The 1970s had ended with Gilles Villeneuve winning the US Grand Prix East at Watkins Glen. A month earlier he had shadowed Jody Scheckter, his Ferrari team-mate, around a sunlit Monza on the day the South African became the Scuderia's seventh world champion. Gilles was just doing the right thing, protecting the interests of the team's designated number one. Among the fans around the world who had already taken him to their hearts, the assumption was that he would be the next Ferrari driver to take the title.
It was not to be, but in his brief career the little French-Canadian reminded the world that Formula 1 should be about courage, risk, daring and, above all, panache. A punchy debut at Silverstone with McLaren in 1977 had given glimpses of his potential.
Later that year he joined Ferrari, where he established an affectionate bond with the man who gave his name to the team. Enzo Ferrari saw in Villeneuve some of the qualities he had prized in Tazio Nuvolari: sublime skill, dashing bravery and a generosity of spirit that extended beyond his personal ambition.