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Jacques Villeneuve - Car #11

Jacques Villeneuve

By Jamie Makin
October 16 2005

Jacques Villeneuve makes his much anticipated return to Formula One with team SAUBER PETRONAS. Learn more about the 1997 Formula One World Champion here.

Birthplace: Saint Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada
Date of Birth: 9 April 1971
Current Residence: Monaco
Entered F1: 1996
Number of F1 Races: 153
Career F1 Points: 228
Number of F1 Wins: 11
Number of F1 Poles: 13
Number of F1 Podiums 23
Number of Retirements 52

Jacques Villeneuve is a driver that needs little introduction. He is one of the most popular drivers on the grid and the only remaining Formula One World Champion in the series besides Michael Schumacher. He will make his full-time return to the sport in 2005 with SAUBER PETRONAS after missing most of last season.

Villeneuve was born just outside of Montreal but raised in Monaco. As the son Gilles Villeneuve he literally grew up around racing. He was only eleven years old when his father died in a crash in qualifying for the 1982 Belgian GP, but that did not deter his ambitions to one day reach Formula One himself.

He started in the Italian F3 series in 1990. His first season was not the most successful with him finishing 14th overall despite a best finish of second place. He improved considerably for 1991 reaching third overall and again finishing as high as second in a race. 1992 saw him move to the Japanese F3 series where he really started to shine. He scored three race wins and secured a podium position in two-thirds of the season's races. Despite his strong performances he had to settle for runner-up status in the championship

Villeneuve returned to North America in 1993 to compete in the Formula Atlantic series which at the time raced as a support series to IndyCar. He scored five wins including his home race in Montreal and in all the races he finished he was on the podium. Just a unfortunate series of DNF's stood between him and the championship and he had to settle for third overall.

His efforts in Formula Atlantic were rewarded with a race seat at the Forsythe IndyCar team. He took his maiden win in his debut season at Road America. He ended the year in sixth overall with three podium finishes to his credit.

1995 shaped up to be a banner year for Villeneuve. His seven podiums and four wins for the year included a win in the prestigious Indianapolis 500. By the end of the year he beat IndyCar greats Al Unser Jr. and Bobby Rahal to win the championship. His achievements in the series caught the attention of the Williams F1 team. The tested him in July at Silverstone and quickly signed him to a two year deal.

His Formula One debut was nothing short of spectacular. He claimed pole position in his debut race but lost the win only to his teammate Damon Hill. Villeneuve would not have to wait long for his maiden win claiming it in the European Grand Prix, the fourth round of the season. While Hill would go on to win the 1996 World Championship Villeneuve was not far behind. He netted four wins and eleven podiums from three pole positions to claim second in the championship.

1997 saw Heinz-Harald Frentzen replace Damon Hill as Villeneuve's teammate. But the year's championship fight turned out to be with Ferrari's Michael Schumacher instead of his Williams teammate. Villeneuve topped his 1996 achievements by scoring seven wins and eight podiums from ten pole positions. The season culminated with the controversial collision between Villeneuve and Schumacher at the final round in Jerez, Spain. They collided in a turn knocking Schumacher out of the race and handing the championship to Villeneuve. Schumacher was later excluded from the year's results after the FIA ruled that he had deliberately tried to take Villeneuve out.

1998 would see a reversal of Villeneuve's fortunes though. After two solid years in the series he managed to score just two podiums in a Williams FW19 whose new Supertec engine left it trailing behind the rest of the field. McLaren had re-emerged as the dominant team and Williams had slipped to third in the Constructors Championship behind Ferrari. Villeneuve's efforts only landed him fifth in the Drivers Championship.

In 1999 Villeneuve made the move with manager Craig Pollock to the newly formed British American Racing team. He believed the new team would be built around his needs and give him the best shot at another championship. It was not to be as the team would struggle at first with reliability and later with a lot of internal politics and clashing personalities. 1999 was so difficult that Villeneuve DNF'd the first eleven races, primarily due to mechanical failures. By the end of the season he had only been classified in four races and had failed to score a single point.

2000 looked more promising with a more reliable car which allowed Villeneuve to score seventeen points. He continued strong in 2001 picking up twelve points and two podiums. The mechanical gremlins returned in 2002 causing Villeneuve another eight DNF's with only four points scored in between.

2003 continued down the same difficult path and Villeneuve began to lose faith in the BAR team. The strain between him and management increased and it was clear midseason that he would be out of work at year's end. His last race for the team came earlier than expected when his engine expired during the USGP. He declined to race the final round of the year at Suzuka and was replaced by then test driver Takuma Sato.

Despite his best efforts to secure a new ride the 2004 season got underway with Villeneuve missing from the grid. He spent a lot of time back to recharge himself both physically and mentally. Towards the end of the season, relations between Renault and Jarno Trulli became increasingly strained. The team released Trulli early so he could move to Toyota and called Villeneuve in to complete the season. Their aim was to secure second in the Constructors Championship ahead of Villeneuve's former team. He returned with a high level of motivation but found himself lacking in the fitness department and tiring easily during the races. Combined with the difficult to drive R24 Villeneuve was unable to score any points for the team and they slipped to third in the standings.

On the same day that Villeneuve signed the deal with Renault he flew to Hinwil, Switzerland and inked a two-year deal to race for SAUBER PETRONAS. Villeneuve will be the highest profile driver to race for the SAUBER F1 team and is an indicator that the small Swiss team is ready to push towards the front of the grid. Villeneuve said he chose SAUBER because of the respect they showed him and the lack of politics within the team. The team hopes their new C24 will suit his driving style well and it will be interesting to see what he can do with the right car in the right environment.

Statistics are current as of the end of the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix.

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