Fourteen years ago, Jacques Villeneuve won the title after Michael Schumacher was found to have deliberately driven into him at Jerez.
But now the French Canadian, on a visit to Brazil at the weekend to race stock cars, has defended the seven time world champion amid criticism of his return to F1 in the last two seasons.
“It makes no sense to criticise him,” Villeneuve is quoted by O Estado de S.Paulo.
“He was a tenth of a second faster than Rubens and Eddie (Irvine) at Ferrari and now he’s a tenth slower than Nico Rosberg, so not much has changed.
“The criticism is bad for the sport and the young drivers. It would be better to say he is very good and he is being beaten than to say he is bad and that’s why he loses now.”
Villeneuve added that “It can always happen when things do not fit together perfectly as a driver for a season or two”.
A staunch critic of “artificial racing” produced by deliberately degrading tyres and DRS, he admitted that he no longer sets “an alarm clock” in order to watch grands prix on television.
“My father held at bay four drivers for the whole race at Jarama (1981) and everyone remembers that race as the most spectacular,” said Villeneuve, in a rare reference to his late father Gilles.