Jacques Villeneuve: Daniel Ricciardo in F1 to “smile in commercials”

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“The Festival of Sport” has just ended in Trento, Italy from October 12 to 15, 2023. Among the highly anticipated guests at the event was Jacques Villeneuve.

The former racing driver and 1997 F1 World Champion with Williams spoke with Federica Masolin, Sky Sport F1 presenter, about his love for racing, his desire to step into a single-seater – which is still intense to this day – and the sacrifices required to be a driver.

Speaking of the drivers who populate the paddock today, Villeneuve gave his opinion on the Prancing Horse driver Carlos Sainz, as well as Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

“Ferrari’s moment is not good, but this is part of its history, there are better moments and other cycles without victories. I like Sainz, because he always improves and has always helped the teams he raced for.”

Where is the line between the mistake that makes one grow and improve and the irreparable mistake that costs one Championship position? For Villeneuve, it remains important to let drivers operate freely, and even and especially to make mistakes.

“But drivers today are too protected, they should be left more free, even to make mistakes.”

In true Villeneuve style, he pulled no punches as he slated F1 returnee Daniel Ricciardo. He’s labelled the Australian as a guy who is in the sport to smile for adverts, while believing Fernando Alonso continues to show the hunger he’s had since joining the grid in 2001.

“I admire Fernando Alonso, because he is hungry. That’s the difference that makes a great driver. To the kids who want to be drivers today I would ask: are you doing it for passion or because you want to be Ricciardo and smile in commercials?”

For Villeneuve, fierceness is a point that unites two drivers at opposite points in their careers: Alonso and Verstappen. The passion and determination that brings one driver back to the track even after retirement and makes the other truly unbeatable.

“Red Bull? It’s wrong to say it’s unbeatable. The unbeatable one is Verstappen. His strength? He was never a kid, he was mature even when he was little. He was created to be a champion, his father was very hard on him. The truth is that today Verstappen does not have a single weak aspect.

Photo Credit: Williams Racing