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Nobody wanted Villeneuve: Ecclestone

October 07, 2003 19:57 IST

Bernie Ecclestone says he tried to help Canadian Jacques Villeneuve to stay in Formula One next season but no team was interested.

"I did everything possible to talk teams into giving Jacques a drive for next season but the truth is no one wants him," The Sun newspaper quoted the Formula One chief as saying on Tuesday.

Villeneuve's BAR team announced on Tuesday that the 1997 world champion would be replaced by Japan's Takuma Sato next season.

"I still regard him as a great racer but he needs a team that would give him extra motivation," added Ecclestone.

"Toyota would have been the perfect platform for him because they could give him a car capable of winning races."

This weekend's Japanese Grand Prix looks like being Villeneuve's last in Formula One, with all the top teams having already filled their positions for 2004.

Ecclestone said he had suggested Villeneuve should drive for free for Ferrari, where the 32-year-old's late father Gilles remains an iconic figure.

"But it didn't come off because Michael (Schumacher) insists on number one status, which shows he must still consider Jacques a threat," said Ecclestone.

Schumacher, who can claim a record sixth title at Suzuka, clashed with Villeneuve in the 1997 title deciding race and the two still have a frosty relationship.

Villeneuve won his crown with Williams and joined BAR in 1999, becoming the second highest paid driver in the sport when his contract was renewed although he had limited sponsorship deals.

Ecclestone said that was a mistake. "I feel Jacques has been badly advised in the past," he said.

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