Jacques Villeneuve v Daniel Ricciardo: Who won Canadian GP’s fiercest battle?

Michelle Foster
Jacques Villeneuve and Daniel Ricciardo

Jacques Villeneuve and Daniel Ricciardo battled, verbally, in Canada

Announcing Jacques Villeneuve as a Sky F1 pundit for the Canadian Grand Prix, you always knew something headline-grabbing would be said.

Little did anyone know his guest punditry would produce the fiercest battle of the race weekend, even topping a Grand Prix that had multiple lead changes.

But who came out on top? Villeneuve or Ricciardo?

Villeneuve fired the first shot as the Canadian was asked for his thoughts on Daniel Ricciardo and whether or not the Honey Badger deserved a spot on the grid. He didn’t just spout it, he was asked for his informed opinion as an 11-time Grand Prix winner and winner of the F1 1997 World Championship.

And JV, as we have come to expect (and I’m pretty sure Sky gleefully did too), did not mince his words.

“Why’s he still in F1? Why? We are hearing the same thing now for the last four or five years. ‘We have to make the car better for him’. Poor him!” he said.

“If you can’t cut it, go home, there’s someone else to take your place. There’s no reason to keep going and to keep finding excuses.”

Let’s be honest. He was only saying what a lot of other pundits and fans have been thinking especially with Ricciardo’s pre-Montreal deficit to Tsunoda in qualifying and in the Drivers’ Championship.

An angry Ricciardo, who had just bagged a season’s best P5 in qualifying 24 hours after JV’s criticism, fired back: “I heard he’s been talking s**t. But he always does.

“I think he’s hit his head a few too many times. So I don’t know if he plays ice hockey or something.”

For his part, Villeneuve didn’t counter that with a personal attack on the RB driver, instead taking the higher ground with a chastising: “His reaction was a little bit personal and he’s a role model. Like all these 20 [drivers], you’re at the top level, you have to be responsible in your answers, professional.

“Kids are listening to you. You cannot make it personal. Ultimately you will get criticism, you need a thick skin and I got under his skin.”

But as Villeneuve then pointed out, it “got better for his driving” as Ricciardo followed up his best Grand Prix qualifying with a P8 finish at JV’s home track.

Key takeaways from the Canadian Grand Prix

👉 Canadian GP conclusions: Villeneuve v Ricciardo and Russell’s new nickname

👉 Canadian GP driver ratings: Record low score for Sergio Perez horror show

But while the RB driver scored points in the race, he lost them on the scorecard of public [Michelle’s, ed’s note] opinion.

Because where was this fired-up Daniel ‘Honey Badger’ Ricciardo in the first eight races of this season? Behind Yuki would be the blunt answer.

From could it be the chassis “not giving me the feeling I want” to wanting the team to “go around the car with a magnifying glass”, Ricciardo was unsure and Liam Lawson was salivating.

But then Peter Bayer spoke of being “very happy” with both Ricciardo and Tsunoda and Laurent Mekies talked up the Aussie’s “massive amount of value” and “hidden” progress in an exclusive interview with us. Lawson was no longer salivating.

Apparently, the trick to getting the best out of Ricciardo today is not the softly soft approach of his RB bosses, it’s instead the kick up the butt delivered by Villeneuve.

As David Croft put it on Saturday: “Daniel Ricciardo needs to pay Jacques Villeneuve a bonus for the motivation he’s given him this weekend. That is by far Daniel Ricciardo’s best qualifying day of the season so far.”

But Ricciardo’s biggest points-deficit in his spat that crowned Villeneuve the winner is that he made it personal. Instead of shrugging it off as ‘JV being JV’, he said the former World Champion had a head injury. He attacked his mental state.

In a world of social media trolls where Formula 1, the drivers, the FIA and just about everyone is trying to stop personal attacks, Ricciardo threw in one.

Whatever happened to turn the other cheek? Because at the end of the day, Villeneuve was not attacking Ricciardo, he was giving his opinion – and an expert one given his 163 F1 starts and a World Championship – on a Formula 1 career that could soon be over unless Ricciardo puts in more inspired performances as he did in Canada.

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