Date of birth:
January, 18th 1950
Place of Birth:
67 (66 with Ferrari)
13 (1:6 2:5 3:2)
Race best laps:
Race leading laps:
Best finish in the
“If it’s true that life is like a film, I was lucky enough to act in it, to be the screenwriter, the main protagonist and the director of my way of life” (Gilles Villeneuve)
Fame isn't always matched by results. Sometimes, like in the case of Gilles Villeneuve, the man becomes the legend, due to his uniqueness, making his fans dream, beyond simple performance. With his way of being, his courage and his generosity the young Villeneuve conquered a whole generation of motorsport fans.
Born in Quebec in 1950 into a middle-class family, he immediately confirmed his great passion for mechanics and speed. When he was 17 years old Villeneuve was the undisputed champion in the world of snow mobile racing - where he not only won numerous competitions, but also came up with some serious innovations.
He earned and invested, even taking out loans, following his dream: racing in Formula 1. When he got married and his son Jacques was born he started in the Formula Atlantic, the most important single-seater championship in Canada. It wasn't a great season, but after many sacrifices the first positive results came in 1975,enabling him to continue racing the following year. Gilles had an exceptional start into the season and McLaren called him to race in the Pau GP in Formula 2, an important stage for upcoming drivers. Also this time things didn't go too well, but when he came back to Canada, he won his first title in the Formula Atlantic. His real launch in F1 came with the race at Trois-Rivieres, where Gilles signed a contract over five races in Formula1 as the third McLaren driver, where he could demonstrate his aggressive style and extraordinary capacity to control the car. But the English team didn't recognise his capacities. He was then embraced by Enzo Ferrari, who was looking for a young driver with little experience, to demonstrate that it was the car the not the driver who counted on the track. The little-known Villenueve was picked for this objective. In this strange way one of the most exciting chapters in the history of racing began. Not much later Niki Lauda left and the new Ferrari driver was sitting in the 312 T2. Low performance and trouble keeping the car on the track was what happened and everybody spoke about Gilles. Despite his lack of experience and few victories the Drake confirmed him for the following season, when he raced with Reutemann, with the new 312 T3. Villeneuve improved a lot. The season1978 was not easy either, but Gilles started to get the right feeling with the team and the mechanics.
His day came on 8 October 1978 in Montreal. Gilles gave it his all and conquered his first win with a Ferrari after a great race crossing the line with over 260 km/h. The following year Ferrari started with a legendary drivers' couple: Scheckter-Villeneuve. Although Gilles had only won three races in 1979 the “Villeneuve fever” was in the air. Mishaps made him extremely popular and every race with him on the track turned into an adventure. His popularity peaked, although in 1980 a terrible year for Ferrari started, with a T5 difficult to hold on the track. The Canadian magician gave it his all, risking a lot with many accidents, luckily without injuries for himself. In 1981 Ferrari, with the new 126 CK, teamed Villeneuve up with the French Didier Pironi. Gilles won only two races this year, but became more and more popular. The 1982 126 C2 was more competitive, giving the team a boost. In Imola the Ferrari drivers lead the field changing positions during the whole race, bringing home a double-win, with Pironi crossing the line first.
In Belgium Gilles, who was still upset about the race in Imola, tried to drive a better time than his teammate while the track was still wet. On the first lap he collided with Mass, due to the massive impact he was catapulted out of his car. Gilles died at the age of 32 at the Lovanio hospital due to his heavy injuries.
Villeneuve raced in Formula 1 for six years and started in 67 races. His incomparable driving style was always at the limit and will remain in his fans' hearts forever.