Hamilton’s debut trumps Villeneuve’s

Jacques Villeneuve, Mika Hakkinen, Silverstone, 1996Jacques Villeneuve made an outspoken attack on Lewis Hamilton two weeks ago. His words were widely criticised by many drivers, and were probably no more than Villeneuve looking for a bit of attention ahead of his Le Mans 24 Hours debut.

But perhaps they also concealed a hint of envy at Hamilton’s stellar debut, which has eclipsed all benchmarks including Villeneuve’s own dramatic arrival in the sport 11 years ago.

In a comparison of the two Hamilton easily comes out on top.

Points of comparison

Like Hamilton today. Villeneuve was fortunate to make his F1 debut in a highly competitive car. In fact the Williams-Renault FW18 was utterly dominant – there wasn’t a race all year where Williams didn’t have a dominant package.

Hamilton’s McLaren is the class of the field today – but for the first four races of the year Ferrari’s F2007 was the thing to have.

Hamilton, too, came to F1 with less top-level experience than Villeneuve. The Canadian was already an Indy Car champion and Indy 500 winner. But don’t underestimate the importance of Hamilton’s preparations on the McLaren simulator – and remember Villeneuve had less experience of the European circuits than Hamilton.

Hamilton vs Villeneuve

Round Lewis Hamilton, 2007 Jacques Villeneuve, 1996
1 Q4 R3 Q1 R2
2 Q4 R2 Q3 DNF
3 Q2 R2 Q3 R2
4 Q4 R2 Q2 R1
5 Q2 R2 Q3 R11*
6 Q1 R1 Q10 DNF
7 Q1 P1 Q2 P3

*Car had stopped with suspension failure

Villeneuve stunned F1 by taking pole position for his first race. He nearly won it too – until a damaged oil line forced him to drop behind team mate Damon Hill.

The Canadian grabbed his first win at his fourth attempt – while Hamilton took six races to score his.

But Hamilton’s consistency is most impressive. Villeneuve made the inevitable rookie mistake in a streaming wet race at Interlagos (round two) and Monte-Carlo (round six).

Jacques Villeneuve, Williams-Renault, Hungaroring, 1996While Villeneuve could only qualifying tenth at Monaco, Hamilton came within two tenths of a second of taking pole, and chased team mate Alonso for a win.

Seven races in, Hamilton has beaten Fernando Alonso four races to three – Villeneuve was two-four down against Hill.

Villeneuve took the title battle down to the final round against Hill. The Englishman prevailed when Villeneuve lost a wheel at the final round in Suzuka.

So, can Hamilton go one better?

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1 comment on Hamilton’s debut trumps Villeneuve’s

  1. I spent the first few races this year trying my damnest to avoid all the Hamilton-hype and not get involved in bigging him up. However, and I’ve noticed similar views around other F1 Blogs this week, I’m starting to accept that he could take the title challenge to Alonso this year. Much like with Villeneuve and Hill, I think experience will play a big part later on, so Alonso is still favourite in my mind. But I wouldn’t be surprised now to see the championship go down to the wire in Brazil, even if Ron did put all his eggs in Alonso’s basket.

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