Former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has kicked sand on suggestions that he knocked back a good chance to return to Formula 1 with Lotus.
A French-Canadian commentator alluded that the 1997 championship winner was originally offered the IndyCar drive at KV Racing (backed by Lotus Cars) that went to F1 reject Takuma Sato, which could have translated to a return with the Lotus-backed Renault squad when the Malaysian-owned carmaker announced its recent decision to join forces with the Renault F1 team.
But Villeneuve has categorically denied any such deal – to use the IndyCar drive as a launchpad to F1 – was put on the table, telling the French language Rue Frontenac newspaper: “That was never discussed.”
Villeneuve had been thought of as a possible candidate for Tony Fernandes’ Lotus Racing outfit this year, with the rumours sparked when Villeneuve – who had also been linked with the abortive Stefan GP operation – paid a visit to the team’s Norfolk HQ.
This year, Villeneuve spent much of his efforts in an unsuccessful bid to return to the grid as a driver/owner in a collaboration with the Durango GP2 outfit to be the thirteenth and final outfit on the grid for 2011, but his application (along with that from Epsilon Euskadi) was rejected.
“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!” he told the newspaper.
“The truth is that F1 only came into the plans of Lotus Cars in the last few months,” he added.
Villeneuve did confirm, however, that he was offered a drive at KV Racing, but turned it down.
“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,” he added. “It was not an option.”
Villeneuve added that IndyCar is not a series that he harbours much interest in, having previously won the Indy 500 and the United States’ premier open-wheeler championship series en route to joining Formula 1 in 1996.
“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,” he concluded.
[Original image via LAT]