Fans in the packed grandstands at the Canadian Grand Prix stood and cheered as Jacques Villeneuve toured the track in the car his father Gilles used to win the race 40 years ago.
Villeneuve rode his father’s No. 12 Ferrari from 1978 in the parade lap Sunday before the race.
The 47-year-old went around slowly, leading the current drivers who were in classic sports cars, waving to the crowd as he passed each grandstand.
“It wasn’t driving, it was almost like walking,” said Villeneuve of the slow pace. “But to sit in that car in front of this crowd — some of it from when I was racing, some from when my dad was racing — it was very special.”
His father won the Canadian Grand Prix the first year it was held on the track that was renamed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after his death in a crash at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix. His son Jacques followed him into F1 and won the 1997 championship with the Williams teams.
He said it would have been a “nice touch” if he had been able to drive for Ferrari in his career, but that he wouldn’t trade his championship for anything.
Current Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel paid tribute to Gilles Villeneuve and the team’s enduring popularity at the Canadian GP after earning pole position on Saturday, which impressed Jacques.
“It came as a shock because it was really heartfelt,” he said. “He’s passionate. He’s also very aware of the history of Formula One. It was very touching.”
He was less happy with a quote this week from F1 legend Niki Lauda, who said Red Bull’s Max Verstappen reminded him most of Gilles Villeneuve among current drivers. The younger Villeneuve is clearly not a fan of the aggressive Dutch driver.
“It’s disrespectful,” Jacques said. “Yes (Gilles) took risks but he didn’t put other drivers in danger. You can’t compare the two.”
Having the 1978 car on the track was the idea of Joann Villeneuve, Gilles’ widow and Jacques’ mother. He got the OK from the car’s owner in Toronto and from race organizers to have Jacques drive it on the track.
“All I hope is that the people who saw him go around the track had the same emotions I lived again,” she said. “You hear that sound and you say ‘this is what a Formula One engine sounds like.”’