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Villeneuve denies turning down Lotus F1 chance

Jacques Villeneuve has denied he threw away a good chance to return to formula one in 2011.

A French Canadian radio commentator had implied that the 1997 world champion was offered the Indycar drive in Lotus colours this year and would then have progressed to F1 when the sports car marque announced its 2011 tie-up with Renault.

“That was never discussed,” Villeneuve insisted, according to French language Rue Frontenac.

Late last year, the 39-year-old visited Lotus’ Norfolk headquarters for talks with his friend Gino Rosato.

“There was never any discussion of F1,” Villeneuve said.

“Everyone knows how hard I worked on my return to F1.  If the only thing I needed to do was spend a year in Indycar, I would have done it!

“The truth is that F1 only came into the plans of Lotus Cars in the last few months,” he explained.

Rosato, who for a long time worked in F1 with Ferrari before moving to Lotus as vice-president of corporate affairs, backed Villeneuve’s story.

“F1 was not in our plans when I spoke to Jacques about Indycar,” he said.  “I would have loved for him to race with us.  In my head, Villeneuve and Lotus was a natural fit but the planets were not aligned.”

Villeneuve agreed: “It’s true that we talked about Indycar, but Takuma Sato had already been hired as their first driver and I was asked to bring some of the budget that my partners at the time wanted to invest for F1.

“It was not an option,” he clarified.  “And Indycar and the Indy 500 — I’ve already done that.  And that was before the separation, when the series was more competitive.

“If I have to bring a budget, it will be for a new challenge like NASCAR, not to go back to something I have already ticked off and achieved,” added Villeneuve.

 © RIF | GMM