1997 Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve insists his criticism of fellow Canadian Lance Stroll in the early stages of the 2017 season was warranted in light of the Williams rookie’s “average” performance.
Never afraid to speak his mind, Villeneuve had been a relentless critic of Stroll, as the 18-year-old struggled to find his feet following his fast-track graduation to motor racing’s premier category.
“I have been critical of [Lance] at the start of the season because his results were pretty average, simple as that,” Villeneuve told Le Journal de Montréal. “Why should I have been praising him? I am here to report facts, not defend a driver.
“He is free to interpret my comments any way he wants. When you are one second slower than your team-mate, you can’t say he is doing a brillant job. Why do people get offended by this statement. That’s the truth.”
After a challenging start to his 2017 campaign, Stroll heads to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix on the heels of back-to-back points finishes, including a stunning podium in Azerbaijan last time out.
Villeneuve, who has been working as a TV pundit for several years now, admits the Williams driver’s performance has been encouraging over the past two events, though in typical Jacques fashion he can’t help throwing barbs at Stroll again.
“I am the first to acknowledge his good results. In Montreal, he scored his first two points. That’s what he wanted to do for his home event. He was not very fast but he managed his race well. It took a lot of pressure off his back. At Baku, things went even better. There were retirements ahead of him but he kept his cool.
“I’d say he was actually the only driver not to make a mistake, so credit to him. It came in contrast to the start of the season when he was a bit erratic. That said, this does not erase his bad results prior to Montreal. And I have no regrets about what I said. Yes, it was a bit pathetic sometimes.”
Stroll has already stated he could not care less about what the “always negative” Villeneuve said of his performance.