Formula 1 Champion Jacques Villeneuve Found a Hidden Passion While His Racing Career Crashed and Burned
How many Formula 1 champions in history hail from Canada? Just one — 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve. How many Formula 1 champions in history have released a music album? Again, just one — our friend Mr. Villeneuve. How many copies did that album sell? Probably more than just one, but not much more.
Villeneuve sizzles early in his career
Jacques Villeneuve entered major auto racing with a chip on his shoulder from the very beginning. His father, Gilles, seemed on track to win the Formula One championship during the 1980s. Unfortunately, he lost his life in a brutal accident while qualifying at the Zolder circuit in Belgium in 1982.
Despite this, Jacques never lost his taste for auto racing and stormed into the American CART series in 1994. By his second year in that series, he took both the Indianapolis 500 and the series championship. By 1996, he departed for Formula 1, as the powerful Williams team offered him one of their seats.
His first two years in F1 proved exactly why Williams took a chance on the youngster. In his first season, he finished second in the points standings to teammate Damon Hill, dragging the championship battle all the way to the final race. The second season was even more rewarding, as he survived a controversial back-and-forth title fight with Michael Schumacher to win the 1997 world championship.
Villeneuve’s F1 career fizzles out
Unfortunately, things were never as bright for Villeneuve ever again. For context, in his first two Formula 1 seasons, he took 11 victories, 13 pole positions, and 19 podium finishes. For the rest of his career, he took only four podium finishes and failed to win or start on the pole once.
After a disappointing title defense in 1998, he left the Williams team for the brand-new British American Racing outfit in 1999. That season was an absolute disaster, as Villeneuve failed to rack up any points at all. After his BAR stint ended in 2001, he bounced from team to team, as it was clear that the glow from his 1997 championship had faded. By the middle of the 2006 season, Villeneuve was out of Formula 1 entirely.
Jacques finds a way to keep busy
Before long, Villeneuve found his way back into racing. He took part in the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans, and he made a brief — and unsuccessful — foray into NASCAR. But while he still considered racing his career, he found a “professional hobby” in music.
In the lead-up to the 2006 Canadian Grand Prix, held at his hometown of Montreal, Villeneuve released his first single, Accepterais-Tu? The song received some airplay on Canadian radio stations. Villeneuve followed that up the next year with his first — and so far only — full album, Private Paradise.
Despite his celebrity status, Private Paradise was not a success. According to the Canadian Press, the album sold a dismal 233 copies, only 30 of which came from outside of Quebec.