Atlas F1

Dear Atlas, About this Jacques...

by Sandra Sperounes, England
For the past two years, I have quietly held my breath as one person or another hurls barb after barb at Jacques Villeneuve. "He's not as fast as Damon Hill." "He's not as naturally-gifted as Michael Schumacher." "He's too cocky." "He's irrational." Blah, blah, blah.

Quite frankly, I've had enough. As a fellow Canadian, it is time to speak out. We may not be a nation of F1 fans, but some of us are passionate about the sport and are tired of the relentless criticisms. There's no one to defend him against Murray Walker's wild rantings, but at least I can try to correct some of Mazen Baradhy's perceptions.

So, young Villeneuve shows little respect to his highly-regarded team-mate. Poor Heinz-Harald. I'm sure he's suffered many sleepless nights trying to devise ways to win Jacques' affections. Come on. This is Formula One. Drivers are not in it to make friends. Their goal is to win. Why should they care what their team-mates think about them? They want their TEAMS to respect them, not their fellow drivers. It's all fine and well if a driver is admired by his colleagues, but if his team is not willing to back him up and give him the necessary support -- what's the point? At least Frentzen has received the same -- if not more -- attention than Villeneuve from the Williams organization. You can't say that about Eddie Irvine and Ferrari.

Having said that, I'm not quite sure Villeneuve truly holds Frentzen in such low-esteem. And I don't think Villeneuve is as arrogant as most people would like to believe -- how would you react if you constantly had microphones thrust in your face? Or had to answer the same damn, boring questions day in, day out? Sooner or later, your brain will switch to auto-pilot, your emotions will disappear and you will come across as cold and selfish.

Unfortunately, F1 has become a media circus. And Villeneuve -- and the rest of the drivers -- are the victims of uncontollable media hype. What better way to sell tickets, magazines, etc. than to create "good guys" and "bad boys" and play up rivalries between the two factions? Let's face it, most people enjoy the tension and battles, whether grounded in reality or not. I bet Bernie Ecclestone also enjoys this type of coverage -- particularly as he's planning to float F1 on the stock market. More tension, more press, more fans, more money in his pockets. What a formula.

Fans want someone to hate -- and at the moment, a young Canadian upstart is the best driver to pick on. It's impossible to hate Damon Hill, he's having such a pathetic season. Same goes with Jean Alesi, who can no longer be described as "mercurial." (Take note, Murray.) And Michael Schumacher, well, he's above that now. But don't forget, he was once despised by many fans. "He's too arrogant." "He's not Ayrton Senna." You get the picture. Of course, nowadays, no one dares to say a bad word about the exalted one.

As for the whole question of FIA's new safety regulations, I tend to agree with Villeneuve. And so do a few other drivers. If you read the latest issue of Grand Prix Action, you'll discover both Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard are not all too keen on the regulations. But of course, THEY aren't as self-absorbed as Villeneuve. Only Jacques has the attitude problem. Only he deserves to be chastised for his views.

Actually, I think he should be congratulated. In a sport where drivers must watch what they say as not to offend teams or sponsors, Villeneuve took a gamble and spoke his mind. On behalf of Jacques, I am doing the same.

Sandra Sperounes
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