Villeneuve quits WEC in reaction to Vanwall dropping him from Le Mans squad

World Endurance Championship

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Jacques Villeneuve has decided to leave his World Endurance Championship seat with Vanwall Racing after he was dropped for the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Six days ago, the ByKolles-run Vanwall team revealed former IndyCar driver Tristan Vautier will take Villeneuve’s place in the Vanwall Vandervell 680 Hypercar-class prototype sports car shared with Tom Dillmann and Esteban Guerrieri.

Dillmann, Guerrieri and 1997 Formula 1 world champion Villeneuve had raced the car in the first three rounds of the season. They finished 24 laps down at Sebring, then retired from the next two races at Algarve and Spa-Francorchamps. Villeneuve crashed out on both occasions, the first being due to a brake failure.

“I am deeply disappointed to have learned of my replacement for the upcoming Le Mans 24 Hours through a public announcement released by the Vanwall Racing Team ByKolles on May 25th, 2023,” said Villeneuve in a statement issued today.

“To date, I have not received any official communication from the team, which is even more surprising given that I am still under contract to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours race.”

Villeneuve suggested the team, run by former HRT and Jordan boss Colin Kolles, timed its announcement to coincide with the birth of his daughter Giulia five days ago.

“The timing of the release strangely coincided with my impending arrival at the hospital for the birth of our baby daughter, which had been planned for May 26th. ByKolles was well aware of this personal family event, rendering me unable to respond or address this sudden announcement.

“As a racing family, we have always successfully balanced our personal lives with our professional careers, with racing always holding a prominent place. In fact, my preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours event was meticulous and well-organised.

“Considerable time and effort were dedicated to achieving peak physical and mental readiness for this extraordinary challenge that I was really looking forward to. Following victories in the Indy 500, IndyCar and the F1 championship, the Le Mans 24 Hours holds special significance for me. Consequently, I am deeply disheartened that the opportunity to participate has been unjustly and arbitrarily denied.

“Under these circumstances, I have made the decision to abstain from participating in the remainder of the WEC season with ByKolles. Instead, I will redirect my focus and energies towards preparing for a more successful and professionally fulfilling 2024 racing season.”

Vanwall did not previous indicated Villeneuve would not return to the car for the three rounds after Le Mans. His departure leaves them seeking a driver for the rest of the season with Vautier only contracted for next month’s centrepiece 24-hour race.

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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16 comments on “Villeneuve quits WEC in reaction to Vanwall dropping him from Le Mans squad”

  1. How can someone quit what they’ve already been fired from?

    1. The replacement was supposedly only for Le Mans.

      That said, if what Villeneuve says about the communication from Kolles and his crew is true then it’s pretty obvious they weren’t interested in him coming back for the following race.

    2. How can someone fire a man who’s assisting his woman giving birth?

      Could have delayed the announcement a bit few days

      1. And if they delayed the announcement, the argument would move to ‘how can someone fire a man who’s just become a new father.’

        Getting fired very rarely comes at the right place and time for anyone involved.

        1. Who broke your empathy ?

          1. This is about you arguing that a man’s firing should have been made public only after the birth of his youngest child rather than at the moment the decision was taken.

            Which to me doesn’t seem like any more merciful an outcome.

    3. @proesterchen At least get your facts straight if you’re being nasty.

  2. Still a great helmet design.

    1. I don’t think I’ve liked any helmet since JV and Montoya’s…Maybe the one Aitken used when he filled in at Williams.

  3. Why do teams do this ‘going public first’ thing? It doesn’t happen in any other sport that I know of. Nikita got the hump about it.

    It does it take so much to just politely call someone and say ‘you’re fired, and we’re telling everyone tomorrow.

    Is it a legal thing? Or is it to deny the driver the opportunity to go public first? Either way, the last press release from Vanwall said all anyone needed to know.

    1. Because people fresh out of a job tend to harbour ill humour towards their former employers and no one wants to give someone they’ve already decided to part ways with an opportunity to spin a narrative.

      1. Not much narrative to be spun though, as this is a bit of a sideshow. The team isn’t competitive, Villeneuve wasn’t on the pace. Colin Kolles, for all his experience in racing, also has a bit of a habit of getting into these awkward situations with his drivers (and others).

    2. @bernasaurus Legal in the UK in some circumstances (contracts and strong unions might prevent the outside world being told ahead of the employee, and most employees in most circumstances will have at least some protections meaning they will still have work – and thus income – for a time after the announcement). However, if contractual requirements regarding matters like notice and recompense are followed, there’s nothing in UK law that prevents this from happening.

      It’s been happening since at least the early 1990s (Jordan had a habit of doing this) and the main reasons then were to get ahead of the rumour mill (the driver can’t intimate they might be out by accident/on purpose if the driver has no idea) and to make it clear that requests to join the team would be entertained without the usual concerns about the team needing to negotiate out of a contract.

      1. @alianora-la-canta @proesterchen Thank you. Yeah, I thought as much. It just looks really clumsy from the outside. But of course there’s always some reasoning behind these things.

  4. The dentist still hasn’t changed his ways. You can dislike Albers as a driver and person, but he was treated very bad by Kolles – apparently still up to his shenanigans

  5. Regardless of Kolles’ management style (I understand it but that doesn’t make it alright), this team is going nowhere. Villeneuve needs to get to Villy and into the A424 for next year. Alpine will have lots of support for new drivers and the earlier he can get onboard with them, and pilot the Beta, the better. 1st class operation.

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