Venturi pulled off one of the biggest coups of the closed season when it signed Jacques Villeneuve to partner Stephane Sarrazin for season two.
When he took to the test track in pre-season, Villeneuve became the first Formula 1 World Champion to drive one of the all-electric racers. Naturally, there was a lot of interest generated by having the 1997 title winner in the field, but the 45-year-old was destined to not see out the season.
His inauspicious Formula E career had a troubled start when a technical problem meant he missed the second practice session of the Beijing ePrix. Having not driven the car around the Olympic Park track in full 200kw mode, he did a good job in qualifying to line up 12th for his Formula E debut.
He had slipped down the order to 15th when he was collected by the Team Aguri car of Antonio Felix da Costa. Villeneuve was able to rejoin the race, but any hopes of a points finish was over and he finished a lapped 14th.
The unique timetable at Putrajaya means there’s just a single practice session, and Villeneuve was back in 17th place. He made a big improvement in qualifying to once again line up 12th, just a couple of tenths off of cracking the top 10.
He survived a first-corner tangle with Jean-Eric Vergne and Nick Heidfeld and had worked his way into the points by the time of the car-change pitstops. But a lengthy stop dropped him from seventh to the tail of the field. He took advantage of the high rate of attrition during the crazy closing stages to climb to 11th, just 5 seconds off the top 10.
Punta would prove to be Villeneuve’s final outing, and he went out with a bang, but not the sort of bang he was hoping for. A crash in qualifying meant the team were unable to get the car ready for the race and he was withdrawn from the event.
By setting the 11th-best time in second practice there were signs that a point was a possibility, but when he crashed his rebuilt car again in the test day that followed the race the writing was on the wall and Villeneuve’s stint in Formula E was over.
“It was just a shame that there wasn’t time to build anything up, that’s all,” he says. “That was a bit disappointing, but that’s just the way life goes.
“Before the season started I spent a lot of time working with the team working on different ideas – electronics, steering, dampers, everything – using all the experience I had from Indycar on this type of track – bumpy and close walls – and it looked like it was on its way up. But obviously it was frustrating to not get the results when we had the pace. But that’s the way racing goes, there are good days and bad days and sometimes the whole season can be full of bad days, sometimes you can’t control all of this.
“The crash could have been lack of experience, but also from the team. It was somehow forgotten that the brake bias was with regen and not without regen. We only thought about it after qually, and that was just annoying because definitely someone in the team should have thought about it, because they had a year’s experience. But ultimately it wasn’t even that big a crash. It was 70km/h and it did the tub – it was the smallest crash I’ve had!
“I would love to come back. The racing was fun, the tracks were great in parts – in Malaysia the track was awesome – the championship is professional and there’s a great bunch of drivers. It was a worthwhile experience and it would be great to have a proper shot at it.”
Season two stats:
Championship position: 20th
Wins: 0 (best result: 11th)
Poles: 0 (best qualifying: 12th)
Fastest laps: 0