Jacques 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).
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?