x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Jacques Villeneuve threatened after protest tirade

The 1997 Formula One world champion and Quebec native told the students, disrupting the city's Grand Prix, to 'stop loafing about'.

Jacques Villeneuve is understood to have received death threats in the wake of a tirade against Montreal's protesting students.

Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula One world champion, waded into the furore surrounding the protesters, who have used the sport's arrival in town as a chance to make their voice heard.

On Thursday night 37 arrests were made by police as demonstrators embarked on a nude march as part of a three-month long campaign to oppose the Quebec government's proposed hike in tuition fees.

The protests escalated when an emergency law was introduced last month allowing police the power to clamp down on any unauthorised gathering, resulting in nearly 3,000 arrests overall.

Montreal, one of the most popular venues on the calendar as the city embraces the sport, has this week become over-run by police.

As protesters attempted to disrupt a party on Thursday night to herald the F1 weekend, Villeneuve typically pulled no punches.

"It's time for people to wake up and stop loafing about. It's lasted long enough," said Villeneuve, this week working as an expert summariser on Sky Sports.

"We heard them. We listened. They should stop. It's costing the city a fortune. It makes no sense.

"I think these people grew up without ever hearing their parents ever tell them 'No'. So that's what you see in the streets now. People spending their time complaining.

"It's becoming a little bit ridiculous. They spoke, we heard, and now it's time to go back to school."

The comments from Villeneuve, a Quebec native and with the track in Montreal named after his father Gilles, sparked a furious backlash.

Aside from a number turning to Twitter to voice their fury at Villeneuve, CBC News reported the 41-year-old had received death threats via email.

With the main streets of downtown Montreal a hive of activity last night as F1 fans soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed a variety of events, police were again out in force.

It is understood, though, the main focal point for the protesters will be tomorrow's race, with an apparent threat being taken seriously to block the subway system.

The main access route to the circuit, situated on the Ile Notre Dame in the middle of the St Lawrence Seaway, is the Metro.

On Thursday race organisers were forced to abandan a traditional event for fans, who are allowed in for free and that normally attracts up to 50,000, due to fear of disruption.