Jacques Villeneuve

Personal Information

Full Name
Jacques Joseph Charles Villeneuve
Place of Birth
St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada
CountryCanada Canada

About Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve F1 Career Overview

Something of an enigma in F1 terms, while Jacques Villeneuve found his success in F1 was somewhat fleeting, his extraordinary maiden campaign coupled with his dramatic 1997 F1 World Championship title win will forever remain part of the sport’s folklore.

Career Stats


Latest News

Full Biography

Jacques Villeneuve F1 Career Overview

Something of an enigma in F1 terms, while Jacques Villeneuve found his success in F1 was somewhat fleeting, his extraordinary maiden campaign coupled with his dramatic 1997 F1 World Championship title win will forever remain part of the sport’s folklore.

To date the only Canadian to have won an F1 world title - achieved in the memory of his late father and F1 legend Gilles - Villeneuve was one of the few drivers in the modern era to make a successful crossover from the American open-wheel scene.

After winning the 1995 Indy Car World Series - which included victory in the Indianapolis 500 - Villeneuve was snapped up by Williams for the 1996 F1 season, where he proceeded to demonstrate rapid performance out of the box that was a match for anticipated title leader Damon Hill.

Though beaten to the crown by the Briton in his rookie year, Hill’s exit at the end of the season made him a title favourite for 1997 alongside Michael Schumacher. 

A fierce battle raged between the two all season leading to an infamous finale at Jerez in which Schumacher’s badly executed attempts to defend against the Canadian drew derision and had him thrown out of the championship. Regardless, Villeneueve won the title - after the contact from Schumacher only eliminated the Ferrari.

However, after Williams’ form slid on the exit of engine supplier Renault for 1998, Villeneuve’s bold switch to the new British American Racing (BAR) team for 1999 drew an embarrassing non-score. 

Results improved thereafter when BAR gained backing from Honda, before he made fruitless switch to Renault towards the end of 2004, joined Sauber in 2005, which morphed into BMW Sauber for 2006 before he was dropped mid-season for disappointing results.

Jacques Villeneuve F1 Career - Team-by-Team

Williams: 1996-1998

An active racer even from a young age, Villeneuve had cut his teeth in Europe and Japan before finding his form in North America with a run to the 1995 Indy Car World Series title in only his second season, a tilt that included victory in the Indianapolis 500.

His efforts caught the attention of Frank Williams, who came into the 1996 F1 season confident of the title after Michael Schumacher (champion in 1994 and 1995) made his switch to the then-moderately competitive Ferrari.

While Hill held status as the assumed team leader, Villeneuve ruffled feathers by scoring pole position on his debut in Australia, even if HIll went on to win the race and two following in Brazil and Argentina. 

Villeneueve hit his stride with victory on his fourth outing at the European Grand Prix, though he didn’t repeat the feat again until the British Grand Prix (Round 10 of 16). Thereafter Villeneuve was more of a match for HIll, winning again in Hungary and Portugal, the latter of which gave him a slim chance of overhauling his team-mate in the Japanese finale. With Hill needing only a single point at Suzuka to be crowned champion, it duly became elementary when Villeneuve retired, the Briton going on tio clinch the crown.

With Hill and Williams’ relationship deteriorating despite his success, the Briton exited for Arrows to elevate Villeneuve as the team’s charge for the defence of its title. While Schumacher and Ferrari now posed an issue for Williams, the British team was generally considered to have the quicker car and while Villeneuve’s form was patchy in the first half of the year, wins in Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Great Britain kept things tight at the top.

More success followed in Hungary (at the expense of an unlucky Hill), Austria and Luxembourg, before he was thrown out of the Japanese Grand Prix - having finished fifth - as a legacy of being punished for ignoring double waved yellow flags in qualifying. When Williams appealed, Villeneuve was allowed to race but the withdrawal of the appeal automatically annulled his result as he had thus started from pole position illegally.

It meant Villeneuve trailed Schumacher by a single point coming into the European Grand Prix finale at Jerez. Starting on pole - despite Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen extraordinarily setting identical lap times - the Canadian slipped behind his rival initially but on lap 48 of 69 was right on his tail and poised to make a pass.

Schumacher, sensing he wouldn’t be able to respond if the Williams car got ahead, thus turned sharply into the path of the Williams alongside him in a move reminiscent of his 1994 Australian Grand Prix defence against Hill that secured him the title. As then, Schumacher bounced off and slid into retirement, but unlike Hill - who was also forced to park up - the Williams sustained only minor damage and Villeneuve was able to nurse it home to third and with it the title.

While the 1994 incident was judged as a racing incident, an unimpressed FIA this time came down heavily on the defeated Schumacher, wiping his entire results from the 1997 F1 season. 

For 1998, Villeneuve and Williams were always braced for a difficult defence in the wake of Renault and influential designer Adrian Newey’s exit and so it proved, the Williams lacking the pace of Ferrari and McLaren out front.

With Mecachrome-engines (essentially mildly updated Renault V10s), Villeneuve didn’t win a single race though form did improve during the tail-end of the year to secure him podiums in Germany and Hungary en route to a distant fifth overall.

BAR: 1999-2003

In an attempt to assure his legacy beyond Williams, Villeneuve linked up with Craig Pollock - his personal manager - to compete with his new venture British American Racing (BAR), which had been formed from the remains of the defunct Tyrrell team. 

The Canadian’s presence - coupled with significant backing from British American Tobacco and a professional set-up - heightened expectations before the first race, more so when designer Adrian Reynard predicted poles and wins from the off.

However, the project was a disaster in its early stages with the car proving a handful to drive and woefully unreliable, leading to a run of 11 DNFs from the opening 11 races.

Flashes of pace aside (running third in Spain before retiring), neither BAR nor Villeneueve scored a point all season, with the depressing highlight being that neither he nor team-mate Ricardo Zonta weren’t more seriously injured in separate high-speed smashes at Spa’s notorious Eau Rouge.

Despite the dismal debut, things looked up for BAR from 2000 with the arrival of Honda, which - having mothballed its stillborn full-factory project - opted to supply its engines to both it and rivals Jordan.

Setting up an interesting battle between the two teams, the BAR 002 was a huge improvement over its predecessor and quickly became a regular point-scorer in the hands of Villeneuve, who steered it to seven top six finishes to (perhaps surprisingly) defeat the Jordans.

While BAR’s form slipped in 2001, Villeneuve brought the team its first podium in Spain before repeating the feat in Germany, results that achieved him seventh in the standings once again and another two-year contract for 2002 and 2003.

However, they were to be more difficult years for the Canadian and he cracked the top six on only four more occasions across the two years. When he was out-performed by Jenson Button in 2003, BAR - under pressure from Honda - dropped him in favour of Takuma Sato before the end of the year.

Renault: 2004

Left without a deal for the 2004 season, Villeneuve rejected a return to the US to compete in CART in the hope of securing another F1 drive, but his first call only came late in the year.

Nonetheless, that call came from Renault - a front runner in the hands of Fernando Alonso - which had severed ties with Jarno Trulli on the confirmation of his forthcoming deal to race with Toyota in 2005. It was hoped a strong showing in the final three rounds would lead to a plum drive for 2005, but underwhelming performances scuppered his chances.

Sauber / BMW: 2005-2006

Despite this, Villeneuve was back on the F1 grid full-time in 2005 with the Sauber team, which was enjoying something of a resurgence as an upper mid-field team after a lean spell.

Paired with the fast but accident prone Felipe Massa (now in his third season with the team), Villeneuve kept pace with the young Ferrari-touted Brazilian but the car struggled for outright competitiveness and he ended the year with a best finish of fourth from three top six results.

Even so, Villeneuve remained a high-profile figure, allowing him to retain his drive as the team morphed into a full-factory effort supported by BMW.

With a big budget at its disposal, BMW Sauber developed a competitive car for its first season but Villeneuve struggled to match the pace of Nick Heidfeld and a smattering of points aside, quickly slipped out of favour with team bosses.

With highly-rated World Series Renault champion and test driver Robert Kubica shining during Friday Free Practice runs - permitted only to a handful of ‘third drivers’ at the time - Villeneuve was dropped from the line-up after the German Grand Prix in favour of the Pole, who quickly rewarded its risk by claiming a podium in only his third start.

Villeneuve never started another F1 race, with the last of his 11 wins coming in the 1997 Luxembourg Grand Prix.

Jacques Villeneuve - Beyond F1

After the abrupt end to his F1 career, Villeneuve dabbled in myriad disciplines in the years that followed and continues to race to this day at the age of 49.

Among his post-F1 highlights is a run to second position in the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours with the factory Peugeot outfit alongside Nicolas Minassian and Marc Gene, a Spa 6 Hours Le Mans Series win, a handful of NASCAR starts, a brief stint in the British Rallycross Championship, a modest 14th place finish in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 and two unsuccessful starts with Venturi in the Formula E Championship.

Today he races in the EuroNASCAR PRO series.