Was it harder to drive than the cars he was used to back in the day?
“I don’t know about harder, but it was a lot of fun. Now, was it fun because I didn’t drive them for 16 years? The thing is, the car was really well set. It was responding well. It doesn’t matter how fast the car is, if it doesn’t respond well to you, it’s hell.
“I’ve gone to do some racing in Australia in the V8s. One year running at the front, the car was nice to drive. I went back, was running at the back, doing quali laps on the ragged edge to be last, and sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. And those are not fun and they’re difficult.
“So it just depends. And the car I drove was with the set-up they used in the race last year, and it was just perfect. It was balanced, it did what it was supposed to do. You can’t detune these cars with all the hybrid and all that. When I braked, it responded.”
The word was that Villeneuve’s best lap was just 0.8sec shy of Ocon’s on the day.
“Someone said that so it must be true!,” he joked. “It was about that, I didn’t look exactly, but it was within a second. But how seriously did he take it as well?
“I was happy with the ride I did. It felt good, and it was always under control. It was nice that there was more in it as well. It was also nice driving it. I’ve done laps before in different cars where your heartbeat is at 180 the whole lap and you’re hanging on for dear life. And that wasn’t the case.”
Did his short stint make him think that his F1 career had ended too early?
“As if there were a bunch of wasted years?,” he responded. “Of course, I’ve never stopped racing. So there’s always been that in the air. But I didn’t decide to stop F1, remember, I was kicked out! So it’s not like suddenly I decided.
“A lot of people also say I should never have left Williams [to join BAR in 1999]. Williams did not keep their champions! So there was never an option for me to stay at Williams, either. It’s just the way it is. And sometimes when you don’t play the political game, you get caught out, and that’s it.”