The son of Canadian Formula 1 star Gilles Villeneuve, one of Enzo Ferrari’s favourite drivers and renowned for his spectacular driving style, it was perhaps inevitable that Jacques would follow his father into racing.
Tragically Gilles lost his life at the wheel of his Ferrari during the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix weekend. Far from causing Jacques to reconsider a career in motor racing, he forged ahead. Ultimately he would exceed all expectations, winning the North American Indycar Series and the Indy 500 before transferring to Formula 1.
His first year in Formula 1, 1996, saw him finish second in the World Championship, an astonishing achievement in his debut season.
Driving for Williams, Jacques then won the 1997 Formula One World Championship despite facing strong competition from team mate Damon Hill and a determined challenge from Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher. Jacques remains the last driver to have won the Formula 1 World Championship for the Williams team.
Winning the ultimate prize in Formula 1 came after winning the Indycar series in the United States in 1995, during which he also won the world-famous Indianapolis 500. He is one of only three drivers ever to achieve this ‘triple’, alongside former World Champions Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.
His Formula One career continued until 2006, including 6 years driving for BAR-Honda which was a team he co-founded and owned. Today that team is the dominant MercedesAMG F1 team. Since then he has competed in a wide range of motor sports series. This includes twice competing in the famous Le Mans 24 Hours sports car race, driving for Peugeot, finishing 2nd in 2008.
In 2022 he successfully raced in the Daytona 500 race, one of the major events in the NASCAR calendar in the United States. In doing so he joins Mario Andretti in becoming one of only two drivers to have competed in the Daytona 500, Le Mans 24 Hours sports car race and Formula 1.
Jacques continues to be closely involved in Formula 1, attending Grands Prix and commentating for French television. He is trilingual in English, French and Italian.
Fireside Chat with Jacques Villeneuve: Winning, From Indy to F1