Skip to main content

F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve to make comeback at Indy 500

March 2, 2014 -- Updated 1052 GMT (1852 HKT)
Jacques Villeneuve claimed the 1995 Indy 500 after recovering from a mid-race penalty at the Brickyard.
Jacques Villeneuve claimed the 1995 Indy 500 after recovering from a mid-race penalty at the Brickyard.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jacques Villeneuve to race at this year's Indy 500
  • The 42-year-old Canadian will drive for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
  • Villeneuve won the famous race the last time he competed in 1995
  • Went on to race in Formula One and took 1997 world championship

(CNN) -- Jacques Villeneuve has not competed in the Indy 500 since his 1995 triumph in one of motor sport's most iconic events but at the age of 42 the Canadian will return to the famous Brickyard for this year's race.

Villeneuve will drive for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team and, if he qualifies for the race proper on May 25, he will set a new record for the biggest gap between starts, the 19 years surpassing the old mark of 17, jointly held by Cy Marshall and Roland Free between 1930 and 1947.

Villeneuve went on to claim the 1995 IndyCar season championship before moving to Formula One, claiming the 1997 world title and a total of 11 wins from 34 grand prix starts.

Currently an F1 commentator as well as competing in World Rallycross, Villeneuve said he was excited by the prospect of another chance of Indy 500 glory.

F1 legend on making it big in the U.S.
Experience Alonso's world up close

"To have the opportunity to return to IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis 500 is something I never thought possible," Villeneuve told his official website.

Read: Memorable finishes to F1 seasons

"The memories I have there will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I'm excited to create new memories in 2014."

Villeneueve will partner the ambitious team's full-time IndyCar drivers Simon Pagenaud of France and Mikhail Aleshin of Russia for the 500-mile (800 km) race on the 2.5 mile (4km) circuit in Indianapolis.

Team principal Sam Schmidt said the acquisition of Villeneuve underlined their ambition as they enter just their third season in IndyCar.

"We're very pleased to have a driver of the caliber of Jacques in our lineup in May," Schmidt said.

"He's a former winner in the event and brings tremendous experience from his success in the world's top racing series."

Co-owner Ric Peterson was in the crowd when Villeneuve won the the Indy 500 in 1995.

Mentoring Vettel and Schumacher
See Franchitti's car crash into wall

"Having grown up in Canada, the name Villeneuve is synonymous with winning. and Jacques being the only Canadian to win that huge event, it gave me a huge sense of national pride," he said.

Villeneuve's father Gilles won six races during a brief but storied F1 career - until losing his life in an accident at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982.

His son inherited his flair for motor sport and upon graduating to the IndyCar series in 1994 made an early impression by being named Rookie of the Year.

His 1995 triumphs made him hot property and he was signed by the then dominant Williams team for the 1996 F1 season, finishing runner-up in the title race to teammate Damon Hill of Britain.

The next season came his title success after a titanic battle with Germany's Michael Schumacher, the seven-time world F1 champion.

Read: Schumacher's family 'strongly believe' he will recover from ski accident

It was to prove the pinnacle of his career and after leaving Williams to drive with BAR, Renault and Sauber, Villeneuve switched to NASCAR racing in 2007.

He is one of only two drivers to have competed in IndyCar, NASCAR Sprint Cup and Formula One.

The other, Colombia's Juan Pablo Montoya is returning to IndyCar for the 2014 season with Team Penske.

Mario Andretti's biggest fear: poverty
Wheldon: You never know what can happen

"I've been fortunate enough to compete in several of the world's top racing series, and nothing excites me more than entering the IndyCar series at its current level of competitiveness," Villeneuve said.

Villeneuve's place in Indy 500 history is already assured after his epic drive to win in 1995. He recovered from a mid-race two-lap penalty to beat Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi by over two seconds.

He is likely to be joined on the start line by three-time winner Helio Castroneves of Brazil, two-time winner Scott Dixon of New Zealand, Montoya, who won in 2000, and Brazil's Tony Kanaan, the defending champion.

If he was to enter Victory Lane, Villeneuve would break Al Unser's record for the longest gap between first and last victories. Unser went 17 years between his 1970 and 1987 triumphs.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Track the buzz of the 2014 Formula One season, race by race, with all the latest social reaction from motorsport experts.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Formula One is not likely to go hungry in Hungary as master chefs cater in volume for drivers, teams and VIP guests.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
It's the elephant in the room of Formula One. What's the prognosis legendary driver Michael Schumacher?
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
It stimulates all five senses, creating an unparalleled experience for drivers and fans alike. Take a tour of Monaco with Mark Webber.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
To be a champion you must win a title -- but to become an F1 legend you must win races at Monaco, the calendar's most testing circuit.
May 21, 2014 -- Updated 1459 GMT (2259 HKT)
Caterham F1 reserve driver Alexander Rossi takes you on a tour of the Monaco racing circuit.
May 5, 2014 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
The Formula One driver transcended his sport and even 20 years after his death, Ayrton Senna commands the adoration of fans worldwide.
May 1, 2014 -- Updated 1500 GMT (2300 HKT)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY IN ARABIC BY SUHEIL HOWAYEK: (FILES) Brazilian F1 driver Ayrton Senna adjusts his rear view mirror in the pits 01 May 1994 before the start of the San Marino Grand Prix. Senna died after crashing in the seventh lap. Some 45 drivers, including Senna and Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, have been killed during Formula One races whose tracks are dubbed by some as the 'circuits of death.' AFP PHOTO/JEAN-LOUP GAUTREAU (Photo credit should read JEAN-LOUP GAUTREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
F1's greatest racer was killed during the San Marino Grand Prix on May 1 1994. The sport hasn't been the same since.
April 30, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Just four F1 drivers turned up to Roland Ratzenberger's funeral after his death during qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix on April 30 1994.
April 25, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
For a championship with a distinctly Iberian streak, it is no surprise that South America should be high on MotoGP's list of territories to conquer.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
Susie Wolff, pictured, will become the Formula One's first female competitor in 20 years when she takes part in the first practice sessions at the British and German grands prix in July.
Too weak. Can't handle the pressure. Susie Wolff has heard it all -- but she is determined to become the first female F1 driver in 20 years.
CNN's Amanda Davies visits the headquarters of Mercedes, the dominant team in Formula One this season.
ADVERTISEMENT