• Italian team to seek entry as 13th team on grid
• Former champion aims to return after five-year gap
The former Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve is linking up with Italy’s Durango in a bid to return to Formula One next season, according to the team’s owner, Ivone Pinton.
Pinton told the 422race.com website that Durango had joined forces with the 39-year-old Canadian, who last raced in Formula One in 2006, and Villeneuve Racing to seek an entry as the 13th team on the starting grid.
“I really hope together we will find a place,” he said. “We still don’t know where the car would be built, but the team’s base will definitely be ours, in the Veneto [a region in the north-east of Italy],” added Pinton, who ran Villeneuve’s car in the Dubai-based Speedcar series until it folded last year. “As well as being the driver, I’m sure he will make a useful contribution to the company. I think he’s preparing a job to do after he hangs up his helmet.”
Durango announced in April that they would seek the 13th slot, although that was met with some scepticism due to the outfit dropping out of the GP2 support series last year due to financial problems.
The governing body the FIA is expected to decide later this month whether any of the applicants has what it takes to participate. Several big names in motorsport, such as Prodrive, Lola and GP2 frontrunners ART, have already ruled out a bid for financial reasons.
Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion with Williams as well as a winner of the Indy 500 and CART series, told the BBC that he was “working hard on an F1 project” but would not give details. He had been linked earlier this year to a drive for Serbian-backed Stefan GP, who had hoped to use cars designed by Toyota before the Japanese manufacturer pulled out at the end of last season, but they failed to secure a place.
The Canadian won 11 races in a Formula One career that declined after he left Williams at the end of 1998 to join the new BAR team. Dropped by BAR at the end of 2003, he made a three-race comeback with Renault in 2004 and then secured a drive with BMW-Sauber for 2005 before again leaving during the 2006 season to make way for Poland’s Robert Kubica.
His former rival the seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher is making a comeback with Mercedes this season after three years out at the age of 41.