Former Formula 1 world champion (1997) Jacques Villeneuve apparently has the inside track on a seat at the reborn Lotus team. Villeneuve has already paid a visit to the factory, and reports leaking to the press indicate that negotiations are underway.
Nothing has been made official, however, and Lotus CEO Riad Asmat was quoted in The Star as saying, “We will name two drivers and a reserve. Negotiations are still going on.”
Villeneuve is optimistic about his prospects, however, and is acting on the assumption that he’ll be taking a place on the grid in 2010. He’s embarked on a grueling fitness program with his former trainer, Dr. Erwin Gollner, who also trains Nico Rosberg. Villeneuve has said publicly that he wouldn’t be going to this extreme if he weren’t confident of obtaining a race seat next season.
Villeneuve has at least one prominent supporter for his return to Formula 1. Francois Dumontier, whose Octane Racing Group Inc. will be sole promoter of the Montreal Grand Prix next year, has indicated he will do whatever he can to help his fellow Canadian return to the F1 grid. As reported in The Montreal Gazette, Dumontier said, “I can’t deny that if Jacques is back in an Formula One car it will help the Grand Prix. People here love him. We saw how popular he is when he raced NASCAR here. I would be fan the No. 1 if Jacques is back in a Lotus car and if we can help him, that’s what we’ll do.”
It remains to be seen what sort of assistance Dumontier and Octane Racing could provide to slide their favorite son into a Lotus cockpit. In Formula 1, the bottom line is usually money. While it’s unlikely that Villeneuve would ever demean himself by becoming a pay-to-play driver, it’s possible that a marquee name like his would help attract the sponsorship money sorely needed by a fledgling team like Lotus. Perhaps Dumontier might be in a position to help broker a deal with a Canadian sponsor.