F1: Who is Jacques Villeneuve?
Jacques Joseph Charles Villeneuve was born in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec (Quebec is the largest province in Canada) and is the son of Gilles Villeneuve and Joanne Barthe. While his father Gilles wonsix Grand Prix races and was a legend all over the world after his fatal crash on May8, 1982, Jacques quickly made clear to the press he is just his dad’s son, and driving for his own. He quickly proved to be worthy of that statement.
Jacques’ uncle, also named Jacques Villeneuve, was a moderately succesful driver in American and Canadian road racing. Young Jacques following his family’s racing footsteps, first competed in the Italian Formula 3 series from 1989 through 1991. In 1992, he raced in the Japanese Formula 3 series, winning three races and placing second in the championship. In 1993, JV moved to the North American Toyota Atlantic Racing sereis, where he won five races. In 1994 it was Champcar for Jacques and he was the series Rookie of the Year after a string of strong results, including his first victory at Wisconsin. In 1995 he won the Indianapolis 500 on his way to winning the championship.
In 1996 it was the big moment for Villeneuve, he followed his father’s footsteps in Formula One. His debut for the Williams Team was nothing less than spectacular as he became only the 2nd Formula One driver in history to achieve both a pole and a podium position in his maiden Grand Prix. That season, he won 4 races, reached the podium 11 times and finished with 78 points – all rookie records, which still stand today. He finished the season runner-up, to team mate Damon Hill, and helped Williams win the constructor’s championship by over 100 points.
In 1997, Villeneuve became the number one at Williams after the departure of Hill to Arrows. The young JV responded by winning 7 races on his way to winning the drivers championship and another constructor crown for Williams. He finished with 10 poles, 8 podiums and 81 points, clinching the title in dramatic fashion by beating Michael Schumacher in the final race of the year.
1998 was a bad season for JV. He stayed at Williams but struggled with an underpowered Mecachrome engine and failed to win a single race. Together with the Mecachrome engine the chassis was to blame for the poor performance. The red coloured Williams had several design errors as the designer team was cut off their head after chief designer Adrian Newey left for McLaren. Although struggling, Villeneuve reached the podium several times and dominated over his teammate in 1998.
Jacques has since repeatedly ousted that he wishes to become the first driver ever to have won F1, CART, the Indy 500 and a race at Le Mans.
The year after that, Villeneuve joined the newly-founded British American Racing (B.A.R.) team, co-founded and partly owned by Villeneuve’s personal manager, Craig Pollock. Expectations were high but the team had a dreadful season, not scoring a single championship all season long. Villeneuve would remain at BAR for the next five seasons, never placing higher than seventh in the drivers championship.
In 2003, Villeneuve came under media criticism for being regularly outpaced by his younger and less experienced team mate, Jenson Button. Many critics also questioned Villeneuve’s $19 million salary, given that he scored only six championship points that year. JV was replaced for the final race of the season by Takuma Sato, who would take over the race seat of the Canadian the following year. After Villeneuve’s departure, the BAR team would rise from 5th place to 2nd in the Constructor’s Championship.
From 1996 to 2003, Villeneuve competed in 131 GP’s with a total of 11 wins and 13 pole positions.
Villeneuve fans all over the world were devastated that the Canadian former champion had no race seat for the 2004 season. In September though, Villeneuve returned to Formula One, driving the final three Grand Prix of the season for the Renault team. Although vowing to help them achieve second place in the constructor championship, he failed to score a single point, unable to finish a single race on the lead lap, Renault settled for third in the final standings.
Villeneuve signed a two-year contract to drive for Sauber, starting in 2005. This week, news was spread that JV will partner up with Nick Heidfeld at BMW Sauber in 2006, so the popular Canadian stays in F1 for another year.
When not racing, Jacques Villeneuve lives in Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland.
Here is some more information about JV:
Full Name: Jacques Joseph Charles Villeneuve
Weight: 68 kg
Marital Status: Single
Birthday: April 9th, 1971
Place of Birth: St. Jean sur Richelieu, QC, Canada
Residence: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Hobbies: Reading, Music, Computer, Skiing
Favorite Foods: Italian Food, Chocolate Cake
Favorite Drinks: Root Beer, Milk
Favorite Rock Band: Cranberries
Favorite Singer: Jewel
Sisters: Mélanie and Jessica (half-sister)