Leclerc revealed his special helmet design on social media on Friday, but he hadn’t told the Villeneuve family what he was planning to do.
While the gesture was obviously intended to honour one of his predecessors at Ferrari the helmet design is trademarked, and thus there were potential issues around the Italian team’s current sponsors being associated with it.
Leclerc was alerted to the family’s position by Gilles’s son Jacques, who is present in the Montreal paddock as a TV pundit.
Villeneuve Sr’s image rights are controlled on behalf of the family by Jacques’s sister Melanie, and Leclerc called her on Friday evening to apologise for not alerting the family in advance.
Melanie and her mother Joann were invited to be guests of Ferrari in Montreal on Saturday and they have agreed to let Leclerc use the helmet, which he has only done so far in the short-lived FP1 session.
“Charles was very sweet about it,” Melanie told Motorsport.com. “We have no objections. It’s a nice tribute.”
Jacques stressed that the family was disappointed not to have been consulted in advance.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
“It was just a big surprise to see the helmet yesterday because nobody had called the family,” he told Motorsport.com. “It’s mainly my mother and my sister involved in that. So that was just a big shock.
“And when Lewis [Hamilton] wore Ayrton Senna’s helmet the family was involved, obviously, because it’s not just something you do like this.
“But then I chat with Charles and he said, ‘Oh, sorry, I didn’t think about it.’ And then I think he talked with my sister and everything seems to be clean there.
“So it was just the way of doing things, you just check with the people involved first. That’s all. So it’s not a huge issue. But it was done without any of us knowing, which was a big surprise.”
Jacques pointed out that there are commercial issues around the use of helmet designs.
“People don’t realise you have to think about the trademark,” he said. “If you take a brand and you just link to anything you’ll have their lawyers on your back.
“This is a bit different, obviously. But now you have a picture with my dad’s helmet with sponsors that are linked to that helmet now, which shouldn’t be there. So that’s a little bit of the grey area.
“That’s why you should always check first and discuss it and do it the right way. And I think it’s all been made clear.”