(Paris) Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 F1 world champion, will not finish the World Endurance Championship (WEC) season with his Vanwall team, he announced on Wednesday, less than a week after the formalization of his replacement for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I am deeply disappointed to have learned of my replacement for the next 24 Hours of Le Mans through a public announcement published by (the team, editor’s note) Vanwall Racing Team ByKolles on May 25, 2023. To date, I have not received any official communication from the team, which is all the more surprising as I am still under contract to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race,” the 52-year-old driver said in a statement.

“I have made the decision to forgo participating in the remainder of the WEC season with Bykolles. Instead, I will refocus my attention and energy towards preparing for a more successful and professionally fulfilling 2024 season.”

Last Thursday, the Vanwall team revealed on its social networks the trio that will participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 10 and 11: Frenchman Tom Dillmann, Argentinian Esteban Guerrieri and another Frenchman, Tristan Vautier, who replaces Villeneuve.

If the team was content to reveal the three names without explanation, the boss of the Vanwall team Colin Kolles then justified this choice to the weekly AUTOhebdo.

“Two reasons explain our decision. The first is that he does not have enough mileage in our car due to various circumstances. The second is that his wife is expecting a child in a few days. That’s why we decided it was best for him not to drive at Le Mans.”

Faced with these explanations, Villeneuve insisted on Wednesday that the announcement by the team “strangely coincided with [s]on imminent arrival at the hospital for the birth of [his] little girl, scheduled for May 26” .

The Canadian, who became a father for the sixth time, assured that “ByKolles was fully aware of this personal family event, which [l] prevented him from responding to this sudden announcement”.

“As a family of racing drivers, we have always managed to balance our personal lives and our professional careers, with motor racing always looming large,” he said.

“My preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans was meticulous and well organised. I spent a lot of time and effort preparing myself physically and mentally for this extraordinary challenge that I was looking forward to.”

Villeneuve — who has participated twice in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2007, 2008), — had a difficult start to the season tinged with mechanical problems and an accident during the three races of the championship.