It is seven seasons since Jacques Villeneuve's career in F1 petered out and 16 years since the last of his 11 career wins but he continues to have the desire to race …it's just that others are less keen on his participation. In NASCAR, his reputation as a former F1 world champion counts for nothing.
Even with those who know what he achieved in F1, he's not popular. "This year, we don't have Jacques Villeneuve over here to drive us crazy," Nelson Piquet Jr. said at the start of the season.
Villeneuve took part in the NASCAR Sprint Series at Sonoma Raceway in California at the weekend and his even being there brought withering comments from pundit and fellow drivers. "Train wreck," driver Clint Bowyer said on the eve of the race. "Extremely fast train, but usually ends up derailed, somehow. We've all seen what happened in those Nationwide races and it was too bad because it seemed to be one common denominator in a lot of the cautions."
Bowyer's acerbic comment was made with reason; in almost a dozen races Villeneuve has earned a reputation, and not a good one, as a result of several collisions. The most recent took out US racing's darling Danica Patrick and, as Villeneuve admitted, "that was the worst thing you can do in racing …it doesn't matter ultimately how or why it happened, that's enough to create this image and now I am stuck with it".
Patrick was not in a forgiving mood. "After all the things that have happened, it's hard to have any respect for someone like that. I have respect for his career, but I can't respect him for what he does to others on the race track."
His drive at the weekend came with the struggling Phoenix Racing but cynics pointed out that other events in the USA and Europe meant there were not many alternatives. Not only that, with the team close to folding, it needed all the publicity it could get, good or bad.
Villeneuve's race was ended by mechanical issues … but at least he stayed out of trouble.