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Gilles Villeneuve Canadian Gilles  Villeneuve
Born 18 Jan 1950 Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec
Died 08 May 1982 Zolder
F1 Debut1977, Great Britain
Seasons1977-1982
This tiny French-Canadian was one of those rare personalities who become a legend in their own lifetime. Villeneuve was cast in a heroic mould, his fearless and undaunted approach to motor racing giving rise to more discussion and debate than that of any of his contemporaries. Some thought him wonderful, embodying all those romantically traditional qualities which go to make motor racing such a spectacular sport. Others dismissed his opposite-lock, tyre- smoking antics as a waste of energy.

Either way, he was undoubtedly a great driver who knew no other way but to drive flat-out all the time. Personal risk did not come into the equation at all. He began racing snowmobiles in his native Quebec at the age of eight, displaying from the outset an uninhibited natural flair which was to become the hallmark of his tragically short motor racing career. Gilles rocketed to international prominence when he won the Formula Atlantic race at the demanding Trois Rivieres street circuit, on the banks of the St Lawrence River in 1976. James Hunt, then on the verge of winning his World Championship title, finished third in that event and returned to England to advise the McLaren team management that they should keep a firm eye on Villeneuve as possible future F1 material.

In 1977 Gilles was invited to drive a third works McLaren in the British Grand Prix. He qualified an impressive ninth, splitting regular drivers Hunt (in pole position) and Jochen Mass (eleventh on the grid). Delayed by a pit stop, he ran competitively to finish tenth. Despite this superb showing, McLaren opted to sign up Patrick Tambay to replace Jochen Mass at the end of the year. As things turned out, McLaren's loss was Ferrari's gain; the famous Italian team recruited Gilles to replace Niki Lauda at the end of the 1977 season. Gilles quickly made himself at home in F1. It took him only until the third race of 1978, at Long Beach, to lead commandingly, but he was eliminated after an error of judgement when he tripped over Clay Regazzonni's Shadow DN8 when he came up to lap the slower car. By the end of the season, however, he celebrated his first F1 triumph with an immensely popular win in his home Grand Prix at Montreal at the wheel of the Ferrari 312T3.

In 1979 he was paired with Jody Scheckter and, armed with the new Ferrari 312T4, Gilles added further wins to his tally at Kyalami, Long Beach and Watkins Glen. From the start of that year Gilles fully appreciated that he was cast in a supporting role to his South African colleague. With that in mind, he displayed his integrity by following scrupulously in Scheckter's wheel tracks to finish second at Monza, knowing that all he had to do was disobey team orders and pass his rival in order to claim the World Championship for himself. In 1980 the season proved disastrous for Ferrari, their 312T5 eclipsed by far more effective ground-effect opposition from Williams and Ligier. But in 1981 the Italian team followed Renault by adopting a urbo- charged 1.5-litre engine and Villeneuve produced another two brilliant victories, at Monaco and in Spain, both achieved in a chassis that was not up to the standard of the opposition. Throughout 1981 Villeneuve comfortably had the measure of his team-mate Didier Pironi, who stayed on with Ferrari into 1982 when the team's prospects took a distinctive upturn thanks to the arrival of the new Harvey Postlethwaite- designed Ferrari 126C2. Sadly, when Pironi overtook Gilles against team orders to win the San Marino GP in Ferrari's heartland, Villeneuve was incensed and never spoke to him again.

Two weeks later Villeneuve crashed to his death at Zolder, colliding with a slower car that strayed into his path as he attempted to match Pironi's lap times during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

F1 Championship Race Results

1977
Circuit Pos Entrant Car Grid FL
Silverstone 11 Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M23 09
Mosport Park 12 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 17
Fuji ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 20
1978
Circuit Pos Entrant Car Grid FL
Buenos Aires 08 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 07 Y
Rio de Janeiro ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 06
Kyalami ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 08
Long Beach ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 02
Monte Carlo ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 08
Zolder 04 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 04
Jarama 10 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 05
Anderstorp 09 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 07
Paul Ricard 12 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 09
Brands Hatch ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 13
Hockenheim 08 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 15
Osterreichring 03 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 11
Zandvoort 06 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 05
Monza 07 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 02
Watkins Glen ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 04
Montreal 01 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 03
1979
Circuit Pos Entrant Car Grid FL
Buenos Aires ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 10
Interlagos 05 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 05
Kyalami 01 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 03 Y
Long Beach 01 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 Pole Y
Jarama 07 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 03 Y
Zolder 07 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 06 Y
Monte Carlo ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 02
Dijon-Prenois 02 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 03
Silverstone 14 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 13
Hockenheim 08 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 09 Y
Osterreichring 02 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 05
Zandvoort ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 06 Y
Monza 02 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 05
Montreal 02 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 02
Watkins Glen 01 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 03
1980
Circuit Pos Entrant Car Grid FL
Buenos Aires ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 08
Interlagos 16 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 03
Kyalami ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 10
Long Beach ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 10
Zolder 06 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 12
Monte Carlo 05 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 06
Paul Ricard 08 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 17
Brands Hatch ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 19
Hockenheim 06 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 16
Osterreichring 08 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 15
Zandvoort 07 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 07
Imola ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 08
Montreal 05 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 22
Watkins Glen ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T5 17
1981
Circuit Pos Entrant Car Grid FL
Long Beach ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 05
Rio de Janeiro ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 07
Buenos Aires ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 07
Imola 07 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK Pole Y
Zolder 04 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 07
Monte Carlo 01 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 02
Jarama 01 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 07
Dijon-Prenois ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 11
Silverstone ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 08
Hockenheim 10 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 08
Osterreichring ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 03
Zandvoort ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 15
Monza ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 09
Montreal 03 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 11
Las Vegas dsq Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126CK 03
1982
Circuit Pos Entrant Car Grid FL
Kyalami ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126C2 03
Rio de Janeiro ret Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126C2 02
Long Beach dsq Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126C2 07
Imola 02 Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126C2 03
Zolder dns Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 126C2 8

F1 Statistics

Back
Entries68
Starts67 98.53%
Did not start1
Races Led 18 26.47%
Laps in Lead 535 (1,400 miles)
Laps Raced 3,283 (9,440 miles)
 
Fastest Laps8 11.76%
Cleansweeps1 1.47%

Pole Positions 2 2.94%
Front Row Starts8 11.76%
Wins 6 8.82%
2nd 5
3rd 2
Podiums13 19.12%
4th 2
5th 3
6th 3
Top Six 21 30.88%

Other Places20 29.41%
Retirements26 38.24%
Points 107.0 1.57 pts per race
all % figures are based on total number of entries