1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has made a surprising prediction about who will win this year’s Formula 1 title.
Ferrari kicked off the sport’s all-new regulations era with pole position for Charles Leclerc – and his teammate Carlos Sainz third behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
When asked for his 2022 title pick, Villeneuve told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “I’d say Sainz.
“Last year he proved to be very calm, complete, even if he doesn’t have the speed of Leclerc. But perhaps the explanation for that is that, without a winning Ferrari in his hands, Charles tended to overdo it.
“Now, definitely with a fast car, I am convinced that he will drive more calmly. Who knows if a battle between the two of them will open up now.”
French-Canadian Villeneuve clearly thinks it could be Sainz, 27, who emerges the victor from a tough internal team battle.
“It’s nice for them to have these kinds of problems,” said the 50-year-old. “Both are there to win. Both have strengths and weaknesses.
“The difference is that one has a contract for many years and is protected, while the other is not. So it’s more important for Sainz to win.”
Villeneuve admitted, however, that Ferrari’s driver equality may be a disadvantage for the Italian team.
“Having two drivers who can win is a help when you have a car that is not fast enough,” he said. “But when you are ready to win the championship, a situation like Red Bull or Mercedes have with the drivers is better.”
The former Williams driver was also asked if Mercedes’ early problems in 2022 could convince Lewis Hamilton to call it a day after this season.
“I don’t know him well enough to understand what’s on his mind,” said Villeneuve. “He certainly wants the eighth title – one of the last records.
“Lewis also wants to build his image in America, and this is only possible by winning.”
Villeneuve, however, named Alpine as the biggest disappointment of 2022 so far.
“They tried to make a car that is fast even if it is fragile. Instead they made a car that breaks and is also slow,” he marvelled.
Finally, Villeneuve slammed F1’s obsession with overtaking, which was a core motivator behind the radically different technical regulations this year.
“I don’t understand this desire to have more overtaking, more overtaking, more overtaking,” he said.
“We’ve seen more overtaking in the past 10 years than in the 50 years before that. F1 should understand that fans aren’t asking for an infinite amount of overtaking. They just want to see battles.
“Sometimes we think a race was good because there were three fantastic overtakes for the win or the championship. Not 100 overtakings on the straight because of DRS.
“What does that give us? Nothing,” Villeneuve concluded.