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
He relocated to the French Riviera, but hated the local cuisine and sought out burgers and coke. He commuted between Monte Carlo and Maranello in his Ferrari 308 GTB, routinely nailing the 350-mile journey in a bewildering two-and-a-half hours. He also learnt to fly a helicopter – in three weeks – and went on to terrify a succession of friends and family, including his teammate Scheckter.
On one occasion, he opted to cut the engine to deal with an overheating battery. It was an unorthodox approach, and unappreciated by the South African. “F**k you, Villeneuve!” he told him, “I’ll never get back in that goddamn thing ever again!” On another occasion, he hovered directly outside Niki Lauda’s hotel bedroom until the Austrian woke up. “The craziest devil I ever came across in Formula One,” Lauda said. But he loved him all the more for it.