Former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve had agreed to honour the memory of his late father Gilles to mark thirty years since his tragic death by agreeing to drive his 1979 Formula 1 car in a special demonstration at Fiorano on May 8.
But while the Italian carmaker – for whom Gilles drove almost exclusively in his F1 career – is rightly honouring the legendary French-Canadian with much fanfare, its announcement left little to be desired…
Those who have followed Jacques’ career will know that his journey to Formula 1 was marked by his near refusal to publically discuss the legacy of his late father, who was killed in a sickening collision during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. Villeneuve was just eleven years old when his father was killed.
What little did emerge was that he and his father didn’t enjoy the closest of relationships, and for many years during his career in Formula 1, he was reluctant to go into great depth about his father.
After his retirement from F1, Jacques began to open up about his father, and his more recent statement have given fans a great insight into the pair’s relationship, and the influence that Gilles has had over Jacques’ life.
In 2004, he made a surprising appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed to perform a demonstration run in Gilles’ 1978 Ferrari to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his father’s legendary battle for second place with Rene Arnoux at the 1979 Swiss Grand Prix.
He even wore one of his father’s helmets, and pledged that it would be the first and last time he would get behind the wheel of one of his father’s cars:
Of course these types of pledges can be broken, and the addition of Jacques at Ferrari’s event is only appropriate.
“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 Italian team’s media announcement reads.
We couldn’t agree more, but perhaps the crew in the team’s media department might have wanted to put a few cursory words of gratitude to Jacques for agreeing to do so. The absence of this statement was very noticeable.
As much as the Ferrari team and the Formula 1 fraternity still mourns Gilles’ passing, one should not forget that the day will be particularly emotional for his son and the entire Villeneuve family.