It is being reported in the Italian media that one of the financial backers behind the Villeneuve Racing bid for the 13th available slot on the F1 2011 starting grid could be the son of none other than controversial long-time Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi.
Ex-F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has joined forces with erstwhile GP2 Series outfit Durango – a team that ran out of money to compete late last year, prompting much incredulity when it subsequently revealed its top flight ambitions several months ago – to launch the eponymously-named Villeneuve Racing [see separate story – click here
At the age of 39 now, the French-Canadian has not competed at the highest level since midway through 2006 and has not won a grand prix since his championship year of 1997 – but having been frustrated in his effort to rejoin the fray this season with unsuccessful Serbian entry Stefan GP, the son of legendary F1 hero Gilles Villeneuve is now trying again with his own team.
There has also been speculation of possible roles for disgraced 'Singapore-gate' protagonists Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds – though how their involvement would go down with the FIA when it comes to the governing body's final selection process is anybody's guess – whilst Italian GP2 race-winners Luca Filippi and Davide Valsecchi have both been mooted as potential team-mates to Villeneuve. The former was also linked earlier this year to Pedro de la Rosa's seat at Sauber.
Perhaps most intriguingly of all, however, Durango team principal Ivone Pinton has been working hard to attract a pool of sponsors for the bid, with businessmen from both Russia and Italy believed to be interested in helping to bankroll it, as well as – according to italiaracing.net
– a certain Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi, Colonel Gaddafi's son and a former professional footballer for Italian clubs Perugia, Sampdoria and Udinese.
The 37-year-old is an entrepreneur with a variety of business interests, and recently hit the headlines after he was ordered by an Italian court to pay back €392,000 for a three-year-old unpaid bill at a luxurious Ligurian hotel in the resort of Rapallo – dating back to a month-long stay in the summer of 2007.