“I was affectionate to him,” Enzo Ferrari wrote in his book about drivers. Gilles Villeneuve was the only driver about whom Enzo expressed this feeling. This is particularly important as Ferrari always said that his passion and aim was for his cars winning, regardless of the pilot.
He appreciated Gilles fast and furious driving attitude (“he reminds me of Tazio”), not only as a pilot never giving up during the race despite the position he was but also because, in Enzo’s words, Gilles could stress the car’s parts to the extreme of breaking, and sometimes beyond… thus guiding the technical designers where to improve it. His driving style was spectacular and evident over time to the fans and, by doing so, Gilles became their favorite. Thirty years later he is still known and loved, even by young people that never saw him racing. Even if he never won the Championship.
The original photo (by Ercole Colombo) my drawing was made from is perhaps the most famous one of Gilles ever, showing the essence of him and his relationship with a Ferrari. Ercole told me the background of it: it was made on a test day in Argentina. Early morning, slight fog, he was walking along the almost empty track to find the best place to shoot. He wasn’t there yet when an engine was started. Normally a driver leaves the pits and drives around slowly for a couple laps to heat the tires, brakes and feel the car, so Ercole thought he had time enough to reach the point. Ercole was caught almost by surprise (the photo is not perfectly on focus) since Gilles arrived oversteering on the very the first lap(!) shooting grass, spikes and rocks all around. Typically Gilles.