On Friday, Leclerc revealed a tribute helmet sporting the iconic red and black colour scheme used by former Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve, after whom the Canadian Grand Prix venue was named.
But Leclerc’s announcement surprised the Villeneuve family as neither the Ferrari driver nor his management had asked the family for permission.
After talks between Leclerc and Villeneuve’s sister Melanie, who controls her late father’s image rights, the issue was settled, and Leclerc was cleared to use the design from Saturday onwards.
But before the true nature of the issue was made public, 1997 world champion Villeneuve received a barrage of abuse on social media after being perceived to deny Leclerc the right to honour his father, who died in qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.
On his social media channels, the former Williams and BAR-Honda driver posted a message to “clarify the situation regarding the recent incident where some individuals felt the need to insult me and my family over Charles Leclerc using my dad’s helmet.”
Villeneuve lamented that the incident was made to look worse than it was by certain media and social media commenters, as the dispute was settled cordially.
“Unfortunately, the incident was blown out of proportion, turning it into an unnecessary controversy,” he added.
Tribute helmet of Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
Photo by: Ferrari
Leclerc invited the Villeneuve family to the circuit and posed for pictures with them and the tribute helmet on Saturday after the matter was settled.
“We had a heartfelt conversation where he sincerely apologised for the situation,” Villeneuve explained.
“I reassured him that I considered it a touching tribute and that I personally had no issues with it.
“However, I stressed the importance of him reaching out to my sister, as she is the one responsible for managing everything related to our dad. I also suggested that he invite both my sister and my mother to the track to address any remaining concerns.”
On Saturday his sister Melanie told Motorsport.com: “Charles was very sweet about it. We have no objections. It’s a nice tribute.”