It's now official: Jacques Villeneuve will line up alongside Nick Heidfeld for the BMW Sauber F1 Team in 2006.
As BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen explained: "We took a close look at Jacques' performance level at the end of last season. After an extremely tough first half of the year - which showed that even a former World Champion cannot come back after a period away and be competitive from day one - he got closer and closer to his team-mate over the second half of the season. We are in no doubt that Jacques will make the BMW Sauber F1 Team stronger."
"Between 1999 and 2004 I experienced first-hand the difficulties and complexities involved in setting up a new team," said Villeneuve, "but I've never been afraid of a challenge. Sauber was already a good team and now we also have the resources of BMW behind us. I will do everything I can to contribute to the success of the BMW Sauber F1 Team."
Now living in Villars, Switzerland's adopted son will start work for the new team in the first testing session in Jerez on 8th December.
Villeneuve was crowned Formula One World Champion faster than any other driver before or since after making his debut in the series. In 1996, his rookie year, the Canadian finished second in the overall standings behind his then Williams Renault team-mate Damon Hill. The following year, he fended off the challenge of Michael Schumacher to go one better and take the title for the same team.
On 22nd June 2005, BMW made public its commitment to head its own team in Formula One after taking a majority interest in the Sauber team from 2006. The signing of Nick Heidfeld was announced on 16th September, followed by confirmation of the official team name and the identity of key positions in the team - with Willy Rampf (Chassis/Hinwil) and Heinz Paschen (Powertrain/Munich) as Technical Directors - on 14th November. The partnership with PETRONAS was then finalised and announced on 24th November.