Ex-Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has expressed his concern that Lawerence Stroll has “put the final nail in Williams’ coffin” after buying over the Sahara Force India F1 Team.
The Canadian businessman, father of current Williams Martini Racing driver Lance Stroll, has led a consortium that was set up in a bid to rescue Force India, who had been put into administration after action from Sergio Pérez and sponsors BWT, and now Villeneuve, a former Williams driver that won the 1997 title with the Grove-based team, worries that the team will not be able to stay afloat without the significant backing from Stroll.
He reckons that the imminent departure of the team’s sponsor, Martini, at the end of the season, coupled with the fact that Lawrence is also moving on, will leave the team in turmoil.
“The loss of not only Lawrence, but also the sponsor (Martini) is probably the final nail in the coffin,” said Villeneuve to Le Journal de Montreal. “They’ll then lose a lot of TV rights because they’ll be at the bottom of the championship. Even pay drivers won’t want to spent money there.
“Force India is a better organisation that Williams. They only stopped developing this year because they can’t afford it.”
Villeneuve is also confident that Stroll will be able to use his influence to boost the performance of Force India.
“Lawrence has always made brands grow,” said the often out-spoken Villeneuve. “It’s one of his strengths. He couldn’t do it at Williams because he was not the owner, but his influence will be greater at Force India.”
“He will help them. Force India remained a racing team, unlike Williams.”
The Canadian also urged Stroll to cut his losses with Williams and finish the season with Force India, although it would see one of either Pérez or Esteban Ocon, both under contract at the Silverstone-based outfit, moving aside.
“Lance should finish the season at Force India,” he said. “He should not wait. He should drive in Belgium at the end of the month.
“The car is better and he would be able to get a head start on next year, and improve his driving style with Force India’s engineers.”