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Villeneuve gets back on track with Sauber

Villeneuve will be wearing Sauber colours next year

(Keystone Archive)

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve will drive for Switzerland’s Sauber motor racing team in next season's Formula One championship.

Sauber said on Wednesday that the Canadian, who has not raced for almost a year, had signed a two-year contract as teammate to Brazilian Felipe Massa.

“I have to admit that signing a former world champion is something truly special for me,” said team boss Peter Sauber in a statement.

“However, I want to make it clear that this was not the decisive factor. When I was talking to Jacques, I could feel that he is absolutely keen and committed to return to Formula One.

“He was always a great fighter and I am convinced that together we can achieve a lot.”

Villeneuve, who beat a number of worthy contenders to the Sauber seat, will join in November, probably after he has competed for Renault in the next three races. Sauber driver Giancarlo Fisichella is joining the French team next season.

“I am extremely excited to be back in Formula One, and I appreciate the confidence everybody is showing in me,” said Villeneuve in a statement.

“It is my goal to work with Peter and his team to bring them forward in the championship during the next two seasons.”

Indianapolis

The son of the legendary Gilles Villeneuve last raced in Formula One at Indianapolis in the United States on September 28, 2003, and left Honda-powered BAR before the end of the season.

Although he has stayed away from racing since then, the 33-year-old Canadian has plenty of admirers – including Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone – who have been pushing hard for him to return.

With Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher already crowned champion and more dominant than ever, the imminent return of a household name like Villeneuve promises to spice up the remainder of a season already being dismissed as one of the more boring of recent years.

Former world champion

Villeneuve, one of the highest-earning drivers in Formula One during his days at BAR, won the championship with Renault-powered Williams in 1997.

In his Formula One career he has won 11 races in 130 starts, the last victory being with Williams in 1997.

Sauber have enjoyed mixed fortunes this season, with their best result coming in Belgium last month when the team's drivers finished fourth and fifth.

The team, based in Hinwil near Zurich, currently lie in sixth place in the constructors’ championship.

Earlier this week Sauber confirmed they would be using Ferrari engines again next season.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Villeneuve was Formula One champion in 1997.
He has won 11 grand prix races during his career.
He last raced in Formula One in September 2003.
He is set to drive the last three races of this season with Renault.

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