28 years ago… Jacques Villeneuve won his first Grand Prix

It was Sunday April 28, 1996. While only participating in his fourth career Grand Prix, Jacques Villeneuve triumphed on the Nürburgring. A look back at a victory that shaped the legend of the Canadian.

Published on 28/04/2024 à 12:10

Yannis Duval

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28 years ago… Jacques Villeneuve won his first Grand Prix

At 24, Jacques Villeneuve climbs to the top of the podium. ©Williams Racing

For his debut in Formula 1, Jacques Villeneuve had already impressed everyone. Pole position during the opening round, in Australia, in front of his teammate Damon Hill. The pilot Williams could have even won the victory, but his car decided otherwise; his FW18 suffered an oil leak, costing him the top step of the podium. The rookie nevertheless finished 2nd for his first race.

Jacques Villeneuve did not have to wait long before tasting victory for the first time. It was Sunday April 28, 1996, during the European Grand Prix, at the Nürburgring. The Canadian starts second on the starting grid, just ahead Michael Schumacher, the national hero.

On the first impulse, Damon Hill, who started on pole, completely missed the point and fell to 5th place. Jacques Villeneuve is leading the race. On the 5th lap, he was 4 seconds ahead of David Coulthard, who was in second place. The Briton is in a 4-way battle with Barrichello, Schumacher and Hill, much to the delight of the leader of the day. At the end of the first stint, 14 seconds separated Villeneuve from Coulthard.

Schumacher's comeback

Michael Schumacher, who had stopped a few laps earlier, was able to gain time from all his competitors; he only has 8 seconds left behind the Canadian's Williams. The pilot Ferrari is much faster than the leader and takes back one second per lap. When entering the 38th loop of the Nürburgring, Schumacher was stuck with Villeneuve but without finding the fault, he stopped for his second pitstop, 6 laps later.

Villeneuve Schumacher

Villeneuve – Schumacher, a fierce fight. ©DPPI

The Red Baron lost time coming out of the pits behind Damon Hill, who was doing the teamwork. Jacques Villeneuve returns in turn and keeps the lead of the race. On the 51st lap, Michael Schumacher made the junction again, and found himself stuck to the FW18. Despite numerous attacks from the double world champion, the rookie did not waver and won the European Grand Prix. Only seven tenths separate the two men at the end of a battle which will have marked the fans of the time.

“It’s fantastic to win a race, exclaims the winner of the day at the end of the race. Especially after the start of the season we had where we were riding quite hard. We just needed the victory! »

Villeneuve writes his legend

For his fourth career Grand Prix, Jacques Villeneuve climbs to the highest step of the podium. In his first four races, there were three podiums including one victory. Furthermore, the Canadian is one of the drivers who have won a Grand Prix with the fewest races to their credit. Emerson Fittipaldi, for example, also won his first Grand Prix after his fourth race.

In this first season as a rookie, Jacques Villeneuve showed the extent of his talent by winning three Grands Prix and getting on the podium each time he saw the checkered flag.

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