Childhood & Early Life
Jacques Joseph Charles Villeneuve was born on April 9, 1971, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, to Gilles Villeneuve and Joann. He has a sister, Melanie, and a half-sister, Jessica. His father was a racing driver who was killed in a collision at the qualifier for 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.
He decided to follow in his father’s footsteps as a racecar driver in 1984 and sought his mother’s permission to start motor racing. After impressing the owners of a kart track in Imola, he was allowed on the Grand Prix circuit.
His uncle Jacques Sr., a racing professional himself, enrolled him at the Jim Russell Racing Driver School, Mont Tremblant. He impressed the chief instructor Gilbert Pednault and received his diploma at the end of three days. He got his racing license from Andorra when he was just 17 years old.
He started entering prestigious competitions and championships against popular drivers but failed to make an impression. However, in 1992, he was noticed by Craig Pollock at the Japanese Formula Three series. Pollock then helped him broaden his horizons.
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In 1994, Jacques Villeneuve came second at the IndyCar championship and even won his first race at Road America. He ended the season in the sixth position and was awarded the Rookie of the Year title. Next year, he won many other races and he was noticed by Frank Williams, who signed him to his Formula One team in 1996.
Villeneuve signed up with Williams with a two-year contract and stood second on his debut race in Australia. He later won his first F1 at the Nürburgring and ended his debut season with four victories. At the time, he held the record for the most wins in his first championship season.
In 1997, he was the team’s lead driver. He ended the season with a World Championship title. His career plummeted after this win, and he failed to win any race in the 1998 season.
In 1999, he joined the British American Racing (BAR) team. Despite the hype, the team fared badly in the season and Villeneuve, too, didn’t make an impression or finish on the podium. He continued with BAR the next year, but the same fate continued, and he didn’t register any wins.
In 2001, he managed to finish twice on the podium in Spain and Germany. In his next season with BAR, Villeneuve’s high salary was questioned, and he grew increasingly disenchanted with the team.
In 2003, he suffered from poor form and was inconsistent with the races. He was eventually replaced by Takuma Sato, a former British Formula 3 Champion. He didn’t receive a contract for the 2004 season.
He returned to the Formula 1 circuit in September 2004 with Renault. Despite his best efforts, Villeneuve didn’t score any points and admitted that the sabbatical had taken a hit on his career. He ended the year with a two-year contract with Sauber.
In 2005, he improved his game and finished sixth in the championship tables. He was announced to be the driver for BMW Sauber in the 2006 season. However, he sustained an injury at the German Grand Prix. Subsequently, he announced his departure from Sauber.
In 2007, Villeneuve returned to driving a sportscar with Peugeot Sport to compete at the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans. Despite a great start, the car was retired because of engine problems during the race. In the 2008 race, the team finished second.
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He spent the remainder of the 2008 season at the Speedcar Series and appeared in four races. Later, he raced at the La Carrera del Año in at the Buenos Aires but finished at the 16th place.
His F1 career, on the other hand, was generally considered to be over. In the meanwhile, he appeared at the Craftsman Truck Series, NASCAR Nextel Cup, Canadian Tire Series, Circuit de Trois-Rivieres, and NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2009 and 2010 but failed to register any wins.
In 2010, Villeneuve attempted returning to F1 again and even started his own team along with Italian Durango. However, nothing came out of it and he was off the grid again. He was next seen in the V8 Supercar series as a co-driver in the 2010 Gold Coast 600.
His appearances dwindled in the next couple of years, and he was seen only in Sucrogen Townsville 400, Coates Hire Ipswich 300, and Sydney Motorsport Park 360 before finding sponsorship for the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2014. He ended the season at the 37th spot with 8 points.
In 2015, he took part in the FIA Formula E Championship after teaming up with Venturi Grand Prix. However, he parted ways with the squad in less than a year. For the next season, he returned to NASCAR without any fanfare.
In 2019, Villeneuve signed a contract with Go Fas Racing to compete at the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. He ended with a double podium finish at Franciacorta. At Venray, he came third in the final race and stood on the podium again. He currently competes in NASCAR.
Apart from racing, Villeneuve also enjoys music and released his first commercial single ‘Accepterais-tu’ in 2006. Later in 2007, he released the album ‘Private Paradise’; however, the album didn’t do well.
Family & Personal Life
He was previously in relationships with Dannii Minogue, the Australian singer, and Ellen Green, an American ballerina. He was also briefly engaged to them. He later married Johanna Martinez on May 29, 2006, and the couple has two sons: Jules and Joakim. They eventually divorced in July 2009.
He is currently married to Camila Lopes, and the couple has two sons: Benjamin and Henri. He lives with his family in Switzerland.
Villeneuve, in his heydays, left behind a lasting legacy in Canadian motorsports. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 and was also named Canada’s Athlete of the Year. Previously, he was named an Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 1998.