

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - BMW Sauber parted company with Jacques
Villeneuve on Monday after replacing the 1997 Formula One world
champion with Poland's Robert Kubica in Sunday's Hungarian
Grand Prix.

The team said that the Canadian would not drive for them
again this season, a decision that looks sure to end the
35-year-old's grand prix career after 163 races and 11

"Following discussions last week, Jacques Villeneuve and
the BMW Sauber F1 team agreed to terminate their current
contract with immediate effect five races ahead of schedule,"
the statement said.

Villeneuve said the team had told him last week that they
wanted to try out Kubica and could offer him no assurances of a
drive after Hungary.

"This is really disappointing as I was looking forward to
working with BMW on longer terms -- going into next season
capitalizing on our common experiences," he said on his
personal Web site.

"I will now have more time to concentrate on future

BMW team boss Mario Theissen thanked Villeneuve for his
contribution in the German carmaker's first season since they
bought Sauber.

"Jacques has performed well for us this year, scoring the
team's first grand prix points in Malaysia," he said.

"However after Jacques's accident in the Hockenheim race,
the team decided to review its options for next year, including
assessing Robert Kubica in a race environment," added Theissen.

He said this "naturally impacted Jacques' position for the
remainder of this season" and BMW fully understood that "it is
difficult for Jacques to maintain his natural level of
commitment in circumstances of uncertainty."


Villeneuve crashed heavily in his last race, the German
Grand Prix at Hockenheim eight days ago. The team said last
week that he had told them he had a headache and could not race
in Hungary.

Few in Formula One, a sport awash with rumor and
speculation, believed that the driver was really unwell and
suspected that he would not be seen in a grand prix car again.

The Canadian has not won a race since his championship
season with Williams and his last podium finish was third place
with BAR, a team he joined from the outset in 1999, at
Hockenheim in 2001.

BMW were distinctly lukewarm about taking him on from this
season but in the end respected the two-year contract he signed
with Sauber in 2005.

Kubica, Poland's first Formula One driver, finished seventh
on his debut at a wet Hungaroring before he was disqualified
because his car was two kilos underweight at the finish due to
excessive tire wear.

Theissen was full of praise for the 21-year-old and hinted
strongly that he would continue in the race seat.

"In my view it was a perfect first race," he told Reuters
before the stewards' acted. "In the beginning it was a bit
slippery for him but then he dealt very well with the difficult

"There's not much more you can ask from a new guy. The best
things is that he himself is disappointed, so that's a good
promise for the future."