Villeneuve Pironi: Racing's Untold Tragedy — release date, trailer and all we know

Villeneuve Pironi
Villeneuve Pironi: Racing's Untold Tragedy follows Gilles Villeneuve's relationship with team-mate Didier Pironi. (Image credit: SKY)

A little over 40 years ago, the charismatic and hugely talented Canadian Formula One driver Gilles Villeneuve lost his life at the age of 32 when he collided with another car during qualifying at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix. 

Now, this feature-length documentary, Villeneuve Pironi: Racing's Untold Tragedy profiles Villeneuve’s career, and examines his turbulent relationship with his ambitious Ferrari teammate, Frenchman Didier Peroni. 

The film includes interviews with former F1 drivers and mechanics, along with memories from Villeneuve’s widow Joann and their children, Jacques and Melanie.

Here's everything you need to know about Villeneuve Pironi: Racing's Untold Tragedy...

Joann Villeneuve

Joann Villeneuve shares memories of her F1 driver husband Gilles in the Sky documentary Villeneuve Pironi: Racing's Untold Tragedy. (Image credit: SKY)

Villeneuve Pironi: Racing's Untold Tragedy release date

The documentary will be shown on Sky Documentaries on Sunday, March 19 at 7 pm and will be available on NOW TV. 

Interview with Joann Villeneuve

Joann Villeneuve shares memories of her F1 driver husband Gilles, who died after crashing at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.

Joann and the children travelled from circuit to circuit with Villeneuve in the family motor home, but she was not at the Zolder track when the tragedy occurred because the race clashed with Melanie’s confirmation. On the day, she heard the news via a telephone call she will never forget. 

"Jody Sheckter [Villeneuve’s former Ferrari team-mate] called me to say Gilles had had a very serious accident," she recalls. "But my brain could not accept it, and I just kept thinking: 'He’s going to be okay.'"

Villeneuve had crashed while trying to beat Pironi’s lap times during qualifying and died of his injuries in hospital. The film questions whether a feud between the two former friends, when Pironi allegedly disregarded team orders to pass Villeneuve and win the previous Grand Prix at San Marino, may have been a factor in the tragedy.

Joann admits that, at the time, she did attach some blame to Pironi, who suffered serious injuries in another crash at Hockenheim later that season, and whose life was cut short in a power boat racing accident in 1987. 

"But you have to walk away from those emotions and feelings," she says, "because they’re just destructive."

Villeneuve Pironi

Gilles Villeneuve with his son, Jacques. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Having suffered the loss of her husband, Joann faced another huge challenge when her son Jacques decided that he wanted to follow his father into the sport.

"It’s probably one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make," she recalls. "You don’t want to crush his dream. And how could I say no to him when I had lived that life with his father?"

Had Villeneuve senior survived, she knows he would have absolutely loved seeing Jacques fulfil his father’s dream of becoming Formula One world champion in 1997.

"His dream was to one day race with his son," she says. "He would have been extremely proud."

Is there a trailer?

Yes, you can watch the trailer below which looks into the legacy Gilles left behind...

Ian MacEwan
Senior Writer

Ian writes about TV and film for TV Times, What’s on TV and TV & Satellite Week magazines. He co-hosts the weekly TV streaming podcast, Bingewatch.