Jacques Villeneuve to drive Ferrari at ceremony to mark Gilles’ death

2012 F1 season

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Ferrari will mark 30 years since the death of Gilles Villeneuve in an event at the Fiorano circuit next month.

Villeneuve’s son Jacques will drive the 312T4 raced by his father when he finished second in the 1979 season.

Villeneuve was killed in a crash during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.

The team said: “His memory is still vivid and alive in the minds of many at Maranello; his talent, his speed, his bravery which bordered on recklessness, all go to make his name still hugely popular with our fans, even among younger ones who have only been able to see him on replays of his races or read about him in stories written by journalists.”

“It will be a fitting occasion to evoke the memory of a man who has and always will have a place of honour in the history of Ferrari.”

The event will take place on May 8th, exactly 30 years since Villeneuve was killed.

Gilles Villeneuve

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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47 comments on “Jacques Villeneuve to drive Ferrari at ceremony to mark Gilles’ death”

  1. Ha, Jaques finally gets his chance to get into an F1 car again!

    But yeah, it really does deserve a great tribute.

  2. Gilles is easily my favourite ever F1 driver. People can coo over Senna, MSC and Prost all they like (for they were undoubtedly talented) but even though Gilles never achieved a fraction of what they did in terms of results his personality and style just blow them away in my opinion. He put a huge emphasis on honesty and trust, he may have abided by team orders with Scheckter but I don’t see this as a bad thing- he stuck to a deal and cost himself a shot at a title all because he thought it was fair. His speed barely begins to compute with my mind (especially when I think of the wet practice at the US in 79 and his two victories in 81 in a useless Ferrari) and he was a racer happy to go wheel to wheel with anyone rather than trundle at the front by himself. Whenever I think of the best F1 story I always think of Gilles. It was such a shame for the sport he died as I’m sure many would have liked to have seen him against Senna but I get goosebumps just watching Villeneuve on Youtube.

    1. The thing is that F1 wasnt as popular as it would become in the mid 80’s and 90’s, most people didnt got a chance to see Gilles driving because of that and also because he died in 30 years ago so you must be around 40 to remember his death, its funny that F1’s Golden age was missed by most of the fans just because we were either too young and the sport wasnt as broadly covered.

      1. I’m 21! I don’t remember it, I’ve just searched for info on him fanatically for years now.

      2. @ukfanatic…yeah it took a Canadian driver to enter F1 for television coverage to come to Canada, and I have been watching ever since. But I take your point that prior to that we (or at least I) missed a lot of the rich history of F1 that had already taken place and that you could only read about in newspapers or gleen from the odd book at the library.

    2. This is a wonderful tribute to him.
      WARNING: Be ready to cry.

      1. Touched me deeply…

  3. People shud have a look at Gilles driving in Canada in 1981 with the front wing blocking his view in the rain. Utter genius. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Co-K4bWxKCY

    1. Haha that was so cool!

    2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SmrV-FFC1w&feature=related
      Here, this one’s actually watchable, and has English commentary. Very good quality actually. It’s bizarre seeing how different one entire side of the track is.

      1. great driving, I’ve never seen anything like that before! Did he eventually get black flagged?

        1. No, and I believe he finished on the podium, didn’t he?

          1. yes, he came 3rd

    3. Oh no! That was the old days! In my time (I was not even born in 1981) Charlie would show him the black flag.

      What show!

    4. Hamilton would get a drive through if that ever happened today.

      1. HewisLamilton
        9th April 2012, 15:28

        Vettel or Alonso wouldn’t…. just Hamilton.
        Do people really believe that?

  4. Wow I can’t wait to see this car run again if its recorded! It was such a shame that such a talented driver had his life cut short asnd although I am resignwd to watching old races, I get goosebumps just seeing how much he pushed the car.

  5. What a wonderful and passionate comment. I know nothing of Gilles but am now driven to investigate. Thanks for spreading the word!

    1. Amongst all that you will find when you investigate, I highly recommend Gerald Donaldson’s book, of which I have an autographed (by the author) copy, “Gilles Villeneuve, The Life of the Legendary Racing Driver.” This book is touted not only as the best book written about Gilles, it is also touted as one of the best F1 books written.

      1. seconded, Donaldson’s bio of Villeneuve is a triumph of an author capturing 1 man’s life so brilliantly. Ive read a good number of F1 driver bio’s and it stands heads and sholders about every other book.

  6. There is one thing i remember very well in 82, is the radio flying across the living room because of one my uncle who had heard enough when it said “the number 27 driver’s Gilles Villeneuve has been ejected of his cockpit and is laying unconsciously on the other side of the track after being involved in a crash with the car number 17”. Both of my uncles got into f1 in 77, and lost all interest after that day. I still don’t know what they admired the most in Gilles, we lived 1hours away his hometown in Quebec and they never got to meet him in person but they watched the entire race on the Jacques-Cartier bridge in 78 cause they couldn’t afford admission tickets, must of worth it.

  7. Gilles, Gilles, Gilles one of the best. I remember a commentator saying of him, as he drove back to the pits with a puncture, “He just doesn’t know how to drive slowly does he???” Truest statement ever said…

    1. Gilles general philosophy was not to try a certain corner, negotiate it just fine, and then the next lap try it a little faster. Rather, he tried the corner the first time by overcooking it and often going off, then would back off a little the next time around having already found the limit of the car. Pure bravery.

  8. Ferrari never miss a trick like this. Fair play to them. A nice gesture.

  9. One of the very best natural talents of all time whose life was cut tragically short, Gilles Villeneuve was not only superbly fast at all times, but capable of managing a race and the conditions he was thrown into. I think particularly of that amazing defensive display at Jarama in ’81, holding the lead against four leading cars in a ferrari which had no right to be there.

    I feel sure he would have won the title in ’82, and then many times after that. That Ferrari are choosing to honour him in this way is a terrific gesture. Well done!

  10. If gilles were still alive today I bet he’d be appauled at the current f1 with artificial gimmicks like drs & the absurd tyres there forced to race with.

    certainly if gilles was racing in f1 today he’d never be able to drive as he always did as he’d destroy his tyres quicker than anyone else & he’d never be able to drive defensively as he did in slower cars as he’d just get drs-ed.

    just shows how much of a joke modern f1 is with all the stupid gimicks to artificially create poor racing.

    1. I’ve long been of the opinion that gimmicks such as using two tyre compounds, DRS, Kers, all the qualifying **** are detrimental to the racing. A case point being Schumacher’s drive in Canada; it had all the hallmarks of that amazing drive by Gilles in Jarama with defensive driving at its very best, all to be ruined by a Formula 1 gimmick to “improve the show” letting faster cars breeze by.

      1. @THOMF1S…while I am completely with you on gimmicks, don’t forget that MS benefitted from using DRS earlier in the race to help get to where he was before it got ‘ruined’ as you put it. Just saying…live by the sword, die by the sword. If you are going to bemoan gimmicks, as do I, then consider that perhaps MS was ‘artificially’ in 3rd with 10 laps to go in Canada, never mind the crapshoot that race became with all the stoppages and safety car laps making it a difficult race with which to make any kind of true comparisons, imho.

    2. I agree with you on DRS.

      But this idea some people seem to have that drivers have only needed to look after their tyres since Pirelli came along last year is sheer nonsense. It certainly was the case in Villeneuve’s time, as tyres struggled to cope with the loads being placed on them by ground effect aerodynamics.

      1. I like drs because I think being ale to reduce drag and improve top speed is a great idea, but I hate the fact that in race situations it is only available between set points the fia think are suitable. I think the drivers should be able to use drs whenever they want like in qualifying.

        If all the drivers could drs at all times would that stop “fake” overtaking?

        1. If all the drivers could drs at all times would that stop “fake” overtaking?

          I woudn’t even call what DRS produces overtaking.

          I’d call it motorway passing.

      2. I think the way drivers have to treat the tyres is different now though, Its more artificial in that your forced to run 2 compounds, Don’t have a selection of several compounds & the tyres are designed to wear faster than normal.

        When Gilles races pit stops were rare, You either picked the hardest compound at the cost of performance but could drive flat out, Or picked a softer compound which gave more performance but required you to conserve a bit at some point.

        Was all a lot more natural, Everything surrounding tyres now is completely artificial & the racing it generates is just as artificial & a lot of the time just as unexciting as what DRS does.
        Both the tyres & DRS take away the possibility to defend & both produce boring uncontested passing which I havn’t been finding exciting or intresting to watch as a fan of RACING.

        1. I agree the tyre situation is at a dire point, I think f1 drivers should be driving hard most of the time rather than “taking care of tyres” for the duration of a race. I do like the fact everyone has to use tyres from the same company but the Pirellis just degrade way too quickly, so much so I’ve almost been put off ever buying Pirelli tyres for my car!

          But if all the drivers can use DRS without restriction surely using DRS appropriately would just be a (relatively easy) skill each driver would employ throughout a race race and drivers wouldn’t be able to simply wait to a DRS point to make an easy pass

          1. Excuse ze English I have been drinking and writing on an iPad, but I think I have got the question across!?

    3. DRS, certainly, but just look at that great article about Jim Clark posted in the roundup yesterday and you will see that managing tyres has been a key skill of the best F1 drivers all the way since the racing started (that is, after they actually got tyres on the cars!).

    4. @Pete, et al…so interesting you brought this up. I harken back to JV bemoaning the grooved tires that were introduced in the late 90’s. He considered them a gimmick. He publicly called them a joke and got hauled up on the FIA carpet in Paris for it, his wrist slapped for defaming F1. At the time he stated, and I think this is so interesting given the car he is about to drive for Ferrari’s tribute to his Dad, give us back the big fat slicks they used in the 70’s. That way you kill two birds with one stone. Those fatties created so much drag down the straights that you were forced to run less wing if you wanted to carry any kind of respectable straightline speed. So in one swoop you get mechanical grip with those fatties, and are less aero dependant due to having to run a limited amount of wing.

      As some here have pointed out to me, they won’t likely be going back to those big fat slicks, but I think the point is taken. I too think GV and JV would have hated DRS, or at least the decision to use such a gimmick as a way to promote passing when there are other better ways to do that. And I think it is a shame that now that we have sticky Pirelli’s, ie. mechanical grip, that they still feel the need to use DRS. Now is the time they don’t need DRS, now that they probably have more mechanical grip from the tires than they have had in a long time. And now that they have taken away much of the effect of EBD. What better time that around now for F1/FIA to consider dropping DRS for next year and go back to the ‘simpler’ times of the likes of GV driving by the seat of his pants with pure will and bravery and fearlessness that he learned racing skidoos at venues across Canada, little Jacques and family in tow.

  11. Salut Gilles,
    Canada remembers.
    Terry in Victoria, British Columbia

  12. Comparing Gilles Villeneuve to other legendary drivers is all well and good, but for me, this was a man who died with yet so much to achieve. Unlike Aryton Senna, Gilles never won the title, yet he certainly had the talent and the balls to do so. Even though it was before my time, Dijon 1979 is a clip I have watched so many times and is probably the most ruthless yet skillfull driving I have seen in F1. Much like Senna, this was a man not afraid to take risks and sadly in the end poor Gilles ran out of luck.
    If my memory is correct, when Gilles was killed I do believe he was trying to out qualify his Ferrari team mate following a very public spat at the grands prix before? I think the other driver was Didier Pironi but I am not 100%!
    As for Ferrari is certainly is a nice gesture and I will look forward to it. 1982 was a bad year for F1, with two drivers dead.

  13. I wonder why Jacques never got the call to drive for Ferrari at some point. Or did he? And, I still don’t understand why the pilgrimage to Gilles occurs. We know he was talented, but in the end, he apparently let his emotions get him killed? It’s not like his front wing came off, or his steering rack failed. Yeah, I said it.

    1. JV never got the call to Ferrari because by the time he had an opportunity to drive an F1 car it was with Williams, and Ferrari already had their sites set on MS and were never interested in having a top level driver as MS’s teammate. As time went along it was obvious that the team was all for MS, so the likes of JV and other top drivers who were asked about going to Ferrari all said that they would relish the opportunity to compete one on one vs. MS, but would not be able to trust that they were getting fair and equal treatment on the team.

      While I think it is shades of grey to say that GV’s emotions are what killed him, it was his emotions about racing that stirred the emotions of the tifosi, and caused Gilles to be thought of by Enzo Ferrari as his son. So why the pilgrimage? GV’s never-say-never desire to achieve the fastest lap possible on every lap, be it in testing, practice, qualifying, or the race is what endeared him to arguably the most die-hard racing fans…the tifosi…and of course it was infectious and much of the world understood what they had in GV.

  14. It was Gilles’ entry into F1 with Ferrari that brought television coverage of F1 to Canada, and I have been watching since then.

    Interestingly, if you google Jacques Villeneuve at Goodwood 2004 you will see video of JV driving the T3 which is the car GV drove in 78 with which he won the Canadian GP that year. It was meant as a tribute to commemorate 25 years since the famous battle between GV and Rene Arnoux, even though the car that year was the T4 (1979), so I’ll assume a working T4 was not available for Goodwood 04. JV wore his Dad’s helmet too.

    JV also said this was a one-off as a thank you to his Dad. So I think it is a special treat that JV is doing this, this year. I’m sure at Goodwood in 04 he thought it would be a one-off but probably couldn’t anticipate at the time what might be in the future, such as a tribute by Ferrari to GV to commemorate 30 years since his death.

    Fantastic stuff. Thank you to JV for doing this.

  15. I was there when Gilles Villenueve was at the peak of his career. In the middle of three victories in a span of five events. The 312T4 was such a different looking car, the sounds it made at full song is something the words of humans can’t describe, it had to be heard, like a nest of angry hornets. At Long Beach in 1979 the car approached the first turn ahead of the sound it would make…it was so fast that you saw it before you heard it.

    On Friday morning I happened to be at the right spot at the right time when the cars were rolled from the garage to the pit road. Right in front of me this thing, the 312T4, was just inches away and I had this overwhelming feeling what the hell is this thing. Then we saw it run and my life changed that day.

    Its impact affected me in a very deep manor. I got the Ferrari bug, found myself consumed with their history and aquired a Grand Prix hero in Villeneuve. When he was killed at Zolder I fell into a depression and those around me said that something had changed about me. It did and for many of us who saw the man when he was at his peak will never forget what he did in such a short period of time.

    Speculation about his future had he lived is a classic case of potential unrealized. He had the tools and certainly had the talent and he also had the carnival ride of a Ferrari team that was both up and down. Stewarts record of 27 victories was the goal and Gilles could have broken that record which today seems like nothing. At the time it was the mark and we will never know what might have been.

    I bought a Tamiya 1/12 scale Model of the 312T4 back in 1997 and have saved it to build this year in honor of what Villeneuve meant to me. I will always remember him for how he conducted himself as a man both inside and out of the cockpit.


    1. Omg, TED BELL…fantastic stuff!

      While I didn’t have the thrilling first-hand live experience you did with the T4 and what it meant to you (so well described), Gilles’ entry with Ferrari, bringing F1 to Canadian television, was life-changing for me, and upon his death I found the wind taken out of my sails. It was Senna that brought me back to the edge of my seat. After his death I felt the same wind gone from my sails and it took JV to get me back to the edge again. Since JV I have been fairly indifferent as to the winner of the races/WDC’s. I’m still excited to watch a race, but am missing that edge of the seat, butterflies in the stomach feeling. I think I might be able to get back there with NR in a competitive car.

      As to Tamiya models…I have pretty much everything they have done in 1/12 and 1/20 scale F1 kits. I have not tackled most of them as I have wanted to become a better model maker before I jump into those special kits. I am pretty much ready now…time will be the dictating factor. I am so tempted to jump into that T4 kit, now that you bring it up. Believe it or not I also have a wee Tameo 1/43 scale kit of the T4 that has more parts than the Tamiya 1/12 kit. (not that it is all about parts count).

      1. Too bad JV’s years at BAR had been unfortunate.

      2. Build the models. They in time will become a great sense of pride for you. Don’t worry abour your skills and the fear of building a kit that is too much for you. The Tamiya kits are easy to build, follow the instructions and you will end up with a really nice model.
        Building models is like going on a trip. You start somewhere and end up somewhere. Along the way your skills will improve and your results will be better. I am proud to look back some 35 years and see how much my abilities to make models has changed.
        Buy the kits now as the prices are getting out of hand. My first kit was the Tamiya P34 six wheeler, paid $18 for it. My first 312T4 was $42. The one I am about to start again, was $75 but bought 15 years ago…Today more than $150.
        Model making is a great hobby, taking your time and learning along the way will pay dividends back at some point. Good luck with future projects.

        1. Great stuff, Ted…agree with you completely and as I say, I feel I am there with my skills now, but time will be the factor. My first Tamiya kit was the 1/20 312T3. I still remember like it was yesterday taking it home and opening it up and marvelling at the detail and the quality. No wonder it was more money than the American made kits, was my first thought, as having grown up in Northern Ontario the hobby shop owner wasn’t that well versed in the difference. Oh well, the main thing was that he bought it from the distributor and had it shipped to Timmins, Ontario for the likes of me to purchase, so for that I am hugely thankful.

  16. That’s a really nice gesture and thanks for spreading the word and the videos of him. I am really amazed.

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