Joseph Gilles Henri Villeneuve (French pronunciation: [ʒil vilnœv]; January 18, 1950 – May 8, 1982), known as Gilles Villeneuve, was a Canadian racing driver. Villeneuve spent six years in Grand Prix racing with Ferrari, winning six races and widespread acclaim for his performances.
An enthusiast of cars and fast driving from an early age, Villeneuve started his professional career in snowmobile racing in his native province of Quebec. He moved into single seaters, winning the US and Canadian Formula Atlantic championships in 1976, before being offered a drive in Formula One with the McLaren team at the 1977 British Grand Prix. He was taken on by reigning world champions Ferrari for the end of the season and from 1978 to his death in 1982 drove for the Italian team. He won six Grand Prix races in a short career at the highest level. In 1979, he finished second by four points in the championship to teammate Jody Scheckter.
Villeneuve died in a 140 mph (225 km/h) crash caused by a collision with the March of Jochen Mass during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. The accident came less than two weeks after an intense argument with his teammate, Didier Pironi, over Pironi's move to pass Villeneuve at the preceding San Marino Grand Prix. At the time of his death, Villeneuve was extremely popular with fans and has since become an iconic figure in the history of the sport. His son, Jacques Villeneuve, became Formula One world champion in 1997 and, to date, the only Canadian to win the Formula One World Championship.