Former F1 champ Jacques Villeneuve has been informed that he will not be renewed by the British American Racing team for the 2004 Formula One season, his long time manager and mentor, Craig Pollock, announced today.
"We received a call from BAR Managing Director, Dave Richard, yesterday evening informing us of their decision," he said. "What is so disappointing is the fact that this team was built for and around Jacques, and he underwent all sorts of trials and tribulations over the years as BAR struggled to find its place in Formula One.
"Jacques never wavered, and his loyalty to British American Racing was constant. He had other opportunities, and no one would have blamed him for going elsewhere, but he preferred to see this project through despite a car that did not live up to its expectations."
The native of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, joined the team for its inaugural season in 1999, after winning the Formula One World Driver's championship with Williams. He moved into Formula One racing after two stellar seasons in CART, capturing that series' Rookie of the Year Award with the Player's Racing Team in 1994, and then winning the Driver's championship in 1995, the same year he triumphed in the fabled Indy 500.
"Our primary emotions right now are sadness and disappointment; Jacques has given everything to British American Racing in its first five years, and always with a view to building a team that would be front-of-the-grid some day," Pollock added.
Villeneuve and Pollock do not know if the impending announcement means that the Canadian driver will race or not in the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix.
"All we know at this time is that BAR Managing Director Dave Richards has informed us that Jacques will no longer be part of British American Racing in 2004."
Pollock said the race driver would take a few days to reflect on what this means for his career, and doesn't expect to meet with the media during the interim.