Ex-F1 champion sacked by team while in hospital for daughter’s birth

Jacques Villeneuve has competed in every round of the WEC so far this season for Vanwall.

1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve should currently be in his final preparations for next weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours; however, the Canadian recently discovered by his side’s press release that he’d been replaced for the prestigious event.

Villeneuve tested Vanwall’s hypercar towards the end of 2022 and was awarded with a spot in their team for the World Endurance Championship (WEC), with him having competed in three races this season for the side.

However, Vanwall have decided to replace him with Tristan Vautier for Le Mans, an event he finished second at back in 2008 whilst driving for Peugeot.

The Canadian insists he only discovered the news after seeing the team’s press release, with the ex-F1 driver having received no “official communication” to say that he’d been dropped.

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Villeneuve also questioned the timing of Vanwall’s announcement, with him noting how it “strangely” came around the time when the team knew he was expecting the birth of his daughter.

“I am deeply disappointed to have learned of my replacement for the upcoming Le Mans 24 Hours, through a public announcement released by the Vanwall Racing Team ByKolles on May 25th, 2023.

“To date, I have not received any official communication from the team, which is even more surprising given that I am still under contract to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

“The timing of the release strangely coincided with my impending arrival at the hospital for the birth of our baby daughter, which had been planned for May 26th. ByKolles was well aware of this personal family event, rendering me unable to respond or address this sudden announcement.

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“As a racing family, we have always successfully balanced our personal lives with our professional careers, with racing always holding a prominent place. In fact, my preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours event was meticulous and well-organised. Considerable time and effort were dedicated to achieving peak physical and mental readiness for this extraordinary challenge that I was really looking forward to.

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“Following victories in the Indy 500, IndyCar and the F1 championship, the Le Mans 24 Hours holds special significance for me. Consequently, I am deeply disheartened that the opportunity to participate has been unjustly and arbitrarily denied.”

Villeneuve has since decided to withdraw from the remainder of this season’s WEC.

“Instead, I will redirect my focus and energies towards preparing for a more successful and professionally fulfilling 2024 racing season,” he added.