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Jacques Villeneuve

By Chris
March 16 2007

Not a natural conformist, Jacques Villeneuve has always courted controversy. Already in his Formula 3 days he was far a far cry from the dapper athlete outside the cockpit. He unabashedly sported a long ponytail, steel-rimmed specs, sandals and a mischievous charm.

When he came into F1 in 1996 he upset some purists with his downbeat reaction to the inevitable questions about following his illustrious father, the late Gilles, who raced for Ferrari in the late 1970s and early '80s until his death in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder in May 1982. Jacques was not about to wear his heart on his sleeve just to satisfy the needs of others and refused to say the romantic things that some wanted to hear. Instead, it took him no time at all to demonstrate his candour and a penchant for saying exactly what he was thinking. It is an innate honesty that has led him into trouble at times, notably when criticism of the FIA, the sport's governing body, resulted in him being summoned from Canada to Paris just prior to the 1997 Canadian race in Montreal on the track named after his father. Jacques merely shrugs at such things. "I have always spoken my mind," he says. "I was brought up to say what I feel, that's all. Why would I behave any other way?" Honesty and honour are two key cornerstones of his character. He is often described as a maverick, but once you understand those factors everything else falls into place.

Besides speaking his mind, he has a code of driving ethics of which his father would have been proud. For father and son, the manner in which they fought a race was often more important than the actual result, and like his father he has always regarded the correctness of the tactics you adopt while defending position as a crucial part of his make-up as a racing driver. Look back over his lengthy career, with its eleven victories and that World Championship crown, and you will never find Jacques pulling unsporting moves on his rivals.

His career: The Canadian earned his place in the pinnacle of motorsport following strong performances in the Italian and Japanese Formula 3 Championships. In 1994, Jacques became "Rookie of the Year" in the American IndyCar Championship, a series which he won only one year later, as well as winning the legendary Indianapolis 500. In 1996, the former CART champion celebrated a phenomenal Formula One debut, when he reached his first pole position and nearly won his first race in his first ever Formula One GP. No other driver has ever become World Champion so quickly. In 1996, he came second in the World Championship behind his Williams Renault team-mate Damon Hill. Only one year later, in 1997, he won the sport's most prestigious title himself, beating Michael Schumacher in the title race. Contracts at BAR and Renault followed, before the eleven-time GP winner signed a two-year contract with Peter Sauber, also giving him the chance to drive for the BMW Sauber F1 Team in 2006.
Jacques drove for the BMW Sauber F1 Team for over half of the 2006 season, before he was replaced by the Friday driver Robert Kubica. Since then Jacques has been rumoured to make a move to NASCAR. Watch this space!

Factsheet

Name: Jacques Villeneuve

Date of birth: 9th April 1971

Place of birth: St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada

Residence: Villars, Switzerland

Marital status: Married (2006)

Height/Weight: 1,68 m/67kg

Hair colour: brown

Eye colour: blue

Hobbies: Skiing, playing guitar, writing and listening to music, computer technology

Most memorable experience: Becoming F1 World Champion (1997) and Indy 500 Winner (1995)

First racing car: Formula Ford 1600

First race: 1988 (Alfa Italian Tourism Championship)

F1 Races contested: 152

Victories: 11

Best placing: World Champion (1997)

Poles: 13

Professional career:
1989 > Makes his debut in Italian Formula Three
1992 > Moves to Japan and competes in Japanese Formula Three, finishing the championship in second place.
1994 > Enters IndyCar, named 'Rookie Of The Year.' Finishes 6th overall with 94 points.
1995 > After winning 4 races, including the Indianapolis 500, he becomes the youngest ever IndyCar World Champion. Signed by Williams to partner Damon Hill in 1996
1996 > Finishes 2nd in Australia in his debut Grand Prix with Williams. Runner-up behind Damon Hill in the Drivers' Championship.
1997 > Takes 7 victories to win the Drivers' Championship and give WIlliams the Constructors' Championship.
1998 > Stays with Williams. Finishes the championship 5th, with 2 podiums.
1999 > First year with British American Racing. He scores no points
2000 > Villeneuve finishes 7th in the championship with 17 points.
2001 > Two third places, in Spain and Germany, give BAR its first podium finishes. They also help Villeneuve to another 7th place in the Drivers' Championship, this time with 12 points.
2002 > Villeneuve takes only four points, and finishes 12th in the Drivers' Championship.
2003 > Generally out-performed by team mate Jenson Button. Scores just six points and leaves the team after the penultimate round in the United States.
2004 > Makes an unexpected comeback with Renault for final three rounds following Jarno Trulli's departure. Signs to Sauber for full-time return in 2005.
2005 > Makes full-time return to the sport with Sauber. Struggles to match team mate Felipe Massa in first half of season but closes gap in the second, finishing year just two points behind the Brazilian. Retained by new team owners BMW for 2006.

2006 > Villeneuve races for over half of the 2006 season with BMW Sauber, before being replaced by Kubica for the rest of the season. Villeneuve left the team saying that he did not want to take part in a driver shoot-out between himself and Kubica for the second seat at BMW for 2007. Villeneuve put in some solid performances in 2006, scoring BMW's first points.

 

 


 

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