Friday June 8th, 2001
The North American CART series no longer represents a good route to Formula One, Canada's former champion Jacques Villeneuve said Thursday.
"I don't think that CART, Indy Car or whatever it is called now is a good step into F1 any more," he told reporters ahead of his home Grand Prix on Sunday.
Speaking at a time when the major manufacturers involved in Formula One are openly talking about setting up a rival series, Villeneuve spelled out the dangers of any split. The established CART series divided in 1996, with the Indy Racing League (IRL) taking the Indianapolis 500 for their own series in competition with what is now known as ChampCars.
"Since the IRL started up it destroyed open-wheel racing in North America," said Villeneuve, who won the Indy 500 in 1995 on his way to becoming the CART champion. He then won the Formula One title in 1997.
"There's not enough sponsorship for two championships in the first place and it just separates resources. So neither one of the two championships is strong now because of all that," said Villeneuve. "I don't think IRL is a championship you can even look at."
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, now in his first season at Williams, is the latest CART champion to enter Formula One and finished second in the Spanish Grand Prix while failing to finish his other races so far. Montoya was a Williams test driver before winning the 1999 CART crown however and also served time in Formula 3000.
Italian Alex Zanardi also won the North American series before making a failed comeback to Formula One with Williams.
Several former Formula One racers are competing in the United States series along with younger drivers such as Brazilian Bruno Junqueira who have moved there from Formula 3000 to develop their careers in the hope of returning to Grands Prix.