1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve thinks Alpine “will suffer” as a result of losing Fernando Alonso.
Canadian Villeneuve says he will be at fewer grands prix as a television pundit this year as he concentrates on his full-time return to racing – with Vanwall in the world endurance championship and Le Mans.
“I’m also going to be a dad for the sixth time in early June,” the 51-year-old told Le Journal de Montreal.
“I’m full time in WEC so I’ve reduced the number of grands prix to ten,” said Villeneuve, who works as a pundit for France’s Canal Plus.
He is keeping his expectations low for his return to full-time racing.
“We are a small team,” he said. “It’s not easy to fight against organisations with much less limited financial means than ours.
“But my job first and foremost is a racing driver – I’m not semi-retired as some claim. Health is excellent, my passion is intact and I’m not here to have fun.
“Racing is what I do best.”
Villeneuve says his ultimate objective is to become the first driver after Graham Hill to secure the ‘triple crown’ – a Le Mans victory in addition to his Indy 500 and Formula 1 championship titles.
“I want to be the second driver in history to accomplish this feat,” he said. “It would be a great accomplishment, but at the risk of repeating myself, it’s going to be difficult this year.
“But I am patient and I still have good years ahead of me.”
When asked about Formula 1, Villeneuve said he wasn’t too surprised when the 41-year-old Fernando Alonso made his return to the podium in Bahrain.
“We knew he was in the game in the testing in Bahrain,” he said. “But he was really impressive in his overtaking. At 41, age definitely matters.
“If you get to the point where you no longer have that desire and that will to take risks, you might as well quit. But Alonso has demonstrated that he is as hungry as he was 20 years ago.”
Renault-owned Alpine reportedly declined to match Aston Martin’s offer of a new multiple-year contract, with boss Otmar Szafnauer pointing at his age.
“It’s a big catch for Aston Martin,” Villeneuve said. “Alpine will suffer from his loss.”
Curiously, Villeneuve also spared his usual criticism for his countryman Lance Stroll – the son of Aston Martin team owner Lawrence Stroll.
“It was a very satisfying start to the season for him,” he said. “In Bahrain, he conceded very little to Alonso, without taking part in winter testing due to his injuries.
“Against all odds, he did a good job.”