Villeneuve 'struggled to comprehend' speed of modern Alpine F1 car


Jacques Villeneuve admitted his test run at Monza this week onboard Alpine's A521 delivered an experience very different to the F1 he once knew, and left his brain "struggling to comprehend" the speed and grip of a modern Grand Prix machine.

The 1997 F1 World Champion was invited by Alpine after last weekend's Italian Grand Prix to sample its 2021 car, a test for which the Canadian prepared by getting acquainted with his mount in the team's simulator at Enstone.

But the sim run proved challenging for Villeneuve who raced with the French outfit under its Renault guise in 2004

"It made me sick!" he said, speaking to RacingNews 365.

"When you step on the brake pedal, your brain thinks you are in an F1 car, it forgets you are in a simulator.

"It thinks you are getting the g-force, when you aren't getting it. You are supposed to get weight on your head and arms, but you aren't.

"Instead of feeling the weight of the belts, you get the weight of the seat - it's the opposite of what you should feel.

"That's when the brain goes: 'Oops, something is wrong here, like you've taken some mushrooms or something.

"That's why the brain tries to make you sick - it thinks you've taken something you shouldn't.

"As long as your brain can dissociate real to simulator, then you are fine - it's when you make it so real that your brain thinks you are in a race car."

Undeterred by the sim experience, Villeneuve reported for duty on Wednesday at Monza, all suited and booted and ready to give it a go, with Alpine's Esteban Ocon on site to offer the 51-year-old some useful advice.

Villeneuve was impressed with the A521's speed and grip, but the Canadian – who retired from F1 in 2006 – was also surprised by how much muscle memory he had retained over the years

"The car was actually very stable, it's quite simple to drive, but there is so much grip," he said.

"The speed... your brain really struggles to comprehend this. You're nailed to the ground and it feels like you're watching a movie while you're fast-forwarding. It's really impressive.

"After the laps in the simulator, and seeing [Ocon and Alonso] drive, I saw where the braking point was.

"I thought: 'Okay, your brain remembers everything: the racing lines and anything from 15-16 years ago.'

"Even the braking boards where you should brake, how you should [do it], everything is there.

"So that memory is not gone. But when you go with that memory, you hit the brakes, and finished braking, the corner is still 50 metres away!"

Villeneuve acknowledged that his run, during which he apparently achieved reasonably good lap times, produced quite the physical strain.

"Even without braking, it feels like a parachute is braking the car," he said, alluding to the Alpine car's massive aerodynamic load.

"I can’t remember ever having the opportunity to drive such a stable car.

"I was afraid I couldn’t keep my head up, but I just managed to. Tonight, I am dying of pain!" he said.

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