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
Everyone did. They still do. That’s why his passing away on 8 May 1982 is being commemorated 30 years to the day, at the place that meant so much to him: Fiorano. In fact, the road that leads to the gates of Ferrari’s famous circuit is called Via Gilles Villeneuve. The bust of the driver at the main junction is always covered in fresh flowers. It wasn’t just Enzo Ferrari who loved him like a son – it was all of Italy.
The 30th anniversary of his death has extra resonance, though. Gilles’s son, 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques, is driving his father’s 1979 312 T4 at Fiorano, a fitting tribute that has drawn Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo, Vice President Piero Ferrari, CEO Amedeo Felisa, former Technical Director Mauro Forghieri, not to mention Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, and a host of other guests, including Gilles’s widow Joann and daughter Melanie. There’s already been an unofficial celebration in Modena which apparently attracted more than 20,000 tifosi. How many other F1 drivers can you name that still provoke this sort of devotion?