Legend has it that Ferrari made that offer to Jacques Villeneuve way back in the late 90s after he'd won the Indy 500 and the CART title in the same year, going on to place second in his first season in Formula One and clinching the title the following year. He was the hottest commodity in motor racing, after all, and Ferrari had been his father's team. But Jacques turned it down, opting instead to build up the BAR-Honda team for which he would drive for five seasons before bouncing around another three and eventually retiring.
JV never did get another shot at driving for Ferrari – not in F1 and not in any other form of motor racing, of which Jacques has contested many. Not until today, anyway, when he was invited to the firm's private Fiorano test track. The reason was to pay tribute to his late, great father Gilles Villeneuve.
The occasion was to mark the 30th anniversary of Gilles' tragic death, which occurred behind the wheel of a Ferrari F1 car during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix on May 8, 1982. Gilles Villeneuve, for whom the grand prix circuit in Montreal is named, was regarded as one of the best drivers ever to have lived, and to see his world champion son drive his Ferrari 312 T4 – the same one in which he won three races in 1979 – was surely a fitting tribute. See for yourself in the vast gallery of high-resolution images above.
Maranello, 8 May – This morning, at the Fiorano Circuit, one could be forgiven for imagining that Gilles Villeneuve was back on track, when shortly after 10.30, a 312 T4 rumbled out of the pits prior to doing a few laps of the track. In fact, this was a special commemoration organised by Ferrari as a tribute to the Canadian driver who raced for the Maranello Scuderia from 1977 until he died tragically during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix on 8 May 1982. On the thirtieth anniversary of his death, his son Jacques took to the track in his memory, at the wheel of the same car with which his father won three races in 1979 and that his team-mate Jody Scheckter drove to take the Drivers' Championship title. Taking part in the event were Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo, the Vice President Piero Ferrari, the Scuderia Ferrari drivers, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, the Managing Director, Amadeo Felisa and the engineer, Mauro Forghieri, who was Technical Director in Gilles' day. Many fans were drawn to Maranello by the ever present memory of the courageous driver and bringing the event to life, they were joined by Villeneuve's mechanics, his widow Joann and their daughter Melanie, who had been by his side back in those unforgettable days.