Villeneuve: Alpine should 'take a chance' on Doohan

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Jacques Villeneuve believes Alpine F1 should forget about hiring Pierre Gasly, let alone Daniel Ricciardo, and "take a chance" on academy member Jack Doohan.

Fernando Alonso's decision last month to switch his allegiance from Alpine to Aston Martin for 2023 has left a vacant seat at the Enstone squad alongside Esteban Ocon.

Team boss Otmar Szafnauer said recently that he had compiled a list of 14 drivers that could potentially fill the void, although Gasly and Ricciardo were at the outset the two most talked about candidates for the seat.

While the Aussie is a free agent, Gasly is contracted to Red Bull and AlphaTauri and would only be free to transfer to Alpine if his current employer succeeds in convincing the FIA to grant IndyCar star Colton Herta a superlicence exemption.

But Villeneuve questioned Alpine's efforts to lure Gasly to the team to race alongside Ocon.

"That’s a strange one, they already have a French driver," the Canadian told F1 TV last weekend at Monza.

"The two don’t get along, so don’t put them together, and he’s under contract and you have to move mountains to get him, so it doesn’t make sense.

"And Gasly hasn’t had a very good season in general."

While Ricciardo was immediately earmarked by pundits as a strong candidate to replace Alonso, the outgoing McLaren driver – who raced for the French team during two season before moving to Woking – is reportedly no longer among Alpine's top picks.

"Why should he be?" questioned Villeneuve. "He’s done two awful years at Renault, two even worse years at McLaren, that’s four years and how long has he been in F1 total?

"Almost half his F1 career has been bad and that’s when he’s had experience, so there’s no reason, especially for a team he has already driven for.

"It looks like the modern cars don’t suit his driving style because he was impressive at Red Bull, he did some amazing overtaking, he was ahead of Max [Verstappen] but Max was new to F1 and by the end of the season Max was starting to get the better of him and that’s when he switched.

"Something happened in the switch that just didn’t work for him and he hasn’t recovered."

Last week, as the speculation around Alpine's second seat continued, Alpine boss Laurent Rossi revealed that junior driver and FIA Formula 2 racer Jack Doohan – the son of motorcycle legend Mick Doohan – was being considered for the vacant F1 seat.

"We believe in him, he’s shown a lot of potential, especially lately – talk about being present at the right moment.

"He’s a great person, he is fast, his father is also a champion I admire and a person I admire. They are great guys. He’s in our plans.

"One way or another we will try and put him in an F1 car at some point."

However, Villeneuve believes Alpine should throw Doohan in "at the deep end" next season.

"Why not take a chance with Doohan?," said the 1997 F1 world champion. "Instead of spending a year preparing him like they did with Piastri, just put him in the deep end and see what happens.

"Doohan comes with a good background – like Sainz, that really gets the right mindset to be at the top level and survive under pressure."

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