Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Former F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve arrives at 'Le Grand Soir', in Montreal, Thursday, June 7, 2012.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Veteran driver Jacques Villeneuve long held a been-there-done-that attitude toward IndyCar, and had little interest in returning to the open-wheel racing series.

But the 1997 Formula One world champion's view changed after the admittedly skeptical Canadian got hooked on IndyCar again, mostly due to the new car and engine formula it introduced in 2012.

"It looked really exciting with the new cars, to the point that I was getting angry and jealous because I was not racing, so that got me going again," said the 42-year-old, who last drove in IndyCar 19 years ago, when he took the 1995 Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) title and then promptly left for F1.

Story continues below advertisement

"It reminded me of when I was a kid and I was watching racing – how exciting it was – and that's what made me becoming a race car driver and I was getting that feeling again watching it."

So, when Schmidt Peterson Motorsports came calling a few weeks ago, the only Canadian to drink the traditional milk in the winner's circle at the famed Brickyard couldn't help but accept an offer to race in his third Indianapolis 500 in May.

(The Indy 500 won't be his only track action this year, after Villeneuve announced earlier this month he will drive for Albatec Racing in the new FIA World Rallycross Championship.)

The Schmidt team has entered a total of 10 cars in the Indianapolis 500 since its first appearance in 2009, with a best finish of eighth by French driver Simon Pagenaud last year. Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., raced for Sam Schmidt in 2011, and became the first Canadian to take an Indy 500 pole. He finished 28th that year because of an accident.

Villeneuve raced twice previously at the famed Brickyard, becoming the first Canadian to take rookie of the year in 1994, before finding glory in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" a year later.

In all, the native of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., grabbed five wins in 33 CART starts, and took 13 poles and 11 wins in 163 F1 races over 11 seasons. Along with U.S. racing legend Mario Andretti and Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, the Canadian, who now lives in Andorra, is one of only three drivers to win a CART championship, an F1 crown and the Indy 500.

The Indianapolis 500 victory was arguably one of Villeneuve's best performances, after he erased an early two-lap deficit and moved back into contention late in the race. Essentially, he won the Indianapolis 505.

Story continues below advertisement

After joining F1 in 1996, with Williams and winning the championship as a sophomore, Villeneuve went on to race for BAR, Renault and finally Sauber. He left F1 for good two-thirds through the 2006 season.

Since leaving the Grand Prix circuit, he competed in the European Le Mans Series, as well as short stints in stock cars of different types, most notably racing at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, where he finished third twice.

Unfortunately, fans hoping to see more of Villeneuve in IndyCar this year will be disappointed. His busy racing schedule and work as an F1 television commentator in Italy leave little time to squeeze in other races, such as the Honda Indy Toronto.

"Doing just a race like Toronto is really stacking it against you," he said. "It's a very hard racetrack and you don't get the mileage like you do at Indy. It's not really something you just jump into.

"As a one-off, the Indy 500 is the one that stands out it – is the biggest race in the world."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies