Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Villeneuve's father was Gilles Villeneuve, a Formula One driver killed during qualifying at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix when Jacques was only eleven years old. His uncle, also named Jacques Villeneuve (elder), was a moderately successful driver in American and Canadian road racing, winning one IndyCar race. Young Jacques, following his family's racing footsteps, first competed in the Italian Formula 3 series from 1989 through 1991. In 1992, he raced in the Japanese Formula 3 series, winning three races and placing second in the championship. In 1993, Jacques moved to the North American Toyota Atlantic racing series, where he won five races. He moved to Champcar in 1994, and was the series Rookie of the Year after a string of strong results, including his first victory at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. In 1995, he won the Indianapolis 500 on his way to winning the championship.
Formula One champion
In 1996, he moved to Formula One with the Williams team. His debut was nothing less than spectacular, as he became only the second Formula One driver in history to achieve both a pole and a podium position in his maiden grand prix. He won four races that year, reached the podium 11 times, and finished with 78 points — all rookie records, which still stand today. He finished the season runner-up in the drivers championship to teammate Damon Hill, and helped Williams win the constructor championship by over 100 points. With the 1997 departure of Hill to Arrows, Villeneuve became the number one at Williams, and he responded emphatically by winning seven races on his way to winning the drivers championship and another constructor crown. He finished with 10 poles, 8 podiums, and 81 points, clinching the title in dramatic fashion by beating Ferrari rival Michael Schumacher in the final race of the year. However, Villeneuve's career went into sharp decline following his drivers championship. Remaining with Williams in 1998, he struggled with an underpowered Mecachrome engine, and failed to win a single race.
Struggles at BAR
In 1999, Villeneuve joined the newly-founded British American Racing (BAR) team, co-founded and partly owned by Villeneuve's personal manager, Craig Pollock . Although expectations were high, the team had a truly dreadful season, not scoring a single championship point all year long. Villeneuve would remain at BAR for the next five seasons, never placing higher than seventh in the drivers championship. The majority of his tenure at BAR is marked by repeated mechanical failures; when he did manage to finish a race, it usually was not on the lead lap. In 2003, Villeneuve came under harsh media criticism for being regularly outpaced by his younger (and less experienced) teammate, Jenson Button. Many critics also questioned Villeneuve's reported $19 million annual salary, given that he scored a meager six championship points that year. Therefore, he was replaced for the final race by Takuma Sato, who would take over the race seat the following year. After Villeneuve's departure, BAR would rise from fifth place to second in the constructor championship. From 1996 to 2003, Villeneuve competed in 131 Grands Prix, with a grand total of 11 wins and 13 pole positions.
Inactive for most of the 2004 season, Villeneuve's absence nevertheless had a strong impact on the Formula One season, especially in light of Schumacher's dominance. In September, Villeneuve returned to Formula One, driving the final three Grands Prix of the season for French-based Renault. Although vowing to help them achieve second place in the constructor championship (ahead of his former team BAR), he failed to score a single point, unable to finish a single race on the lead lap; Renault settled for third in the final standings. Villeneuve also signed a two-year contract to drive for Sauber, starting in 2005.
When not racing, Jacques Villeneuve lives in Villars-sur-Ollon , Switzerland. He has, however, remained a Canadian citizen, and has never been married. He appeared briefly in the 2001 Sylvester Stallone action movie Driven as a race car driver. Villeneuve has also been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. He is currently engaged to American ballerina Ellie Green.
Formula One career results
- 1996 — Williams-Renault — 4 wins, 78 points (finished 2nd)
- 1997 — Williams-Renault — 7 wins, 81 points (World Champion)
- 1998 — Williams-Mecachrome — 0 wins, 21 points (finished 5th)
- 1999 — BAR-Supertec — 0 wins, 0 points (finished: unclassified)
- 2000 — BAR-Honda — 0 wins, 17 points (finished 7th)
- 2001 — BAR-Honda — 0 wins, 12 points (finished 8th)
- 2002 — BAR-Honda — 0 wins, 4 points (finished 12th)
- 2003 — BAR-Honda — 0 wins, 6 points (finished 16th)
- 2004 — Renault — 0 wins, 0 points (finished unclassified)
- 2005 — Sauber-Petronas — (in progress)
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