|Jacques Villeneuve. (QMI Agency/Ben Pelosse)
MONTREAL - Formula One racing champion Jacques Villeneuve claimed he's received death threats after he insulted striking students during a Grand Prix event Thursday evening.
"I have received many insulting and menacing messages," Villeneuve told QMI Agency. "I have been the victim of death threats."
Villeneuve unleashed a five-minute diatribe to reporters at the Grand Prix red-carpet event Thursday evening while police clashed with protesters outside. Police arrested 37 people in total on Thursday, including some protesters who stripped down and took part in Thursday evening's "naked protest." Hundreds of students had stripped down to their underwear for the march, explaining that the cheeky move was a demand for more transparency from the government
The 41-year-old said students who on are strike are damaging Quebec society and hurting its economy.
"People (are) spending their time complaining," he said. "It's becoming a little bit ridiculous. They spoke, we heard, and now it's time to go back to school."
Villeneuve was heavily criticized for his remarks, particularly on social media networks, but he also received many words of support.
He said Friday that he didn't regret making the remarks, but admitted he would have liked to express himself better.
"I probably would have liked to have 30 minutes to explain my position," he said. "I am surprised that people are surprised I have opinions. I was asked questions at the (Grand Prix cocktail) and I answered."
Hundreds of protesting students and their supporters have tried to disrupt Grand Prix events in the city. Twelve people were arrested Friday night after protesters tried to crash an outdoor Grand Prix street party on Montreal's famed Crescent Street.
Activists say they resent the event's promotion of car culture and claim the F1 festivities encourage the objectification and sexual exploitation of women.
About 150,000 students are on strike in Quebec over the government's plan to increase tuition by $1,800 over seven years.