Former Indianapolis 500 and Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve got re-acquainted with an old friend today.
The 43-year-old French-Canadian, who won the 1995 edition of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, turned in 83 laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today as part of a refresher test for his ‘500’ return next month with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Villeneuve topped out with a lap of 217.742 miles per hour in the No. 5 Dollar General Honda, and he admitted today that it took a bit of time for him to get truly sorted in the cockpit.
“It took a while to get there,” said Villeneuve, who is now cleared to take part in ‘500’ practice starting May 11. “The first few laps were surprising because it felt like I was going fast and I looked and it was 180 [mph]. I thought, ‘There’s still a long way to go,’ and then 190.
“And [after] another 10 laps, I started getting in the rhythm and once you start going flat all around, it becomes easy. I think your brain [and] your vision just needs to get used to driving at speed.”
Villeneuve added that with a stiff 25 mph wind blowing around the Speedway, there was no point to trim out his car early on. But they did manage to focus on the car’s set-up as the day progressed.
Should he qualify for the “500,” he’ll tie a record for the biggest gap between starts in the world’s greatest race. Two drivers, Cy Marshall and Roland Free, currently hold the record for their starts between 1930 and 1947.
As part of his refresher test, Villeneuve had to run 30 laps that make up the second and third phases of the race’s Rookie Orientation Program. Phase 2 of ROP involves 15 laps between 205-210 mph, and Phase 3 requires 15 laps at 210+ mph.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.