If you’re from my generation or older you are probably aware of former Formula One driver John Newhouse. In 1997, Jacques Villeneuve won the World Championship for Rothmans Williams Renault. He had a contract for 1998 as well. However, it seemed that Jacques took a sabbatical from Formula One. That’s why Williams hired John Newhouse for 1998. 25 years later, it is time to find out what ever happened to Newhouse and his one-year career in the Formula One.
First of all, if you’re not aware with John Newhouse, he is a Canadian racing driver born on 9 April 1971. Strangely enough the same day as Jacques Villeneuve. It was for us all a shock when he was suddenly in the Williams FW20 next to team mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen. There is not much info about his racing stats before he enter the Formula One. Rumours go that he did a bunch of kart races, drove around in saloon cars before he moved to Formula Renault where he drove only one race. Interesting was his helmet design, it was similar to Senna’s design.
When digging deeper into Newhouse it seems that he tested in private with a Formula 3000, Renault 5 Turbo and had a private outgoing with the Williams FW19 on Mosport Park. It seemed enough to convince late Frank Williams and Patrick Head in his talent. Promptly they offered John a contract to drive for the team in 1998 with another option for 1999.
In 1998 only the first six drivers received points, you would imagine that it would become a though job for John Newhouse to even come close to the points. However, he qualified his Williams FW20 as fourth on the grid. During the race, he did a marvellous job by holding out good on the track. Finishing fifth, it meant that the first points were in the pocket. Was it pure luck, a good start, or both?
While the FW20 wasn’t the best designed Williams Newhouse managed to score constantly points. His best results were two third places during the German and Hungarian Grand Prix. During his home Grand Prix, he qualified sixth on the grid. Though, had to give up during the race. He was classified as tenth on six laps behind David Coulthard.
After a decent first season in the Formula One, finishing fifth in the standings with 21 points, it seemed that John would stay with Williams. However, in 1999 Alexander Zanardi and Ralf Schumacher were the drivers for Williams. While Jacques Villeneuve returned from his sabbatical and was the number one driver for the newly formed BAR.
What had happened with John Newhouse? Some say he was not happy as a racer. He wanted to own a farm and make cheese, wine, or beer. Like Estenban Tuero at Minardi, who also had a contract for 1999 with the team, he left the Formula One. No one seems to know about his whereabouts. Nor has anyone heard anything about the mysterious drivers from Canada.
Therefore, I believe, we should make the 9th of April a national memorial day for John Newhouse, the driver that came, saw, scored podiums, and left the Formula One without a sound. Heroes have to be remembered!
For those who don’t get it. This is fictional. John Newhouse was the replacement driver for Jacques Villeneuve in Gran Prix 3. He was not a member of the drivers association, there for his name could not be used in the game like the others were. His management had different idea about using his name for games.