51-year-old ex-F1 champion to take part in Alpine test at Italian GP

Jacques Villeneuve won his world title at Williams with Renault power in 1997.

1997 world champion, Jacques Villeneuve, is set for a run out with Alpine after the Italian Grand Prix as part of Canal+’s Formula 1 coverage.

The Canadian won the IndyCar title in 1995 – back when it ran under its CART guise – winning 16 races in his two-year stint in the all-American series, before moving to F1 with Williams.

He immediately finished second in the championship in 1996 to Damon Hill before claiming the title in his second season, beating Michael Schumacher in the final round in Jerez.

The now 51-year-old spent another year with the British side in 1998, but slipped to fifth in the championship, before he moved on to BAR.

READ: McLaren concerned about trusting Oscar Piastri

Villeneuve would temporarily leave F1 at the end of 2003 after five years with the British American team, before contesting the final three races of the 2004 season with Renault following the dismissal of Jarno Trulli, who had won the Monaco Grand Prix that season.

The best part of two years with Sauber followed, but he left by mutual consent towards the end of 2006 despite having scored points four times that year, and he was replaced by Robert Kubica.

These days, Villeneuve works as a broadcaster with French channel, Canal+, and, having won his world title with Renault power, he will now team with Alpine for a test drive of last year’s car.

“It happened through the link with Canal+, French team and French TV, and I won 25 years ago with Renault,” he told Motorsport.com.

Article continues below

“So it’s an outing because of that, but it’s last year’s car in Monza and you cannot detune them, so it will be proper laps.

“I did three races with Fernando, so I do have a past with that team, and Alan Permane [now sporting director] was my engineer.

“This is super, super exciting, it’s crazy – it’ll be good to understand what these cars [are about] as well. 

“I tried the simulator, the modern cars are not impressive in the slow speed, but they’re incredible in high speed.

“I just have to make sure I have a good seat, it will be hell, because the G forces will be incredible. 

“The good thing is at you have long straight line so, physically, you can relax!”

It was put to the former world champion that the steering wheels on modern F1 cars are a lot more complex than the ones he used in his career, but as an avid video game player, this will not be an issue for him.

“Yeah, but everything becomes a habit,” explained Villeneuve.

“I’ve always been a gamer, not only on racing games, and once we get habits, you can do anything.

READ: Ex-F1 champion asks Ferrari chief strategist if he was even ‘watching the race’

“It’s when it’s not a habit that it becomes difficult, when you have to start looking at the steering wheel and think, ‘oh, what does that mean?’ that you don’t have the time. 

“But when it becomes a habit, it’s second nature, then it becomes easy.”

Villeneuve is not the only broadcaster to have a go in an F1 made in Enstone; David Croft and Richard Hammond were both given the pleasure previously, but a world champion will probably take to it a little more easily!