Thursday, 09 august 2018, 09:50 , by Matthew Scott
Jacques Villeneuve believes that Lawrence Stroll's takeover at Force India will prove to be the "final nail in the coffin" at Williams if the Canadian billionaire removes his backing, as well as son Lance, from the team. Stroll is expected to switch to Force India in 2019 after his father led a consortium to save the team.
Stroll's departure would not only take a driver away from Williams, but also take away numerous sponsors linked to the Canadian. Williams are already facing up to losing title sponsor Martini at the end of the year.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams says the team has plans in place in order to preserve their financial future, although Villeneuve - Williams' last drivers' champion in 1997 - recently said the team was "dead" under her leadership and predicts a dark future of the team.
"The loss not only of Lawrence, but also the sponsor [Martini] is probably the final nail in the coffin," Villeneuve told Le Journal de Montreal.
"They'll then lose a lot of TV rights because they'll be at the bottom of the championship. Even pay drivers won't want to spend money there.
"Force India is a better organisation than Williams. They only stopped developing this year because they can't afford it.
"Lawrence has always made brands grow. It's one of his strengths. He couldn't do it at Williams because he was not the owner, but his influence will be greater at Force India.
"He will help them. Force India remained a racing team, unlike Williams."
It remains to be seen whether Stroll will be partnered by Esteban Ocon or Sergio Perez at Force India next year, but Villeneuve believes one of them should make way for the teenager ahead of schedule.
"Lance should finish the season at Force India. He should not wait. He should drive in Belgium at the end of the month," he added.
"The car is better and he would be able to get a head start on next year, and improve his driving style with Force India's engineers."