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Villeneuve & Pironi documentary to be released 40 years on from Gilles’ tragic death

WORDS: elliott hughes | PHOTOGRAPHY: motorsport images

Villeneuve & Pironi is a new documentary slated for release in late 2022, exactly 40 years after Gilles Villeneuve lost his life at Zolder in 1982 following a dispute with Scuderia Ferrari teammate Didier Pironi. 

The disagreement between the Canadian and French Formula 1 drivers came about when Pironi took victory from Villeneuve on the last lap of the Italian Grand Prix. 

Villeneuve felt Pironi’s move was against team orders laid out before the race began, and the incident later became known as ‘The Betrayal’. Neither driver spoke to one another again; Villeneuve’s fatal crash in qualifying came just two weeks later, when the Canadian was trying to usurp Pironi in qualifying, colliding with Jochen Mass in the process. 

The 1982 season ended as one of the darkest in Scuderia Ferrari’s history. First there was the team’s mismanagement of its drivers leading to their personal dispute. Then came Villeneuve’s death and, finally, Pironi’s career-ending crash during practice at the German Grand Prix. All this in a season when Ferrari had the car and drivers to win the Championship. 

Sky Studios and Noah Media Group have partnered to retell the events of the 1982 season, and the film is already in production. Family members of the two drivers are also contributing towards the documentary for the first time, each relaying their side of the controversy. 

Gilles’ widow Joann and their children Jacques and Melanie will recount the Villeneuve perspective, with Didier’s partner Catherine Goux and their children Gilles and Didier – named after the two rivals – are speaking on behalf of the Pironi side. 

Former F1 driver Mark Webber is working on the film as a producer alongside director Torquil Jones, and the documentary is promised to  feature “some of the biggest names in Formula 1 history”.

“This period in time and these events were traumatic for our family and, after more than 40 years, still remain very emotional,” says Joann Villeneuve. “Having been a privileged witness to these events, it is important that this story be told with respect.”

Catherine Goux continued: “My children and I are delighted to take part in this film together with the Villeneuve family. We are looking forward to the world learning more about the two incredible men that were Gilles and Didier, but also for a new generation to discover this unique and inspiring story that reaches beyond the sport itself.”

“We are extremely privileged and grateful to both the Villeneuve and Pironi families for putting their trust in Noah Media Group to tell this truly remarkable story of two incredible men,” says co-producer John McKenna. “This will be a film with huge emotion and drama at its heart.”

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