Sometimes you just have to take the opportunity when it’s presented to you…
As the morning session drew to a close on day one of pre-season testing at Donington Park, I decided to go in search of someone I could ask about a possible interview with 1997 Formula 1 World Champion and Venturi’s new signing, Jacques Villeneuve. I had hoped to speak with Jacques at some point during testing, but as Season Two’s high profile signing and a driver never shy of giving an opinion or two, I knew his name would be in high demand. However, as I peered in through the back of the teams garage looking for someone to talk to, I found none other than the man himself stood in front of me looking over his new all-electric race car. Jacque’s car had experienced a minor issue and come back to the pits to be checked over. As he broke away from the conversation with his engineer and walked in my direction, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and asked whether he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions for the site. I felt I had sprung this on him somewhat and quite honestly expected the brush off, but I got the exact opposite. Full of enthusiasm he walked with me to the front of the garage away from the noise of the mechanics and we began discussing the latest chapter in his motor racing career…
So why Formula E Jacques?
Why not? (he laughed)… It’s a very professional, international championship that take place in great downtown locations; and I’ve always loved street courses. Last year I was watching the races and I was angry I wasn’t there… it was exciting and the level of drivers was very good. It’s a series that can only progress with the technology and you can be a part of that progress. Right now I don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t be a part of this.
So what are your impressions now having driven the car?
Today I only did half a lap because we had a little issue but we had a test last week and I was impressed. Of course it doesn’t have the horsepower of say Formula 1, but that’s not what it’s supposed to be. You have to be very intricate to go fast and to get the last couple of tenths, it’s very difficult. You have to know how to do that without wasting any energy. That’s really cool.
Is that what surprised you most? The energy management and how to exploit maximum power from the battery pack?
Yeah it’s a mixture of both, because if you can get the car to go quick over one lap and you are able to do it smoothly, then it becomes easier to save energy as well.
And what about the noise?
I don’t mind. I’m quite a big gamer actually so I’m used to playing on TV without noise as there are kids sleeping or something. You get used to using different references, although what is confusing is that at low speed you can hear the engine but as soon as you go up in speed you hear the wind and not the engine. You have to rely on the shift lights and that at first was really weird.
Why Venturi? Why this team?
Well we’ve got a good background. I grew up in Monaco so I’ve always known Gildo Pastor (the owner of Venturi Automobiles) through the years so there was a good easy link there. That’s where the energy gelled so we went testing and that went great. I think the past certainly helped too.
And speaking of Monaco, of course Formula E will be back there the following season…
Yes that’s a track I haven’t won on, so to go racing there again would be good!
How about a home race in Canada?
Yeah absolutely, although not in Winter! *laughs* I think in the first year a lot of people were just waiting to see where the sport was going; but now the level of excitement is high enough that everybody wants to be involved.
You’ve been quite critical of Formula 1 in recent years, with features such as DRS and highly degradable tyres used to create what some may look at as artificial racing. Formula E of course has #FanBoost, how do you feel about that?
Well yes that’s the one thing that racing wise I’m not a fan of. But It’s small, it’s only twice a race if you have it on your car and that’s it, it’s the only gimmick; certainly a lot less than you have in Formula 1.
Can we expect to see you on twitter trying to grab that boost from the fans?
*laughs* Well I’ve never tweeted in my life. I dunno, the problem is once you get into that you can’t stop, you have to make it look like you’re a very social person and you have to be friends with this guy and say Happy Birthday to this other person that you don’t even know and that’s not the type of thing I enjoy, you know? I mean Twitter will be used, but for lap times and information. All that other stuff, I’m not comfortable with.
I asked him a further question or two about possible wet running and other such things before I thanked him for his time and let him get back to his car.
Jacques has always appeared to me a very opinionated, outspoken guy and going into the conversation I hadn’t quite known what to expect; but I needn’t have worried. Approachable and at ease straight away, his energy and excitement at being a part of Formula E was evident throughout. His answers about being a very private family guy, I found open and insightful into his true character. A great personality to have on the grid, he simply says it as he sees it and you can’t really ask for anything else.
Written by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1