An exclusive interview for the Ferrari Magazine reveals new insights into the two Canadian drivers
Right now the Villeneuve name is everywhere and on everyone’s lips. There is Gilles, the Ferrari driver who died 30 years ago at Zolder in Belgium, and Jacques, his son who was world champion in 1997, won the Indy 500 and drove his father’s Ferrari at Fiorano. So we won’t go over old ground and repeat what’s already been said so many times.
It’s probably more interesting to dig a little deeper into the psychology of a child who, at the time of his father’s death, was just 11 but already hoping to become a driver. A child that had to deal with losing a father the public adored and who’d died so tragically.
I had dinner with Jacques yesterday evening at the Cavallino restaurant as part of an exclusive interview for The Ferrari Magazine. An interview in which he was both interviewer and interviewee. Jacques interviewed Piero Ferrari to ask him about what his own father was really like and was then himself interviewed about very personal, rarely broached issues.
I was struck by two things above all: the first was that it was his father’s death that pushed Jacques to really pursue a career as a driver. “I suddenly felt that I would have to take charge of my own life. That gave me huge determination that made me grow up and gave me the strength to overcome many obstacles in what was a difficult career.” When asked why he didn’t like talking about his father, Jacques answered very eloquently: “The journalists just wanted the answers they had in mind. They didn’t want to hear what I really wanted to say. So I just decided not to talk about him anymore.” And that’s how it stayed until this courageous man won the world title.
A world title that Ferrari still regrets losing today – ironically, Jacques Villeneuve snatched it from Schumacher with a brilliant pass worthy of his father. “Michael was convinced that no one else could pass him. He felt he was the strongest. I had to be very clever about it: after the pit stop, my tyres were fresher than his because I’d come in later. I knew that would be the only chance I’d get to pass him. So I sort of tricked Schumacher: I didn’t come up to near him because I didn’t want him to get suspicious. I knew where I could make my attack and I took the corner before it so fast I almost went off. I moved up behind him when he wasn’t expecting it. And I passed him.” Many will remember that Schumacher attempted a fruitless defensive manoeuvre, made contact with Villeneuve’s car and went off the track. “I was lucky to finish. I could hear strange noises from the car. I thought it was the suspension but actually the battery had come loose after the impact and was only being held on by its wires. It was a miracle I finished at all...".
Interesting. Interesting to uncover secrets that are sometimes overlooked in the news.