Gilles Villeneuve

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Joseph Gilles Henri Villeneuve (born 18th January, 1950 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada) is a Canadian former racing driver.

His son, Jacques also drove in Formula One - winning the Driver's Championship in 1997 and racing as recently as 2014.

The Île Notre-Dame Circuit was renamed the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in his honour in the mid-1980s.


Formula One

1976-1977: Kojima

Villeneuve made his Formula One debut at the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix for the unfancied Kojima Engineering squad alongside Masahiro Hasemi.

In the wet of Fuji Speedway, the KE007 proved a worthy steed for both drivers - with Villeneuve taking an eleventh place finish in the race.

Villeneuve rejected a bid to race full-time in F1 from American outfit Team Penske and returned to Formula Atlantic in 1977.

Villeneuve entered the BRDC International Trophy in 1977 with the Kojima squad and impressed even further - taking a fifth place in the race after running ahead of the two works Renault cars before they retired.

1977-1978: Ferrari

His Kojima heroics impressed those at Maranello, who saw fit to put him in one of the four works Ferrari cars at the inaugural Trofeo Dino Ferrari. In a solid outing, he would be denied a 3rd place finish after suffering mechanical failure on the last lap. This performance, along with his Kojima drives, put Villeneuve at the top of Enzo Ferrari's shortlist to replace Patrick Depailler for 1978. In direct competition with young Italian driver Elio de Angelis, Villeneuve would make his World Championship debut at the 1977 Canadian Grand Prix, replacing Depailler. Although Mario Andretti would get pole for the race, Villeneuve shocked the racing world and held a charging Andretti behind for the final 20 laps to take a win on his second F1 start and debut for Ferrari.

This performance was enough to convince Ferrari of his talents, and as a result the Canadian driver was signed by them for the 1978 season alongside Jody Scheckter. Villeneuve continued his fine run of form by taking pole for the first race of the season in Argentina. He would win one Grand Prix, the Swiss GP at Dijon; however, a string of poor performances in the second half of the season, where he only finished in the points twice, would derail his season. This notably included tearing his suspension apart at Hockehneim whilst trying to get his car out of the grave. The true lowlight of his season would come in the season finale at Watkins Glen where, with Scheckter still in contention for the championship, Villeneuve tangled with him, giving Scheckter's car terminal damage. Villeneuve too would fail to finish after hitting mechanical trouble, whilst a Lotus 1-2 scuppered Ferrari's dreams of both the drivers' and constructors' championships. Villeneuve was blamed by Enzo Ferrari for costing the team both championships and thus promptly fired, to be unexpectedly replaced by Ferrari's main rival in 1978: World Champion Mario Andretti.

Complete Formula 1 Results

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Points WDC
1976 Kojima Engineering Kojima KE-007 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 ARG RSA USW ESP BEL MON SOV FRA GBR GER AUT NED ITA CAN USA JPN
11
0 NC
1977 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 ARG RSA USW ESP BEL MON FRA TUS SOV GBR NED GER AUT ITA CAN
1
USA JPN 9 13th
1978 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 ARG
13†
RSA
Ret
USW
5
ESP
2
BEL
3
MON
Ret
SUI
1
TUS
2
GBR
Ret
FRA
Ret
NED
2
GER
19†
AUT
Ret
ITA
3
CAN
Ret
USA
Ret
37 5th
1979 Saudia Williams Racing Team Williams FW07 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 ARG
Ret
BRA
Ret
RSA
Ret
USW
Ret
ESP
3
BEL
1
MON
4
EUR
Ret
SMR
1
FRA
16†
GBR
4
GER
1
AUT
2
NED
C
ITA
Ret
CAN
Ret
USA
4
46 4th
1980 Saudia Williams Racing Team Williams FW08 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 ARG
2
BRA
1
USW
Ret
ESP
Ret
BEL
3
MON
1
MEX
3
SMR
1
FRA
1
GBR
2
GER
1
AUT
3
ITA
Ret
CAN
Ret
CPL
3
DUB
2
75 (79) 2nd