Villeneuve: The drive of his life
Gilles Villeneuve was one of the greatest natural drivers in Formula One. Thirty years on, Top Gear celebrates his genius...
Posted: 09 Jul 2012
Having soundly beaten James Hunt in a race in Quebec in 1976, Villeneuve earned a ‘selected races’ deal with McLaren, and made his Formula One debut in the ’77 British GP. He qualified ninth and narrowly missed out on a points finish, thanks to an unnecessary pit stop. McLaren boss Teddy Mayer inexplicably passed on his services, allowing someone even mightier to step in.
When Enzo Ferrari signed Villeneuve on 29 August 1977, to replace Niki Lauda, it was an outrageous leap into the unknown for the biggest name in motorsport. There were journalists present that day who had no idea who Villeneuve even was. But the ‘Old Man’ knew exactly what he was doing.