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[Finished] Case #2: Gilles Villeneuve to join the 'Big Three'

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#1 Rich

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 02:27

RedFever has brought to the Atlas F1 court his plaint that Gilles Villeneuve deserves to be viewed alongside F1 history's 'Big Three' - Juan Manuel Fangio, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

This case has been accepted for hearing by the court, and arguments will be heard by all interested parties as of January 13th 2001 and for a period of 14 days, up to and including January 27th 2001.

The residing judge is Rich. Arguments and evidence on the subject can be posted in this thread as of the opening date and for as long as the hearing is open. A decision on the case will be posted up to 7 days after hearing is closed.

Judge's Preamble :

At first glance, this may seem like an open and shut case - Gilles was a brilliant racer, what more do we need to know? Therein lies the rub - this trial is not about whether he was a brilliant racer, it is about whether he deserves to join Fangio, Senna and Prost in F1 racing's great triumvirate.

This will not be an easy case to argue, nor to judge. Statistically, Villeneuve falls far short of the Fangio/Senna/Prost hierarchy. He scored fewer race wins, fewer fastest laps, fewer poles, and no Championships. Yet, in a recent poll by Motor Sport magazine, he was rated as the second best F1 driver in history. It is our duty to resolve this dichotomy, to determine whether Villeneuve would have achieved the statistical success of a Fangio, Senna or Prost had he lived to race a full career.

It is the Prosecution's duty to convince the Court that Villeneuve was indeed equal to this task. Likewise, the Defence must prove beyond reasonable doubt that, while Villeneuve was doubtless a brilliantly gifted driver, he nevertheless lacked the means to join Fangio, Senna and Prost as one of the true greats.

Villeneuve's untimely death means that we will never know the truth. However, we can pool our knowledge and resources, debate the issue, and reach as reasonable a conclusion as is humanly possible.

Before I take opening arguments, a few words about my personal involvement in this case. I never saw Villeneuve race and, although I followed Grand Prix racing while he was driving, I never felt particularly strongly either for or against the man. I know brief general details about his career, and have heard others enthuse about his talents. I approach this case with a totally open mind. That Gilles was a great driver is beyond question. That he deserves to be remembered in the same group as Fangio, Senna and Prost? I'm not sure either way. It is your job to convince me either way.

There is a danger in this case that nostalgia will hold sway over cold, hard fact. I must warn both sides timeously that this is a courtroom, and that proceedings are based on fact and reasonable speculation. 'You had to see him race to understand' is not a valid argument in my view. There is an abundance of technical and statistical data to be had and manipulated as you see fit. Use it to support your arguments and speculations.

One final request before we begin. Many of our gallery onlookers only started watching F1 long after Gilles had departed. To help them with background info, and to refresh my own memories of the man, could somebody from either the Prosecution or Defence post a brief summary of Villeneuve's career, along with perhaps a link to a picture of the man? There is no need to use this post to launch arguments for either side. It is there purely for reference purposes. Once that initial background info is posted, I will open the court to further debate.

Thank you in advance. I look forward to hearing the evidence from both sides in this important case.


#2 Falcadore

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 03:38

Posted Image
(image supplied by Rainer Nyberg)

Gilles Villeneuve is one of Formula One's most well known figures. He was a reverred, respected and well liked member of the Formula One community, struck down in his prime. Struck perhaps for the arrogance in which he held the laws of physics.

Gilles was born in 1950, in fact in five days time he would have turned 51, so it is perhaps fitting this case is brought up during the 50th anniversary of his birth.

Gilles, like his son Jacques so many years later, was brought up racing snowmobiles, before turning to racing Formula Ford in 1973. By the mid 70's he had claimed the Canadian and United States Formula Atlantic titles before dominating an invitation FAtlantic race which included that year's Formula One world champion, James Hunt.

Gilles debuted in Formula One at the 1977 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, where in a two year old McLaren M23 he was able to run at the pace of the race leaders, stunning the establishment. Gilles then won a place in the Ferrari team for 1978 at the cost of F1's new rising star of '77 Alan Jones, to replace Niki Lauda. It would become one of Formula One's pivotal moments. Who knows what would have happenned to Villeneuve, or indeed Jones, and perhaps even Williams, had this decision taken another path.

In a year when Ferrari was not one of the front running teams, Gilles results would be 8th, DNF, DNF, DNF, DNF, 4th, 10th, 9th, 12th, DNF, 8th, 3rd, 6th, 7th and DNF. He was far from disgraced as his team mate, El Lole, the highly respected Carlos Reutemann was rarely better. However at the Ill Notre Damme for the last race of the season, the circuit that now bares his name, in front of an ecstatic crowd of fellow Canadians, Villeneuve returned Ferrari to the winners circle with a stirring performance.

From here the pattern was set. On his day Villeneuve would stun all and sundry with car control that perhaps Ari Vatanen or Walter Rohrl could equal, certainly no-one else within F1, but when it wasn't his day he could be forgettably vague and uninspiring. However such were the highs that Gilles could achieve that the those drives where he was an unmotivated midfielder have been largely forgotten. His frightening, wheel banging battle at Dijon-Prenois with Rene Arnoux in 1979 has long been held as one of the pinnacle moments of Formula One.

Gilles himself was a very open and honest person, which increased his popularity even further, a dab hand with a piano, and dedicated fmaily man. This honesty would cost him dearly. In 1979 he adheered to team orders at the Italian Grand Prix, allowing Jody Scheckter to get the upper hand, and eventually become 1979 World Champion. It was perhaps this honest which brought him down. After a disgreement with Didier Pironi at Imola in 1982 over a first corner agreement between the drivers which Pironi broke later in the race. Villeneuve coasted to the win only to have his team mate seemingly violate team orders and steam past him to win. An incensed Villeneuve vowed never to speak to Pironi again. He wouldn't.

In the dying moment of qualifying at Zolder barely two weeks later while chasing those precious tenths to dislodge Pironi from Pole Position, Villeneuve clipped the March of Jochen Mass the Ferrari somersaulted backwards into a barrell roll. Gilles was thrown clear of the dying car and was killed.

He was reverred, adorred by the Tifosi, considered a son by Enzo Ferrari, and perhaps first and formost, a racer.

Judge's Note : The edit in this post was to correct a typo. The last sentence of the second last paragraph originally read 'Jacques was thrown clear...' I have amended it to read 'Gilles was thrown clear...' [p][Edited by Rich on 01-15-2001]

#3 mtl'78

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 04:44


this has pics and clips as well as an excellent "affidavit", an obituary from 1982 by Nigel Roebuck.

Before Gilles raced cars he designed and built his own snowmobile and won the world championship twice.

Then in 1976 he went to Formula Atlantic, where running a one-man team he impressed enough to get a little sponsorship for 1977, where he DOMINATED the season with 10 wins in 14 races. One of those wins was in Trois-Rivieres, where he beat several F1 drivers INCLUDING WDC James Hunt, who was so impressed that he told Maclaren Boss Ted Mayer to sign him, he did for 1 race at Silverstone.

Career Facts:

Gilles very first Formula One race was with the MacLaren number 40 in Silverstone, England. His 1st time in an F1 car was at the track, and while the others were honing their setups, he was finding the limits of the car and track. His technique to do this would define his style, brutal, inventive, uncompromiosing but mostly shocking. He simply went faster and faster through a corner until the car spun, and then he made note of the speed, and backed it off. It is said he spun over 20 times on Friday, and the paddock was abuzz that Mayer had gone mad in signing this crazed lunatic. But Gilles surprised everybody that Saturday, driving a year-old Maclaren, qualifiied 9th, AHEAD of Jochen Mass (a driver with whom he would cross paths with again...), the #2 driver at Maclaren in the new model, and less than 3 tenths behind WDC Hunt! In the race he was running in fourth place when a faulty gage took him back to the pits taking any chance of championship points away from him. Despite this he finished with the 5th fastest lap and was named "driver of the race by the fans"

Mayer chose not to honour the rest of his contract however and thus Gilles and ferrari would be linked together...

January 15, 1978 Buenos Aires, Argentina 1978. This is the first GP of the season and Gilles first race of a complete season with Ferrari. He will score no points during this race but gets top honor for fastest lap in 1:49,79

April 2, 1978 Long Beach, California 1978. While leading the race, Gilles is about to lap a slower car driven by Regazzoni. Wanting to overake him in a tight curve, the two cars collided and Gilles ends his race in the tires.

May 21 1978 While the Lotus of Andretti and Peterson are dominating the Belgium Grand Prix, Gilles is following his teammate Reutemann and finishes in fourth position and earning his first 3 championship points in Zolder, a circuit that will not always be so good to him... as we know...

October 8, 1978 The last Grand-Prix of the 1978 season is raced in Montreal. Gilles is in second position for a good portion of the race. On lap 49, Jean-Pierre Jarier who is leading the race at this point comes in the pits to stay! Gilles takes over the lead of the race and wins his first Formula One race in front of his hometown crowd. A great moment for all Canadians.

March 3, 1979 Kyalami, South Africa 1979. Gilles has more than just a heavy foot. Taking the decision to start the race on rain tires against the will of his pit crew, he takes a comfortable lead on his teammate Scheckter who elected to start on slicks, changes to slicks later and wins the race in front of Scheckter home fans.

April 1, 1979 Long Beach, California, the perfect weekend for Gilles! He is on pole position for the first time of his career, gets fastest lap of the race and wins the event. Schekter and Jones, are distant second and third. This victory pulls Gilles ahead in the F-1 championship with 20 points, 2 more than Jacques Laffite.

July 1, 1979 It should be easy to remember the French Grand Prix of 1979 at Dijon, France for the first victory of a turbo-charged engine aboard a Renault driven by Jean-Pierre Jabouille. This victory was almost overridden by the fantastic challenge for second position between Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux. For the last three laps of the race, they passed one another, they pushed and shoved, even touched, for a grandiose spectacle never repeated since. For history`s sake, remember that Gilles finished second... Some consider it Formula 1's most exciting moment ever.

August 26, 1979 Zandvoort, Netherlands. Because of a blown rear left tire, Gilles looses his Ferrari in the famous Tarzan corner. He gets back on track, makes it to the pits for a tire change, one small problem, he only has three wheels left after riding too long on the rim...Spectacular Gilles! The incident is costly, Sheckter is in a position to win the WDC with a win at Monza, the following race. With Alan Jones making a serious challenge, team orders are brought in an Gilles is told to stay behind Jody. He spends the entire race glued to the back of Sheckter's car, hoping for a breakdown, but dutifully holds station. His point was made, and it wasn't lost on the tifosi, who by then had fallen in love with Gilles and reportedly cheered him louder than their new WDC.

Oct 5th, 1979 Watkins Glenn. Pouring rain, the friday session is led by WDC Jody Sheckter in a time of 1:46. Until Gilles went 11 seconds faster. In the Saturday session, dry this time, the Ferraris are slower, but on race day he won't be denied and wins convincingly from 4th place.

It should also be considered that in 1979 Gilles, won 4 races, but his win at Brands Hatch was not considered by FISA due to their feud with Foca. This win would have given Gilles the title. Gilles led more races, laps than anyone else that year.

January 26, 1980. In 1980, The Ferrari is not a very performing race car. It is considered the worst Ferrari ever made by Mauro Forghieri. Gilles even called his 312T5 a "garbage can". Nonetheless, he will qualify third on the grid at the Brazilian GP.

other performaces of note in 1980
2nd fastest lap at USGP west
6th at Zolder, 1 lap ahead of Sheckter
5th at Monaco
5th in Canada

May 31st, 1981 Gilles in a still difficult Ferrari, earns the 1st ever win for a turbo at Monaco. The late Harvey Postlewaite (sp?) mentioned how impressed with this win. "I know how BAD that car was" he once wrote, the throttle was like a lightswitch, ON/OFF, no modulation.

June 21st, 1981, Gilles repeats the miracle at ANOTHER twisty track, Jarama. His last, and in many ways his most beautiful win. His car was 1.2 seconds slower on Saturday, good for 7th on the grid. In his now trademark style, he blasted away from row 4 to lead at the 1st corner, and there he held the 6 faster cars for 80 laps, not once having to block or weave, in fact he went side by side many times with the other cars constantly changing positions behind him, but he always came out on top. In the end only 1.2 seconds seperated the top 5 cars.

September 27, 1981 Montreal 1981. The front wing damaged during a collision with another racer is considerably blocking his view in the rain. A couple of laps later, just before being black flagged, he swerves into a barrier to knock it off completly, and his nose is now a tangled mess of wires and metal. Despite this minor inconvienance, he finishes the race on the podium in third place in a demonstration of his great abilities, no matter what...

South Africa
This was supposed to be Gilles' year. Up to then he had dominated his well rated teammate Pironi, and this year the Ferrari looked to be a serious contender. Gilles proved this by qualifying .27 behind the leader, 1.2 secs ahead of Pironi, but his turbo gave up in the race, while running second.

Qualifying : 2nd .375 off of Prost, 1.5 seconds faster than Pironi. In the race he makes a now-rare driving error and spins off while chasing Prost.

Ferrari are not effective at this race but Gilles is still well ahead of Pironi in the race. A fuel irregularity disqualifies him from the race.

San Marino
Gilles is Third behind the Renaults, 1 second clear of Pironi. During the race the Renaults retire leaving Gilles and Pironi comfortably ahead. Ferrari flash the "slow" sign to Gilles, which is pre-established to mean save fuel and tyres, hold position. Pironi has other thoughts and squeezes past unexpectadly, Gilles retakes the lead, thinking that Pironi is giving a show to the fans Gilles slows again, and in the dying laps Pironi does it again, and they cross the finish line side by side, before Gilles can retake the lead. GV is furious, wants Ferrari to tell the press what happened, but they instead say that they were free to race, to avoid a scandal in the press. Gilles feels totally betrayed, especially in light of his dutiful compliance with team orders in 1979. He vows to never speak to Pironi again, and has thoughts of leaving his beloved Ferrari.


Still furious and embarassed by the whole situation, Gilles was described as a man on a mission that weekend. With Saturday qualifying dying down, Gilles is circulating around on low fuel and worn tyres. He has been shown the "IN" pitboard but has ignored it for 2 laps, on the third way around, still trying to improve his time to go ahead of Pironi, Gilles comes off a long sweeping corner and up the road is Jochen Mass, cooling his tyres and estimated to be going 150 kph's slower. Mass sees Gilles very early and moves to the inside away from the line, but Gilles is screaming up to him and appears to be taking the inside himself. Then a terrible miscommunication occurs, Mass mistakenly thinks Gilles wants the inside and at the last moment, swerves to the right, towards the outside, just as Gilles is doing the same. Gilles tries to avoid him by putting two wheels in the grass but his front left hits Mass' right rear. The car is launched into the air and flies over 100 meters before landing nose 1st and commencing a series of gruesome head over heels cartwheels, and as the wrekage is spinning back onto the track, the disintegrated cockpit launches GV clear across the width of the track, and head first into the catch fencing on the other side. It is in fact this impact that kills Gilles, his neck unable to withstand the force. Meanwhile his destroyed Ferrari nearly lands on Mass, who has just caught up to the accident. I will remember forever the last shot of my hero, head down in the grass by the fence, his helmet and baclava ripped off by the accident, for a moment I was sure I had seen him move, I was in so much shock that it didn't register that nobody could survive such an accident. I remember the Canadian announcers holding back tears as the helicopter took him away, he lived until 9PM that night, when the family removed the respirator after no brain activity was recorded.

I realize that some of this has my own opinions and feelings but In Gilles' case that's how its measured. Gille's greatest talent was to lift the viewer out of his seat with his feats of daring. He drove the fastest F1 cars ever with Turbos and sliding skirts, wile being still made of aluminium and early carbon fiber. Along with the 50's this was the bloodiest and most dangerous period in F1 but that never stopped Gilles.

That's why I believe that there has never been a driver before or since that has been as brave as Gilles was. Drivers today don't expect serious injury or death when they make a mistake, but this was not true of Gilles' time.

He has been credited as one of the first drivers to swerve from side to side during warm up laps to warm his tyres, and WAS the first driver to do a burnout from his grid position to lay down a fresh set of rubber on his starting box. This practice was banned as dangerous after all the drivers started doing it, causing clouds of smoke on the grid.

There is much more anncdotal evidence as well as quotes from just about all of his contemporaries, Lauda, Jones, Hunt Andretti, Enzo Ferrari, Teddy Mayer etc. that consider him the greatest and fastest driver of their day. I could dig them up with a little more time...

Thanks Rich and WELCOME BACK!!!???!!!
[p][Edited by mtl'78 on 01-13-2001]

#4 ASaSeN

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 07:32

Gilles had obvious talent,but seriously there are too many BUTS, and WHAT IFS,concerning his career.

You cant judge a driver on BUTS and WHAT IFS.

He had some great drives but then he had a lot of bad drives,something which cannot be said for senna or schumacher who always delivered.

Most gilles fans always say that he would of gone onto great things if he had lived.

They overlook one important factor...he was 32 years old when he died.He was hardly youthfull and would of only had a few quality years left.

Michael schumacher just turned 32,and look at what he has acheived compared to a 32 year old villeneuve.

They really are not comparable.

A number of great "moments" doesnt elevate you into the ranks of senna,schumacher.

Look at jean alesi.When he burst onto the scene he was matching it with senna,while driving a lowly tyrell,he was simply awesome.

What if he died after 30 odd Gps?
Everyone woul dof thought he was a legend in the making and a definate WC,but look what happened in the end.

GV was one of the better drivers in history,he was fast but flawed.

#5 Rich

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 12:29

Mark and mtl'78, thanks very much for your time and effort. I think the results of your research have already shown that the expertise and willingness of our 'lawyers', along with the modus operandi we have chosen, will turn the Atlas F1 Court into an unprecedented, brilliant and thought-provoking research facility.

Now that we have a thorough profile of Villeneuve, we can view and debate this case with greater insight. I see the Defence were quick to post an opening statement from ASaSeN (I'm taking mtl'78's post as a pure profile for the moment), and I await Prosecution's opening statement eagerly. I'll allow generalisations and unsubstantiated opinion during opening statements - it is, after all, both sides merely stating their approach to the case.

However, once we enter trial proceedings, I'd like to see statements and arguments backed up by stats, quotes and reasonable speculation. I'm undecided on this issue, and it will take a convincing argument to sway me either way. Good luck. :) [p][Edited by Rich on 01-13-2001]

#6 Rich

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 13:03

Oops, it appears that I have 'lost' a submission by B.Traven. I'll try to retrieve it. In the meantime, allow me to paraphrase. B.Traven asked how the Atlas Court came to the conclusion that Fangio, Senna and Prost comprised any sort of officially-sanctioned 'Big Three'. As such, he suggested that we were starting from a questionable viewpoint and shaky ground.

B. Traven raises an interesting point, and one that I would like to answer, because it will illustrate my approach and mindset in my role as Judge.

Courts are not interested in general claims and charges. OJ Simpson was not tried for 'being a generally bad dude'. He was tried very specifically for murder. This serves to focus attention on the crux of the issue, and discourage irrelevant or off-topic arguments and debate.

I could have outlined this case as 'Was Gilles Villeneuve a brilliant driver?' In which case, no arguments would have been necessary from either side. I would simply have declared 'This Court finds for the Prosecution' and closed the case immediately, for there is no question that Villeneuve was indeed a brilliant driver. So I needed to establish a more defined and concrete set of parameters upon which to base the case.

Villeneuve's career is one of motor racing's ultimate 'what if' scenarios. There are no 'what ifs' about Fangio, Senna and Prost. Look up any relevant F1 statistic - WDC wins, race wins, pole positions, total career WDC points, fastest laps - in each category, you will find one or more of the Big Three right up there at the head of the field. In short, all three of them delivered the goods. Yet, in the Motor Sport Top 100 poll, two of the Big Three ranked lower than Villeneuve. This apparent dichotomy was what fascinated me about this case - how could any expert use Villeneuve's 'aura' to elevate him above statistically more successful drivers who had just as much 'aura'?

There is an obvious statistical omission in the Big Three - German Michael Schumacher. I avoided including him in this case for the simple reason that I didn't want the lawyers to get sidetracked into a discussion of Schumacher's merits and demerits. Schumacher is also still active, and his ultimate legacy may be greatly affected by how he races from now until his retirement. With Fangio, Senna, Prost and villeneuve, we have four complete careers to serve as benchmarks and frames of reference.

Remember, the ONLY driver on trial here is Gilles Villeneuve. If you believe Fangio or Senna or Prost was over-rated, then launch a separate case for it.[p][Edited by Rich on 01-13-2001]

#7 FordFan

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 15:53

This seems like a very easy call. Gilles Villeneuve was simple not in the league of the other three statistically.

The Big Three averaged win at least every four starts. Gilles averaged worse than one in ten. There are similar statistical discrepancies for podiums and pole positions.

Villeneuve even compares poorly with other great drivers. Stewart, Mansell, and even Fittipaldi had significantly better records concerning percentages of podiums and wins per start.

Add to this that his career was short, and you can't make a serious case for his being one of the all-time greats. Brevity of career can be overlooked if, during that time, the driver is question was dominant (as in the case of Fangio). But, clearly, this was not the case here.

Perhaps the most damning bit of evidence against his inclusion in the pantheon, is the fact that is son has a better overall record that he had, a record which includes a WDC - something Gilles never acheived.

#8 Hellenic tifosi

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 18:08

First of all, congratulations for this bright idea. I really hope that we can now discuss all tha hot issues without misunderstandings, insults and irrelevant stuff popping up.
I have come accross this topic many times on the Readers' comments forum, but my opinion doesn't change:
Driving racing cars is by nature something irrational, something crazy. So, why should we judge drivers rationally, only by their statistics? Remember that what attracts people to Formula 1(and racing in general) is exactly what I mentioned earlier, passion. Of course, we cannot draw conclusions only by looking at who is the most impulsive driver. Therefore, the best driver should combine both, and Gilles did.
He had excellent car control and was the best of his generation in the wet. Gilles was a fighter and never gave up, although the cars he drove were not good. To this add the fact that he was a fair racer, obeying team orders when necessary, and never intentionally crashing on anyone, something which is often overlooked. The Canadian gave the fans a reason to watch the races, as he adopted a rally-like driving style, thus arousing the public, who doesn't want to see a dull procession, but a real race. In fact, that's what sport is all about: competing, not winning at all cost.
In conclusion, the final decision will be made according to the way you conceive of the sport. I won't insist anymore, but I would like to imagine that Gilles is now up there in the sky, together with Don Quichote, chasing some windmills.......[p][Edited by Hellenic tifosi on 01-13-2001]

#9 Wolf

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 19:19

Your Honour, I'd like to address the court first, and then persent my case. Regarding our conversation in Your chambers yesternight ;), I'll say that I think Your Case is whether GV was one of F1 greats, or one of THE greats. In that case he should be found to be equal to THE greats (although requirements and actuall names might significantly vary- but it should not be considered here) and better than 'mere' greats. Therefore, I feel, prossecution should prove he was better than them (Moss, Gurney, Gonzalez... for example) as well as that he was equal with THE greats.

I'd like to ask The Court to ask Prossecution to declare themselves on:
  • how his decision to accept team orders complies with the designation 'racer'. I'm sure that his actions in that case testify to his character (he expected Pironi to obide the orders when they were in his favour, and did his bidding previously- when they weren't) which is not the issue, but that if racer should drive instead of racing because he was told to.
  • the following- Mtl'78 wrote:

    He [GV] simply went faster and faster through a corner until the car spun, and then he made note of the speed, and backed it off.

    Does this testify in his favour? Or should one of the true greats know the limit before he crosses it? To quote Sir Stirling Moss, OBE: 'I would say the only danger to me is if something falls off or somebody spins in front of me where I can't help hitting him, or if I hit oil on the road. But if you asked me didn't I think it dangerous to the point where I might overdrive and go off the road, I'd be insulted. I mean, boy, it's as simple as that.'. The Court has said his career might be subject to 'what if's. How would this technique reflect on his career if he raced in '50 or '60? If one cares to remember JMF did not have a single accident (collision, spin or a shunt) in his WDC races, and Moss had only two (three, if you count in the missing the gear in Spa).
  • is his case for greatness only being a racer? I don't think Fangio was a racer (because he went into the trouble of even educating younger drivers during the race, and managed to win).

#10 Falcadore

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 19:36

This could well sound like fence sitting - and thus it will be up to the judge presiding to decide it's admissability.

Fordfan brings up the issue of domination and then uses it to batter us as an example of why Villeneuve is not top 3 on the basis that he did not.

Domination only ever occurs when you have the best car or near best car and a measurable superiority over your team mate, therefore have a quantified advantage over the entire field. No-one has ever dominated in an ordinary car. This occurance took place for Fangio, Prost and Senna. For Villeneuve it did not.

In 1979 the Ferrari 312T4 was the second best car in the field behind the Williams FW07 Cosworth. Villeneuve, in only his second full year in Formula One, was a match for team mate Jody Scheckter, but not measurable superior. While Villeneuve could have been World Champion but for incidents related to the races at Monza & Brands Hatch, he was not.

The 1980 Ferrari 312T5 was a truck. In late '79 Ferrari's inability to cope with the skirts concept with theor wide angle boxer 12 engine became more noticeable, particularly against the Williams which would become the the benchmark car of the skirts era.

1981 saw the introduction of the Ferrari 126CK, the first of the Ferrari turbos, another truck, this time with the addition of the lightswitch power delivery of the Turbo era. So while Villeneuve may have had the edge on Didier Pironi, the car would not allow any kind of dominance. His death would prevent any assertions of dominance in 1982 early in the season.

Fangio, Prost & Senna had the opportunity to dominate. Gilles Villeneuve did not.[p][Edited by Falcadore on 01-14-2001]

#11 mtl'78

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 20:20


This site contains all of the quotes here, taken from various publications on GV. Rich, ASaSeN, Forfan, it is for the very reason that Gilles is consideredone of the greats. Perhaps more than any other athlete, statistics fail to show his brilliance. The best way to appreciate his talent is to have seen him. It showed when he drove! Sometimes it was like at Monaco 1981 where he skimmed the walls, leaving sparks and tyre marks, or when he put wheels in the grass, or blast off from midfield and take the lead at turn 1...

The SECOND best way to appreciate him is to trust the words of those who were there and sw themselves. In a world of giant egos and selfeshness (FISA/FOCA, drivers like Lauda making outrageous demands) The F1 community of his time is of one voice. He was the greatest. Now the only possible explanation would be the nostalgia related to his death, but as you will see, most of these quotes were from when he was alive, and others are from men who would not let emotions could their judgement IMHO.

GV on fear:
"I don't have any fear of a crash. No fear of that. Of course, on a fifth gear corner with a fence outside, I don't want to crash. I'm not crazy. But if its near the end of practice, and your trying for pole position maybe, I guess you can squeeze the fear ..."

Gilles Villeneuve: Snowmobiling

"Every winter you would reckon on three or four big spills - and I'm talking about being thrown onto the ice at 100 mph. Those things used to slide a lot, which taught me a great deal about control. And the visibility was terrible ! Unless you were leading, you could see nothing, with all the snow blowing about. Good for the reactions - and it stopped me having any worries about racing in the rain !"

Battling with Rene Arnoux at the 1979 French GP:

Quoted without permission from David Tremayne's wonderful Racers Apart (1991), Motor Racing Publications, Croydon, UK, pp253-254, ISBN 0-947981-58-6.

Who could ever forget that 1979 French GP battle with Arnoux ? The Ferrari was hopelessly outclassed, Villeneuve's task made all the more impossible by the state of his tyres. Yet corner after corner Gilles just refused to give up. The tyres were gone, so what did it matter if he took a few more yards off their life by locking them wildly as he outbraked the Renault ? Time and again the T4's waywardness lost him a corner, and Arnoux appeared safe yet somehow that information was never transmitted to Gilles. Each time he pushed a little bit harder, longer, deeper, got the corner back at the last second, or so refused to concede that he won the next. They touched several times, yawed frantically as both drivers fought each other and their cars. Afterwards they laughed and congratulated one another. There was no animosity, not from Arnoux, nor from the crowd, when the inevitable happened and Gilles finished runner-up to Jean-Pierre Jabouille. The French veteran had just won his first GP and the first for Renault's turbocharged car, and in France, yet Gilles' sheer bravado had stolen the day, If any race encapsulated everything he stood for, that was it.

Rene Arnoux

"The duel with Gilles is something I'll never forget, my greatest souvenir of racing. You can only race like that, you know, with someone you trust completely, and you don't meet many people like him. He beat me, yes, and in France, but it didn't worry me - I knew I'd been beaten by the best driver in the world."

Blown tyre incident:

Quoted without permission from "Villeneuve: The Life of a Legendary Racing Driver", Gerald Donaldson (1989), Motor Racing Publications, Croydon, UK, pp207, ISBN 0-947981-44-6.

Coming past the pits the deflating tyre suddenly lost all its remaining air and collapsed like a spent balloon. The [Ferrari] T4 twitched back and forth violently, surely destined for a resounding crash against the barriers at Tarzan. Worse than that, it seemed on a collision course for the previously crashed and abandoned Arrows of Patrese. Gilles sawed away at the steering wheel, the useless rear tyre unable to provide adequate purchase for full-scale panic braking. At the last moment, he deliberately cranked the wheel hard to induce a spin to scrub off speed. The Ferrari slewed sideways and then backwards in a cloud of smoke from the three surviving Michelins, supplemented by a spectacular shower of sparks from the culprit wheel. The car ground to a halt on the grass just short of disaster, its engine stalled. The appreciative crowd hooted and yelled their approval of such masterful car control, but the show was only starting and everyone gaped in astonishment at what followed.
Gilles jabbed away at the starter button and finally got the flat 12 to fire up again. He jammed the gearlever into reverse and shot back onto the circuit, selected first, and clanked away towards his obvious goal - the pits - nearly four kilometres away. The crippled Ferrari clawed its way around Zandvoort, the right front wheel pawing in the air and the remains of the left rear banging and crashing around in a shower of sparks and mangled rubber. Gilles was soon nearly up to a speed worthy of an able-bodied machine, but even Enzo Ferrari's stoutest fabrication was unable to withstand such punishment.

Halfway round the circuit the rear wheel wound itself up into a ball and dragged behind like a flailing anchor. The rear of the chassis sat down on the road and an even greater display of sparks and flying bodywork issued forth. Finally the remains of the Ferrari lurched drunkenly into the pits, where Gilles presented the wreckage to Forghieri. He remained in the cockpit, dancing on the end of his safety harness tether as he signalled the crew to get busy and replace the offending wheel.

Gaston Parent [Gilles' mentor] was standing by. "Gilles was blowing his stack yelling, `Put a ****ing wheel on there ! Let me go out again !' Finally they made him see the back of the car was a disaster. Then people criticised him for dangerous driving again. His argument was that he didn't know it was so bad. But, believe me, Villeneuve would have gone out again on three wheels ! That was the way he was."

Enzo Ferrari(on same incident)

"Villeneuve still makes some ingenious mistakes, but is a man who wants to come out on top at all costs. He has been justifyably criticised, but we mustn't forget that his enthusiasm and passion have a predecessor: Tazio Nuvolari. In 1935 Nuvolari won the Brno Grand Prix in Czechoslovakia driving on three wheels."

Qualifying in the Wet, 1979 US GP, Watkins Glen
Quoted without permission from Nigel Roebuck's wonderful Grand Prix Greats (1986), Patrick Stephens Ltd, Wellingborough, UK. pp208, ISBN 0-85059-792-7.

A friend of mine in America sent me a cassette a while ago. On it is the sound of a lone racing car, unmistakably a Ferrari flat-12, and its clearly audible all the way round the lap. There is a lot of wheelspin - you can hear the revs abruptly scream out of every turn - and then the volume builds until the car swishes by in a welter of spray.
He taped it during the first afternoon of practice at Watkins Glen in 1979, when conditions were as bad as I have ever seen at a race circuit. In places the track was flooded, and only eight drivers ventured out. One of those was Scheckter, who was fastest behind team mate Villeneuve. Eleven seconds behind ...The tape is of course Gilles, and it revived memories of a day when we forgot the wintry rain until he came in, the Ferrari breathless and steaming. In the pits the other drivers, aghast, had giggled nervously every time he skittered by at 160 mph. "Why do we bother ? He's different from the rest of us," Jacques Laffite said. "On another level ..."

"I scared myself rigid that day", Jody remembered. "I thought I had to be quickest. Then I saw Gilles's time and - I still don't really understand how it was possible. Eleven seconds !"

"Motor racing was a romantic thing for him, you see." Scheckter went on. "We were close friends, doing the same job for the same team, but we had completely opposite attitudes to it. My preoccupation was keeping myself alive, but Gilles had to be the fastest on every lap - even in testing. He was the fastest racing driver the world has ever seen. If he could come back and live his life again, I think he would do exactly the same - and with the same love."

Alan Jones: on the 1979 Canadian GP

[just after having passed Gilles for the lead] "I've done it, and once I was into the lead I built up a bit of a cushion. But as soon as I backed off a fraction there was that bloody red ****-box in my mirrors again ! Villeneuve was unbelievable like that - I mean, he never gave up. He was the best driver I ever raced against, I think, and I certainly enjoyed my fights with him more than with anyone else, because I always knew exactly where I was with him. He'd never drive straight at you or edge you into a wall, or any of that stuff

Didier Pironi

"When I joined Ferrari the whole team was so devoted to Gilles. I mean he was not just the top driver, he was much more than that. He had a small family there. ... he made me fit right in and I felt at home right away overnight and Gilles made no distinctions either ...I was expecting to be put in my place, I was not number one. I was number two. He treated me like an equal all the way."

Alain Prost

" ...with me and my competitors it's battle for pole position as that's important but with Gilles you will see a battle for everything ...[including] 10th place ..."

"He made the fastest start of anybody here. I thought he must know a trick ...all season he had quicker starts, no one could compare"

Niki Lauda

"Gilles was the perfect racing driver who knew where to take which advantage where ...(sic)"

"Villeneuve had the best talent of all of us. Whatever car that you put him in he would have been quick."

Juan Manuel Fangio

"He will remain as a member of the family of the truly great drivers in auto racing history. Mr Enzo Ferrari, who is an authority on these matters, has compared Villeneuve to Tazio Nuvolari. Nuvolari in my younger days was the great idol. All drivers wanted to equal the great Nuvolari. They struggled to match but could only imitate him. To be compared to Nuvolari is to receive the highest praise.
Villeneuve did not race to finish, he did not race for points. He raced to win. Although small in stature he was a giant."

Jacques Laffite

"I know that no human being can do a miracle. Nobody commands magical properties, but Gilles made you wonder. He was that quick."

Keke Rosberg

"To Gilles, racing truly was a sport, which is why he would never chop you. Something like that he'd look on with contempt. You didn't have to be a good driver to do that, let alone a great one. Anyone could do that. Gilles was the hardest bastard I ever raced against, but completely fair. If you'd beaten him to a corner, he accepted it and gave you room. Then he'd be right back at you at the next one ! Sure, he took unbelievable risks - but only with himself - and that's why I get pissed off now when people compare Senna with him. Gilles was a giant of a driver, yes, but he was also a great man."

Jean Sage, team manager, Renault

"Gilles was extraordinary. Everyone of us, every team would have loved to have a Gilles. The mastery he had, the ability. He could do absolutely anything he wanted to do with his car. Most considered him the best competitor of Formula [One] cars of our time.

Jackie Stewart
[during the middle of the 1979 season:]

"Oh, I think he's superb, and I believe he'll get better and better. At the moment he still makes mistakes, misses the odd apex, gets up on a curb, uses a little too much road on the way out sometimes, but i'm being hypercritical here. His level of natural talent is phenomenal - there's real genius in his car control."

Rene Arnoux

"It was terrible when Gilles died. I cried that day and the next one, too, even though I had to race ...and I remember the feeling that we were all starting equal, from now on. Villeneuve was gone. We all knew he had a talent beyond our reach."

Frank Williams
[on Canada 1979]

"I was very proud of Alan that day. We had the best car at the time, without a doubt, and the only driver on the track we feared was that little French Canadian ..."

Harvey Postlethwaite
Quoted without permission from Nigel Roebuck's wonderful Grand Prix Greats (1986), Patrick Stephens Ltd, Wellingborough, UK. pp214. ISBN 0-85059-792-7.

"That car, the original [Ferrari] 126C turbo had literally one quarter of the downforce that, say Williams or Brabham had. It had a power advantage over the Cosworths for sure, but it also had massive throttle lag at that time. In terms of sheer ability I think Gilles was on a different plane to the other drivers. To win those races [the 1981 GPs at Monaco and Jarama] - on tight circuits - was quite out of this world. I know how bad that car was."

Enzo Ferrari after Gilles' death

"He left us because of something incomprehensible. His fatality has deprived us of a great champion, one that I loved very very much.
People used to say that one day he'll quit Ferrari but I never believed it because Gilles and I had formed such an affection for each other we were like father and son.

My past is scarred with grief ...father, mother, brother, sister, wife ...my life is full of sad memories. I look back and I see my loved ones ...and among my loved ones I see the face of this great man: Gilles Villeneuve."

#12 AD

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Posted 13 January 2001 - 21:49

Giles Villeneuve may be very talented, but he lacked a ruthless streak(like Senna or Schumacher) or a mechanical sympathy(like Fangio or Prost). He had only 6 carear wins in total. If he was as talented as any of the aforementioned then he would have either won more races in his Ferrari, inspired the team to new and thus better heights(ala Schumacher transforming Benneton and Ferrari), or he would have worked as hard as he could've to get a drive with the top team at his time(like Fangio, Senna, or Prost).
Giles will be remembered for his skill and bravery, but so will Mansell, Roseberg, Hakkinen, his son Jacques, Hunt, etc. But it takes more than skill to be a good driver. A driver must also be consistent, constantly thinking on strategy, making sure that he doesn't overdrive the car into retirement, etc. It's the greats like Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Prost, Senna, and Schumacher who exceled at everything, and were as a consequence the most successful and thus the best driver of their particular era. Giles Villeneuve was not of the same standard as the drivers mentioned, if he was he would've been a World Champion at the least two times.

#13 Nomad

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 00:02

The 'Big Three' as outlined in this case all chased the best drives. They ruthlessly dumped one team in favour of another in their dogged pursue of the best car.
It appears that Gilles' reputation of honour is a definite downsize to his character in this respect. Can the prosecution provide evidence that Gilles was prepared to 'chase the best car'?

#14 mtl'78

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 00:28

AD, you raise a valid question, but I believe you are mistaken. Gilles was a victim of his time. In 1978, he joined a time when Colin Chapman had discovered a new form of downforce, from his skirts on the '78 and '79 models, they had a serious speed advantage. Ferrari was competitive and Gilles overcame a few early troubles and managed some fantastic results, his fastest lap Argentina is quite a testament to his natural speed.

About that, as an aside, Wolf, your comment is incomplete, you quote the fact that he spun 20 times, but you fail to mention that it was his 1st time in an F1 car, and he was under pressure to find the limits instantly. There had been over 40 entrants to the race at Silverstone and there was to be a pre-qualifying for all the new drivers. So Gilles spun 20 times in the practice, but the Donaldson book mentions never the same way at the same corner twice. By the time of the pre-qualifying he was 1st. Then in the regular session he out classed more than half the field including the #2 driver at Maclaren, who was driving a newer model.

Now back to 1978, so in the end Gilles learned the ropes and did well enough that when they hired Sheckter for next season at mid season, Gilles was pegged by everyone, but in the end , it was Reutermann who was let go despite his 4 wins! Also remember that Gilles had made the jump from 20 odd Formula Atlantic races. It is twice the jump that say Jenson Button or even Kirksten have done... At the time Enzo said he saw greatness in Gilles and he was expecting Gilles to be a great champion one day.

Mario Andretti 64
Carlos Reutermann 48
Gilles Villeneuve 17

Poles 2 Reut : 0 Vill
Qual 12 Reut : 4 Vill
F.Laps 2 Reut : 1 Vill
GP's led 5 Reut : 4 Vill
Laps Led 183 Reut : 99 Vill

1979, this year Ferrari had a very competitive car. Gilles was going up against Jody Sheckter, a 10 year veteran who was no nonsense driver, who like Lauda had started very wild in early seasons and matured into a very smart racer. This was his best chance to finally get his championship and he was very determined. Gilles on the other hand was starting to master the powerful cars and was showing impressive speed, but everyone outside the team considered him the clear #2. But right away he was matching Sheckter's speed, and increasingly, he was going faster. Jody was a smart guy and recognized his early self in Gilles' temerity. So he let Gilles go faster, and played the consitency game. But even that didn't save him. By mid year, the turbopowered Renaults were becoming unbeatable, but they had reliability problems, Sheckter ran for the remaining points and won races of attrition while Gilles suffered mechanical failures. Some were caused by his relentless style. He would do things like snap shift, which is shift at maximum revs with no clutch. This is much faster, but risky and stressful on many parts of the car. He broke many driveshafts, but Enzo would say that he was an asset, that he showed them the weak parts of the car. If he broke driveshafts then they should build stronger ones. He would then boast that his cars had to be Villeneuve-worthy!

So Gilles was the only one able to seriously challenge the now dominating Renaults. That and the fact that Renault was not a factor for the WC Helped make it very very close in the WDC. By the end of the year, Williams had mastered the skirts and Alan Jones became the man to beat. Meanwhile Sheckter was quietly amassing 5ths and 4ths. The race at Montreal for example was quoted above by both Williams and Jones... The championship situation from Zandvoort-Monza on has been well documented.

Sheckter 51
Villeneuve 47
Jones 40

Poles Shec 1 : Vill 1
Qual Shec 7 : Vill 8
F.Laps Shec 0 : Vill 6
GP led Shec 4 : Vill 7
Laps Led Shec 170 : 308

1980 Ferrari tried its hand at sliding skirts and produced perhaps its ugliest and slowest F1 car ever. It was simply undrivable. As such the best result was 5th place achieved twice by Gilles and once by Jody. GV managed a 3rd in Qual at Brazil and dominated Jody into retirement, though they remained best friends. The car was so bad that WDC Jody Sheckter was unable to qualify for the Canadian GP. Gilles was 15th, and raced perhaps his greatest race there to finish 5th. So there's where a stat shows nothing. He took a car that his #1 teammate, defending champ, was unable to qualify and came in 5th!

Jones 67
Villeneuve 6
Sheckter 2

Poles: no poles
Qual Shec 1 : Vill 13
No fastest laps
GP led Shec 0 : Vill 1
Laps led Shec 0 : Vill 1

1981, They solved some of the problems, but the car was still a mess, as the late designer Dr. Harvey Postlewaite testified to. Still Gilles took a midfield car to win at Monaco and Jarama, the two "drivers" tracks of the day. His teammate was Didier Pironi, an up and comer who had won races and done very well with Ligier. Someone raised the issue of Shumacher's work with the 1996 Ferrari, but they do not realize the quality of the 1981 car it was truly bad, through and through.

Piquet 50
Villeneuve 25
Pironi 9

Poles Pir 0 : Vill 1
Qual Pir 5 : Vill 10
F. Laps Pir 1 : Vill 1
GP led Pir 2 : Vill 4
Laps Led Pir 44 : Vill 86

Then came 1982 and the events of that early season have been well documented. So This is the only reason that Gilles' statistics don't bear anything out. His first season, he made a gigantic leap and it took him a few races to master the cars perfectly, then he was pitted against an experienced, motivated racer in Sheckter and team orders were necessary to dedide it nonetheless. Gilles totally dominated all categories but points. 1980 was a year wasted. There were no results possible yet Gilles managed the only excitement for the tifosi. 1981, the car was better and Gilles brought it back from the depths and into the winner's circle against all odds and expectations. By 1982, he was experienced himself, had helped develop Ferrari into a contender through countless hours of testing. And then a few races into the season and it was all over... He never had the opportunity to shine. Fangio was already very experienced and drove the best cars for many of his championships, plus I've posted Fangio's personnal opinion on GV above. Senna didn't do much in a Toleman, certainly not more than Gilles did in the 1980-81 Ferraris. Prost didn't do a whole lot until he joined Maclaren, and even then he lost out to Lauda, Prost evolved into the driver he became, Gilles never got that opportunity to have experience and be able to exploit his amazing talent in a winning car, yet the little bits he gave us here and there, which add up to a whole lot when you think about it, is enough for many respected people in the F1 community to consider him one of thr all time greats, and why a list of the 100 best drivers ever in F1 would place him 2nd.

#15 mtl'78

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 00:35

Nomad, there was a report I read in Jean Bonoyer's biography that mentioned that in 1981 Maclaren approached Gilles to join the team next season. Gilles was interested, as he was somewhat disillusioned with Ferrari's performance. Gilles was very scared of letting Ferrari know about this and kept it very secretive. He was offered 3 million dollars to drive for Maclaren. Once at a practice session, Ted Mayer walked up to his pit board and placed "3 M" on the pitboard. Gilles saw this and later on nonchalently changed it to "3.5" to which Mayer indicated "GO". Mayer thought they might have a deal, but in the end Gilles backed out. He was paid far less by Ferrari, who paid less than all the other teams. It was thought by his agent Gaston Parent that Gilles feared facing "the old man"...

#16 Williams

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 03:31

I am going to take a somewhat contrarian position on this matter, and say that Gilles does NOT deserve to be in the "big" three.

First let me say that I cannot adequately express how much it pains me to make this argument. Gilles Villeneuve is my countryman and my favourite driver, because of the spirit of his driving. Gilles was exceptional in the the passion he brought to the sport.

Posthelthwaite said it best: "Gilles was bubbling with natural talent and just had a huge effervescent desire to drive racing cars. He was professional and concentrated and all that sort of thing, but he was a daredevil".

However, to simply let Gilles into the top three without considering his results to reduce the professionalism, dedication, bravery, and competence of a host of other drivers to mere side issues in a popularity contest.

Many of the arguments will inevitably lean on anecdotal evidence, of Gilles wonderful drive at Jarama, his classic battle with Rene Arnoux in the French Grand Prix, and so on. But such anecdotes are also legend along with the names of many other top F1 drivers, and as such nullify the effectives of Gilles' individual stories as evidence worthy to project him into the upper pantheon of F1 drivers.

Let me make my argument by putting Gilles results into perspective. I have ranked the Formula One World Driver Champions, plus Gilles, by considering the following stats:

Percent wins in starts*
Percent fastest laps in starts*
Percent podiums in starts*
Percent poles in starts
Average of career race classifications (over race finishes)
Average of career grid positions
Average driver errors

*mechanical failures are discounted.

Each driver is ranked in each category, then the rankings of each drivers in all of the categories are averaged together to make an average ranking, to allow a single number to be assigned to each driver. The results are as follows (the number in brackets is the average ranking of the given driver in the considered statistical categories):

1.J.M.Fangio (1.28)
2.Clark (4.57)
3.Ascari (4.71)
4.Stewart (6.57)
5.M.Schumacher (6.71)
6.Prost (8)
7.Farina (8.28)
8.Senna (8.85)
9.Mansell (9.57)
10.Hawthorn (12.71)
11.D.Hill (13.14)
12.Hakkinen (13.28)
13.Lauda (13.57)
14.Rindt (14.28)
15.Brabham (16.28)
16.Surtees (16.42)
17.Hunt (17.28)
18.J.Villeneuve (17.57)
19.P.Hill (17.71)
20.Piquet (19.14)
21.Hulme (19.57)
22.Andretti (20.71)
23.E.Fittipaldi (21.71)
24.G.Villeneuve (22.42)
25.Jones (22.42)
26.G.Hill (22.57)
27.Scheckter (22.57)
28.Rosberg (24)

Gilles ranks a dismal 24th of 28 drivers. Gilles rankings in each category which brought him to this final value are:

Percent wins in starts - 21st
Percent fastest laps in starts - 15th
Percent podiums in starts - 23rd
Percent poles in starts - 26th
Average of career race classifications - 24th
Average of career grid positions - 20th
Average driver errors - 25th

The point of quoting these stats is put Gilles in some sort of historical perspective. No matter how you argue the stats, that is a pretty low ranking, with many other deserving drivers between Gilles and the "top". To simply launch Gilles in the upper level of the pantheon is to deny fairness to a host of other great drivers, such as Clark, Ascari, Stewart, and Farina, not to mention such non-champions as Sterling Moss. These were drivers who also showed incredible passion for the sports, as well as professionalism, plus the circumspection and savvy to actually produce the results they were aiming for, namely the WDC. Compare this to what Scheckter considered to be Gilles' aim in the sport:

"Gilles wanted to win laps. He didn't really wand to win the races, he didn't want to win the World Championship. He was a very intelligent guy who wanted the wrong things out of racing".

Sheckter went on to say:

"Gilles liked this image he had of being a crazy guy and he worked at it...when we got to 10 km from Marenello he became a madman, wheels spinning, skidding around and so on...When he came flying into the the carpark at the factory he would do a 360-degree wheelspin and the mechanics would all cheer. And I just sat back, it gave me a relaxing feeling to see him do that because I felt that if a guy does this kind of thing on the road, he's going to make too many mistake in the races, and that's how I can beat him."

But, the crux of my argument is best explained by, again, Gilles' WDC champion Ferrari teammate, regarding Gilles driving at Monaco in 1979, when his transmission failed while contending for the lead. Jody felt Gilles was the author of his own fate:

"Gilles was always putting his foot down and running through the gears. He would change gears without taking his foot off the accelerator...When you do that you use more fuel - like he did at Zolder - and the car tends to break down. He probably felt it was faster, but the fraction it helps isn't worth it. And Monaco has a bump coming out of the corner onto the pit straight. Gilles could go over that flat out so the the engine was screaming and when he hit the other side, the car had wheelspin and jerked the transmission hard. I used to change gears in between to save
the transmission".

Indeed Gilles showed a great passion for driving an F1 car fast, but did not seem to have the same passion for the Championship itself, which is the priamry goal of the sport. Thus, in my view, Gilles does not belong with the likes of Senna, Prost and Fangio, and to put him their would do an injustice to many other deserving

#17 Nikolas Garth

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 04:27

I'm not sure how relevant my question will be to this debate(I am not yet prepared/inclined to enter into this one way or the other). But in respect of the "Big 3", whilst they are unquestionably 3 of the 10 greatest of all time IMHO, is the court suggesting that the "general consensus" is that the big 3 mentioned are unquestionably the top 3, it is just the order that needs to be worked out????

The reason I ask, is that I was of the belief that Jim Clark tends to figure very prominently in many "experts" top 3.

I also understand and approve of not considering Michael Schumacher yet, as he is still an active driver.

#18 indysteve

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 05:01

I would like to make an argument in favor of the position of the Defense in this case.

A legal case can include arguments regarding the facts as well as arguments regarding the law. A lawyer can win his case by proving that his opponents are wrong on the facts of the case or by proving that they are wrong in their interpretation of the law. As someone who is relatively new to F1, I do not feel qualified to argue the facts of the case. However, I would like to make an argument concerning the "law" as it should be applied in this situation.

The Judge's Preamble contained the following statements:

this trial is not about whether he was a brilliant racer, it is about whether he deserves to join Fangio, Senna and Prost in F1 racing's great triumvirate

It is our duty to resolve this dichotomy, to determine whether Villeneuve would have achieved the statistical success of a Fangio, Senna or Prost had he lived to race a full career

I respectfully submit that these statements reflect two completely different issues, and that the "law" is being applied incorrectly in this case.

It is perfectly acceptable for the Court to set forth Fangio, Senna, and Prost as the standards to which Villeneuve is to be compared. But what is it that sets these drivers apart from the vast majority of their peers? Is it merely the fact of their undeniable talent for driving? I submit that what separates them from all others is not just their abilities, but also what they actually achieved in racing competition. Ultimately, racing is about winning. There is no substitute for it. If a driver is to be placed in the same class as these three, he must have reached a comparable level of achievement on the racing circuit. If he has not done so, he does not deserve to be listed with the greatest of the great -- whether he be Gilles Villeneuve or any other driver.

There are any number of reasons why a driver may not reach the level of achievement of these three men. Some just don't have the talent. Some may not have the opportunity to drive in a competitive car. And some will have their lives tragically cut short, as was the case with Gilles. Regardless of the reason, it is simply inappropriate to regard a driver with the same respect as Fangio, Senna, and Prost if he did not achieve things comparable to what they achieved. It would diminish their legacies to do so.

An analogous example can be given from the Indianapolis 500. It could be argued that Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney were among the most talented drivers to ever drive in that race. However, they can never be placed in the same category as A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears, because they did not achieve the same results. They certainly had tremendous careers overall, but within the frame of reference of the 500, the question is not just one of ability but also one of achievement in the race itself. The same is true for the frame of reference of F1. For an F1 driver to be listed with the greatest of the great, he must have achieved what they achieved. It is not enough to have had the ability to reach their level; he must have actually done it.

It would be in order for the Court to consider a separate case to determine "whether Villeneuve would have achieved the statistical success of a Fangio, Senna or Prost had he lived to race a full career," but I respectfully submit that it is the wrong standard to apply in a case to determine "whether he deserves to join Fangio, Senna and Prost in F1 racing's great triumvirate." Gilles did not win the championships that they won; therefore, he does not deserve to join them by definition.

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, I want to make clear that none of this is intended to disparage Gilles' driving ability in any way. I am simply arguing as to what I think the standard of judgment -- the "law" -- should be in this case. I would argue the same way if any other driver were being considered.

#19 Falcadore

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 06:30

mtl'78 make a point of inaccuracy with regards to Alain Prost. He states that Prost did nothing until he joined McLaren. this is possibly wrong on two counts.

Prost first season was with McLaren in 1980, a year in which McLaren was in total turmoil. Marlboro were in the process on engineering Ron Dennis takeover of the team and the M29 car was old and dated.

He then moved to Renault with a race to go in 1983 he was in contention to win the World Championship, and was the favoured driver to win of the three who could win it.

If you meant when he first joined McLaren then the team was not in a position to provide the rookie Frenchman with sufficient support. If you meant the second time he joined McLaren then he at that point had been within spitting distance of becoming world champion.

In either case - the opposite of your arguement.


#20 Jac Man

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 08:43

Gilles uncompromising tenacity and ill regard in compromising for anything less than a victory justifiably sways some to evaluate him beneath the "Big Three".

The intagible spectre that this approach to motorsport casts over his career also propels him to a statis of legend that trancends a mere sum of his official statistics. It is also an anchor which his memory is shackled to by the unfortunate finality which his passion spawned at Zolder.

Regarding the fact that Moss / Fangio could find the limit of the car and not lose control. I would argue that they never found the true limit. Villenueve's method of going beyond the limit to find where it truly was, would be exactly what earned him those precious thousandths, hundereths, and tenths of seconds that in my opinion, Moss, Fangio, and certainly not Schumacher never find.

Ultimately, his status in memory is more a statement of which variable and particular elements and emotions endear us to our own personal passions for motorsport.

#21 Bruce

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 16:50

With all due respect, I would argue that Gilles DOES indeed deserve to join the big three. In fact, too late - he's already there.

The argument against Gilles in this regard always comes back to statistics - and as we all know, statistics can be made to sayt whatever you wish them too. However - I would argue that statistics are almost irrelavent. When one talks about Fangio, one talks about his brilliant drive at the Nurburgring in 1957, not his number of race wins. When one talks of Senna we talk about performances like Donnington, 1993, not how many poles he had. Equally, if statistics are the be all and end all of driver performance why is Ascari not in the top 3? He had 2 WDCs from 31 races, 14 poles in those races, and 13 wins - 9 in succession. Notably, statistically the greatest Grand prix driver of all time - statistically - is an American - 1 Race win and 1 2nd place for 2 starts - a 50% winning average - I kid you not - check it out.

The reason one should mistrust statistics is that they don't tell the whole story. How much better was Fangio's Mercedes than the competition? How many years did Senna and Prost race in the best or next best cars on the grid? In Ascari's case, is he discounted because the Ferrari was so obviously the dominant car in 1952 and 1953?

No, one must judge drivers on their exploits. This is how we refer to great racers - by referring to the magic they worked in their cars, we only stoop to using bald statistics to support our theories - and in most cases those statistics do - sadly they do not in the case of GV.

One of the main reasons for this is that he was only in a competitive car for a very short time. the 1980 Ferrari was so bad, remember, that Jody Schekter gave up F1 in frustration. Yet Gilles remained, trying as hard as ever.

However, to the point - Perhaps more than any other racing driver, Gilles has left us with a wealth of storied exploits. Whether it be his heroic efforts at Zolder, trying to flog his Ferrari back to the pits on 3 wheels or in Canada, driving around with his nosecone bent up in front of him - and finally knocking it off by driving hard on the kerbs to finish an herioic 3rd; whether it be leaving his fellow drivers and the media alike stunned with a wet lap 11 seconds faster than the next driver - his team-mate Schekter (who claims to have scared himself "rigid" in the process) or driving the perfectly controlled race in Spain in 1981 against superior opposition; whether it be his tigering drive against Rene Arnoux for second at Dijon, or his passing on the outside of tarrzan at Zandvoort or his beating james Hunt and other GP regulars in equal Formula Atlantic cars at Trois Rivieres in 1977- Gilles legacy argues that he was one of the greatest pure racers of all time.

Perhaps the most astounding thing is that he coupled his raw desire with a gentlemanly demeanour which has rarely been seen in F1 since - in fact this demeanour could be said to have hurt his statistics as it is certainly responsible for at least the "loss" of 2 wins to his total... (Italy, 1979 and San marino 1982).

Perhaps the men who would know best just how good he was were those who competed against him... In 1979, after his wet lap at Watkins Glen, Jacques Laffite is quoted as saying "Why do we bother? He's different from the rest of us - on a seperate level." Niki Lauda; "I think that Gilles was the perfect racing driver -he had the best talent of us all".

Gilles Villeneuve derserves to be included with the mentioned triumvirate not for the legacy of great stats with which he left us, but for the legacy of great racing. When looking at Villeneuve's career, it is easy to forget that he was in F1 for a very brief 4 years. Fangio had 7 years in F1 to forge his legend, Senna had 10, and Prost had 13 years. Villeneuve packed more exciting racing into that 4 years than perhaps any other driver, including Senna, Prost and even Fangio. Therein lies his greatness. Statisatics be damned.

#22 Falcadore

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 17:58

This is a waring against the use of certain statistics. As far as the Formula One World Championship goes. As statistics plays a large part in this case it should be noted that certain biases do show up in the statistics. For example.

Is Mika Hakkinen one of the all time greats? Mika is a dual world champion but is he one of the best of all time? In several important areas of statistics he is already top ten material. He currently sits ninth on all time accumulation of points and is just one spot outside the top ten for most wins. This has largely come from the Mika became a race winning driver effectively in 1998. Since that time almost all races have been won by a mere three drivers, Schumacher, Hakkinen and Coulthard, with a small remainder claimed by Irvine, Frentzen, Barrichello and Herbert. Also much more point are on offer now than in the 50's.

Elsewhere in this thread Williams produces a painstakingly researched statiscal drivers index. What this stat does not take into account is the competitivness of an era. Almost all stats produced will inflate thepositions of drivers such as Farina, Hakkinen, Ascari, Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill, and yes Michael Schumacher because the eras they raced in lacked competitivness. Thus drivers of the 60's 70's and 80's are held back statistically becasue there were so many more of them capable of taking a share of the statistics.

Bruce also introduced a dubious statistic by including the Indy 500 races to make a point. While it does make the point, it includes data not generally included in Formula One data, thus drawing a conclusion from data not universally accepted.

Bruce argues that all stats should be discarded, it makes a mockery of Formula One, which more than most sports is about the numbers. Thus reducing the argument to a series of artistic impressions of a man. And these impressions can be as biasedly favourable as the statistics are not.

The case of Gilles Villeneuve is Formula One's representation of science vs art. In art he is a god, in science he falls well short.

#23 AD

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 18:00

Let us look at how much points Gilles scored compared to his teammates each season;
1978 Gilles Villeneuve 17 Carlos Reutermann 48
1979 Gilles Villeneuve 47 Jody Sheckter 51
1980 Gilles Villeneuve 06 Jody Sheckter 02
1981 Gilles Villeneuve 25 Didier Pironi 09

Total: Gilles Villeneuve= 95
His teammates = 110

So from these figures Gilles was outscored by 15 points in total by all his teammates.

In comparison to this Fangio, Clark, Prost, Senna, and Schumacher were/are not outscored by their teammates, and in fact they totally overwhelmed their teammates.

From these stats Gilles doesn't even compare to all these greats.

#24 Williams

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 18:18

Along the same train as thought as AD, who beat me to it:

To try to eliminate the car factor somewhat, let us compare Villeneuve's results against those of his teammates, Scheckter, Reutemann and Pironi.

From the 1977 to 1982:

Wins: Gilles 6, Scheckter 3, Pironi 2, Reutemann 1
Poles: Gilles 1, Scheckter 1, Pironi 2, Reutemann 0
Fastest Laps: Gilles 8, Scheckter 0, Pironi 3, Reutemann 0
Podiums: Gilles 13, Scheckter 6, Pironi 6, Reutemann 6
Starts at Ferrari against Villeneuve: Gilles 67, Scheckter 29, Pironi 20, Reutemann 18

Taking the percentage in each category:

Stats are Pecent Wins, Poles, Podiums, Fastest Laps,
and Errors, out of starts against Villeneuve.

Reutemann 22,11,49,11,11
Villeneuve 9,6,17,10,15
Scheckter 10,0,20,0,3
Pironi 5,0,5,10,15

Reutemann had a higher percentage of wins at 22% to 9%
Reutemann had a higher percentage of wins at poles 11% to 6%
Reutemann had a higher percentage of wins at podiums 49% to 17%
Villeneuve tied Pironi for most fastest laps with at 10%
Villeneuve tied Pironi for most errors at 15%
Scheckter had fewest errors at 3%

It is perhaps unfair to compare Reutemann to Villeuve while Villeneuve was just starting out, so how did Villeuve fare against the remaining teammates ?

Scheckter had fewest errors at 3%
Scheckter beat Villeneuve 20% to 17% for podiums.
Scheckter and Villeneuve basically tied for wins 10% to 9% for Scheckter.
Villeneuve beat Scheckter for poles 6% to 0%.
Villeneuve beat Scheckter for fastest laps 10% to 0%.
Villeneuve tied Pironi for most fastest laps with at 10%
Villeneuve tied Pironi for most errors at 15%

It seems even in the department that Villeneuve is famous for, raw speed, he was tied by a relative newcomer to the team, Pironi, who achieved fastest laps 15% of the time he started against Villeneuve.

Compared to other drivers in the same model of vehicle
Villeneuve was the best qualifying driver, (once he had a season's experience).
But Villeneuve was not the fastest driver
and Villeneuve was not the winningest driver
and Villeneuve was not the most reliable driver.

If Villeneuve could not clearly better his teammates,
whom one could could certainly not argue were among
the all-time greats of Formula One Racing,
How can he be placed among the immortal pantheon
of Fangio, Senna and Prost ?

Why do we love Villeneuve ? The reasons are intangible.

We loved Villeneuve because he was spectacular.
We loved Villeneuve because he drove sideways.
We loved Villeneuve because he drove sideways spectacularly in the rain.
Villeneuve was undoubtedly the quickest driver of all time, in the rain.
Villeneuve was a dare devil.
Villeneuve was a family man.
Villeneuve was a Ferrari driver.
Villeneuve was the beloved nearly-son of Enzo Ferrari.
Villeneuve died driving a Ferrari.

Villeneuve was probably born in the wrong era, or was driving in the wrong class of racing. He should have been driving Lotuses
in the early sixties, or been a rally car driver, where driving sideways was an advantage.

But he was a Formula One driver in the early eighties, when driving was all about conserving fuel and tires, maintaining
maximum grip through corners, and driving as though on rails.

As such, Villeneuve could not become one of the best F1 drivers of all time.

Perhaps just the most beloved.

But the Greats of Formula One drove to win championships. And there are two many other drivers qualified to be decreed the equal of Fangio, Senna and Prost, drivers like Stewart, and Clark and Ascari, who actually won championships, some of whom also drove for Ferrari, and some of whom also gave their lives, doing what they loved to do.

Let us be fair to their memories also.

#25 AD

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Posted 14 January 2001 - 21:34


Villeneuve was undoubtedly the quickest driver of all time, in the rain.

This is even a very questionable statement as there seems to be very little evidence to show that he was as good in the rain as Senna and Schumacher, statistically wise anyways.

Does anyone have any record on Gilles performances in the wet? And can they compare that to either Senna or Schumacher?

#26 mtl'78

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Posted 15 January 2001 - 02:02

Williams your calculations are interesting but they do not remove the car factor in some respects. The points distribution don't take into account that a slower car scores less points, fastest laps, wins etc. thus the gaps are smaller. The fact is that from 1979 on, he was faster than all his teammates by a fair margin. This is quite a feat, as almost all the Europeans had raced at all the tracks in lower formulae, while Gilles was new to all of them before computer simulations could tell you how to drive. In 1979 he led in every statistic except points. And that was due to team orders.

In 1980 he outqualified Jody 13 to 1 and by an average of over 1 second I'm sure. I will calculate The totals soon. In 1981 he totally dominated over Pironi despite their equal status. The totals are very low but that's because of the true wretchedness of the Ferrari cars at that moment. I think some of you don't realize the extent to which they were slow. I'm talking about Minardi-slow in 1980 and Arrows-slow in 1981. Another thing to consider is that statistically, when Gilles left, he was ranked pretty well for only 4 seasons. Despite his inconsistent rides, he averaged 1.2 wins per season when 3 or 4 wins and 60 points was enough to be WDC. Today you need 7 to 9 and 85+ points. back then there was much more parity, hardly any team could dominate for more than 3/4 of a season from 1978 to 1984.

The point has been raised that his style was flashy and that's why he's so fondly remembered. Well that's not fair, for two reasons. #1, back then there were different driving styles allowed by the cars, and Gilles was far from the first or last tail-out drivers. In fact those drivers were usually the fastest! guys like Ronnnie Peterson were very well respected drivers. Nikki Lauda's early style was very aggressive, and it won him the WDC in 1975. Drivers like Peterson and Villeneuve helped spur technological innovation. Their refusal to accept the limits of their machines, their obsession to wrench ever once of speed from their cars, inspired the designers. Things like not engaging the clutch on up shifts led to the creation of the semi-automatic gearboxes. The idea that no time should be lost on acceleration did that. It has been shown that After 1978 GV's driver error record compares well to that of MS, or Senna. After '78 he became the fastest driver in Formula One according to about 30 very credible sources ranging from Fangio, Ferrari, Lauda, to the very man he beat in Dijon, Arnoux.

#27 Indian Chief

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Posted 15 January 2001 - 04:14

Villeneuve was undoubtedly the quickest driver of all time, in the rain.

Like AD, I wonder how true this is. Other than being 11 seconds faster in a meaningless practice session and being 3rd in Canada in 1981, can you point out his other outstanding wet weather performances?

#28 Indian Chief

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Posted 15 January 2001 - 04:19

In 1981 he totally dominated over Pironi despite their equal status. The totals are very low but that's because of the true wretchedness of the Ferrari cars at that moment.

Mtl, Wouldn't you agree that it is easier for a better driver to outperform an inferior driver in a car handling badly, like the 1981 126C, rather than an extremely well handling car?

Looking at the results, other than his two wins, Pironi did have the measure of his teammate, even though he was new to the team, which says a lot about Pironi's speed.

#29 Bruce

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Posted 15 January 2001 - 06:08

Stats again. Stats are useful to confirm a drivers greatness, but not I think, to prove or disprove it.

In Gilles case, the stats obviously do not confirm him as one of the all time greats. However, neither do they prove him to be a sub par or over-rated driver. They exist as something of an anomaly - that such a great driver could have so "little" success.

So, shall I prove his greatness to you? Well I can't belabour you with stats, can I?

So I'll do the reverse;


Gilles Villeneuve;
6 race wins
8 fastest laps (incl non chmpionship F1 races)
2 pole positions

Paltry. pathetic, even.

Yet "Motorsport" lists him as second of all time - second only to Nuvolari.

Denis Jenkinson lists him in his pantheon of all time greats; Ascari, Moss, Clark, Gilles and Senna.

More from Lauda; "I liked him even more than I admired him. He was the best - and the fastest - racing driver in the world."

James Hunt; " He was quick!We were driving identical cars for the same (Formula Atlantic) team, so I knew. Ok, he was doing what he was used to, and I wasn't, but in Formula One I reckoned I was as quick as anybody of the time, and I couldn't get near him" - (italics NOT mine)

Chris Amon; "This guy (GV) is something else again. In 15 years of racing I've never seen anyone behave like he does after a shunt. - I mean, he doesn't react at all! It's just like nothing has happened although the state of the car tells you different... (question - Is he quick?) - Quick? He's quicker than anybody I've ever seen!" (italics NOT mine).

Keke Rosberg; "Sure he took unbelievable risks - but only with himself. Thats why I get pissed off now when people compare him to Senna. Gilles was a giant of a driver, but he was also a great man."

Jackie Stewart; "Gilles? I think he's superb, and he'll get better and better. At the moment (1979) he still makes mistakes, misses the odd apex, gets up on a kerb, uses a little too much road on the way out sometimes, but I'm being hyper critical here. His level of natural talent is phenomenal - there's real genius in his car control".

René Arnoux; " It was terrible when Gilles died. I cried that day and the next one too, even though I had to race. And I remember the feeling that we were all starting equal from now on. Villeneuve was gone. We all knew that he had a talent beyond our reach."

Gordon Murray; " That (Járama, 1981) is the greatest drive I have seen by any driver. You can't believe how evil the Ferrari was! With all that pressure on him Villeneuve never made a mistake."

Nigel Roebuck; "Although in his brief F1 career, he never had a car remotely a match for his ability it never compromised his effort or commitment. He had a pure genius for driving race cars that was sublime. There was no one like him."

These opinions are at odds with GVs statistics. Perhaps, this means that his true accomplishments were too...

#30 BT52

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Posted 15 January 2001 - 14:49

I really can't see how a driver can be considered one of the very greatest without having actually ACHIEVED the goals.
A driver who never won the world championship has in my opinion never demonstrated that he has the all round ability in all aspects to be the best of his era.

The number of ifs and buts mean that we can't consider him to have been one of the top 10 let alone the top 3. What IF Herbert had not had his accident? He looked amazingly fast as well BUT it wasn't to be.

Sure he was spectacularly fast over the odd lap, but he was hardly consistant, his lap times would vary wildly suggesting that he was capable of getting the best time, but not that he had a clue how he did it, nor that he would be able to do it again and again.

In fact the ability to lap fast over and over and NOT be especially spectacular, NOT push the mechanicals over the edge and NOT risk ending up in the fence has to be one of the qualities we see in the vert best.

Remember Stirling Moss's awe at Fangio just wafting the strands of the straw bale lap after lap, looking effortless?
I would suggest that Gilles would have found a hundred different ways to knock that same bale into the crowd and yet remain on the track, for a while at least... he always seemed to me to be an accident waiting to happen and on far too many occasions it DID happen.

Spectaular yes, charismatic, yes, faced with a hugely talented team mate? No. Consistant? No. Did he make mistakes? Yes, many.
Can he be considered one of the greatest, perhaps he might have been if things were different, but they weren't, and he wasn't.

#31 RedFever

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Posted 15 January 2001 - 18:50

I am a little taken by surprise. I never mentioned Gilles should be considered like Fangio, Senna and Prost. This makes the entire case a different one. I only asked for recognition as a great driver and respect for a fantastic talent. Where did Fangio, Senna and Prost come into play??? I can already read the posts of those that utilize mere stats and silly numbers, not considering Schumi at 32 had driver some of the best cars in the world, while he never had to strugle with a T5 or a 126C. Neither have Senna nor Prost.

That was not the point of my case, which was here detailed:

"Gilles Villeneuve is often and unjustly accused of continually crashing his cars, missing great opportunities to be more successful due to luck of intelligence and excessive furor.

Little credit is given to the fact that he drove mostly extremely poor material (notably 1980, the worst Ferrari ever, and in 1981). He had a though rookie year and he made mistakes. That is a fact, but he already finished the year on a high note (Zeltweg, Monza and above all Montreal). Later he fully showed his incredible talent. Contrary to general belief, he crashed very little. No crashes at all in 1979, only 1 in 1980, 3 in 1981 but if anyone has seen the 126C in action, would easily understand why and his teammate Pironi also crashed twice without achieving any relevant results, contrary to Gilles 2 memorable victories. His crash rate is a mere 1.4 per season including his rookie year, lower than super-stars like Michael Schumacher. In 1982, which was supposed to be his year, unfortunately a missunderstanding with mass caused his death and he never had a chance to leave a stronger legacy in terms of concrete results.

I strongly believe that Gilles is a victim of the superficiality of those who are able to judge talent only based on concrete numbers, while he deserves to be remembered as the great driver he really was."

Quite different spin......and no mention of Fangio or Senna or Prost. Just for the record. Now, what case are we dealing with?

#32 JJ

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Posted 15 January 2001 - 19:36

Why Can't GV become one of the Big-3?

He had abided by following rules:

1. Just like Fangio, Senna, and Jimmy Clark, he was a brilliant racer.

2. He was popular.

3. Drove for the best-of-the-field team (Ferrari)

There is one rule that he had broke...so, unfortunately, he cannot be the Big three.

4. Stay alive until winning a championship.

That's why GV cannot be the fourth in Big-3.

Lets wait and see what his son can do.

#33 mtl'78

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Posted 15 January 2001 - 21:45

Stats, here are some stats:

Pre- 1979

Sheckter 84 starts 7 wins 27 podiums
Villeneuve 20 starts 1 win 2podiums

1979 Q. Positions

Sheckter avg. position: 6.4
5 6 2 3 5 7 1 5 11 5 9 5 3 9 16
10 5 3 1 3 6 2 3 13 9 5 6 5 2 3
Villeneuve 5.0

Avg. gap .162 or 1.4 positions

1980 Q. Positions

Sheckter avg. Position 16.9
11 8 9 16 14 17 19 23 21 22 12 16 26* 23
8 3 10 10 12 6 17 19 16 15 7 8 22 18
Villeneuve avg. position 12.2

Avg. Gap .661 or 4.7 positions

*Sheckter did not qualify for the Canadian GP, his time was 26th and he was excluded. As you can see Gilles was 22nd. Some asked for more wet weather annectdotes, well in this race, it started raining, and as usual, as everyone slowed their pace, Gilles made his way up the field. He pitted very late in the race for wet tyres, only after not catching the leaders who had been into the pits already. When he came back out he was much faster and eventually finished 5th! with the 6th fastest lap to boot! All this in a car that defending WDC Sheckter was unable to qualify.

Pre- 1981
Pironi 45 starts 1 win 7 podiums
Villeneuve 47 starts 4 wins 9 podiums

1981 Q. Positions

Pironi avg. position: 9.3
11 17 12 6 3 17 13 14 4 5 8 12 8 12 18
5 7 7 1 7 2 7 11 8 8 3 16 9 11 3
Villeneuve avg. position: 7

Avg. Gap : 0.644 or 2.3 positions


Pironi avg position: 6.75
6 8 9 4
3 2 7 3
Villeneuve avg position 3.75

Avg Gap : 1.06 seconds or 3 positions.

So I think we can say that Villeneuve was faster than all of his teammates from 1979 on. In the case of Sheckter he faced a seasoned veteran and favourite for the title. Pironi was an up and come but had raced just about the same amount of races as Gilles had at the time. He was a highly touted driver at Ligier and was expected to be close to Gilles, but as the stats bear out, Gilles beat him quite handily. Don't get me wrong, I think Pironi was very good, he certainly gave you all the car was capable, and sometimes more, but that's just a testament to Gilles, incredible speed, it left two talented drivers, Sheckter and Pironi, looking very ordinary.

#34 Dave Ware

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Posted 15 January 2001 - 21:53

Once again we seem to be discussing the difference between talent and accomplishment. The two do not always go together, as we all know, as Chris Amon knows more painfully than the rest of us know.

Like Rich, I am neutral in my opinion of Gilles.

Those arguing for his case seem to be doing so on the strength of his talent, his supernatural Nuvolari-like drives. On that point, he may very well be the equal of Fangio, Senna, Prost, etc.

But he certainly didn't achieve the results, for whatever reason.

On the basis of his talent, I'm sure he deserves to be listed with the best. But certainly not for his accomplishments, which is part of the game. They only remember who won last weekend, you know.

I might also ask for a clarification: What is F1's "Big Three" and how did Fangio, Prost, and Senna get there? Can't be the most wins because both Stewart and Clark eclipsed Fangio. Perhaps if we define the question better the answer will come clear.


#35 George Bailey

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 00:26

My question stems from near complete ignorance of the facts - I state that up front so I'm not seen as taking sides.

Can someone provide a race by race description of GV and JS for 1979. 'Just' qualifying results and the race results for each driver.

It seems to me that 1979 is a key to determining GVs greatness. He was driving a car that could win the WDC but did not. I have read he was a victim of team orders which doesn't make sense to me because I've also read that EF loved him as a son and his contemporaries viewed him as a great talent - why would Ferrari favor JS over GV? Ferrari has often been accused of favoring the better driver over the lesser to try and maximize their chances of a WDC, why would they favor the slower of the two drivers???

#36 Rich

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 01:47

I will clarify the Big Three issue for the Court's reference. Alain Prost won more modern Grands Prix than any other driver, and also set the benchmark for career WDC points. Juan Manuel Fangio won more WDC's than any other driver. Ayrton Senna set more pole positions than any other driver, still holds third place on the modern GP wins table, and may have been in first place had he not died at Imola 94. Those are the high points of their statistical greatness. Other statistical aspects may not be as impressive - for example, Senna's three WDC wins is no better than Piquet's for example. While the Big Three are leaders in key statistical areas, they are not universally dominant in all statistics.

Nevertheless, their overall statistics helped to establish the greatness of the Big Three, and there is no question about their greatness. They have the results, the references from their peers, team owners and fellow drivers, and media recognition. Gilles Villeneuve had the media recognition, he had the references from his peers, team owners and fellow drivers. BUT - he didn't have the stats. The enigma of his career, and the question that we are trying to answer, is whether he would have achieved the sort of stats to make his greatness self-evident - had his career run its full course.

I am not asking the Prosecution to prove that Villeneuve would have won at least 5 WDC titles, that he would have set at least 65 poles, and that he would have won at least 51 GP. The question is whether Gilles should be included with those drivers (ie the same ballpark), not whether he would have trounced them. And I remind all that there were some statistical areas in which each of the Big Three didn't exactly set historical benchmarks.

There are several quotes from racing experts, and at least one magazine rating, which place Gilles' talent as equal to, or better than, the Big Three. That being the case, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask the Prosecution to postulate how his results (read statistics) would have improved had he raced a full career. Likewise, I am asking the Defence to show that his results (read statistics) would not have improved markedly, at least not to the levels attained by the Big Three, irrespective of how long he continued racing. How each side argues their case, and how they manipulate the available data, is up to them.

Thus far in the case, we have heard a lot about Gilles Villeneueve's pace and form both in qualifying and in the Grands Prix themselves. I would like to know about other factors which he brought to his employer. For example, how skilled was he at chassis development, setups and providing test feedback to his engineers? How dedicated was he to the goal of developing a superior car, rather than simply racing one?

I would also like more details on the McLaren offer and any others he may have received, as well as how hiring Villeneuve could have benefitted the employer in other ways. For example, were there any sponsors or other investors who would have moved with Villeneuve from one team to another? Were there any engineering suppliers who would have considered moving with Villeneuve to another team?

I'd also like to see some further comparisons. Thus far, we have seen plenty of Gilles v his team-mate(s) comparisons. How did his first four years in the sport compare to Prost or Senna's, for example? And how did their respective machinery compare in terms of speed and reliability?

I think there is still much empirical evidence which can be used and manipulated by both sides.

#37 Peeko

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 03:21

I tried to go about this differently. While others have compared GV's numbers to others (some who have competed in 3 times the amount of GPs) I decided to see how GV faired against drivers in their first 66 GPs. Here are the numbers.
Posted Image

* I included Nigel Mansell in the table because some here claim Gilles cannot be considered one of the top F1 drivers ever because he never won a WDC, and because his numbers rank low and are terrible. Well, Nigel has some terrific #'s: 32 Poles, 31 Wins ( or something) and a World Championship. Well, if his career had ended (thankfully it didn't) after 66 races, he would be a mere footnote in the GP books.

* Does Schumcaher's great numbers after 66 GP's suggest that he is that much better than Senna? Is he that much better than Prost?

* Both Senna and Prost both drove cars that had better average in final standings and average points than Gilles. However, Michael Schumacher had much better numbers than both of them, but many will make the argument that his numbers are that good because the cars he drove allowed him to. I will add that if the argument is made for those two, the same can be said of Gilles. Same rules for everyone.

Your Honour, the evidence brought forth here is do devalue the argument made by some that the numbers during Gilles career just do not measure up against the top drivers in the history of F1. Numbers can be manipulated in anyway you please to aid the case. However, what cannot be altered is the opinion, words, quotes, and what have you, made by those that raced against and raced with him, and were actual witnesses at the very races he drove. I have yet to hear or read of anyone from the period of 1977 to 1982, during Gilles brief career, ever mention that the audilation and praise this driver recieved was unwarranted. Many in the F1 community regard Schumacher as the best in F1 at the moment, and with good reason. Many considered Gilles the best then as well. Overated? To say he is overrated, or does not belong up there is to call Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Keke Roseberg, Alan Jones, Patrick Tambay, Nelson Piquet, Frank Williams, Enzo Ferrari, Jody Schekter, Chris Amon, Jaques Laffite, Rene Arnoux, Alain Prost, Harvey Postelwaithe, Gordon Murray, James Hunt all idiots, because they will whole-heartedly disagree. And, your honour, I ask you: whose words will hold more water in this courtroom?

#38 Williams

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 04:50

Redfever, the court has already set the parameters of the case, so it is a bit late to change gears now. Perhaps something needs to be done about the way future cases are handled. Anyway I will post what I was going to post before you dropped your bombshell.

From mtl'78:

Williams your calculations are interesting but they do not remove the car factor in some respects.

mtl'78, if comparing two drivers on the same team driving the same vehicle cannot be compared, then I would suggest that this entire hearing is invalid. If you cannot say that making a comparision between Villeneuve and his teammates is valid, then how can you say that Villeneuve can be comparativley placed in the same company as drivers from entirely different decades ? How can we say that Senna was in the same league as Fangio ? It's all supposition, opinion and guesswork.

My point is that Villeneuve' results was too far below what many other drivers have accomplished to justify launching him into the top three. If he was found somewhere in the top ten drivers, perhaps it would be reasonable to make allowances for his shortened career. As it is, there are other drivers who could just as easily be accorded the same honour.

Furthermore, Villeneuve's driving style, while spectacular to watch, did not reflect the consistency and precision required to be one of the greatest roadcourse drivers. He was unique in that he started out in snowmobile racing, which is why he was so good in the rain (low visibility and lack of track is the NORM in snowmobile racing). He also had a real understanding of the dynamics of a spinning car, which is why spins (without hitting things) were part of the tools of his trade. He was a man of sheer skill and ability when it came to handling any sort of vehicle.

But, for example, he lost the '79 Championship by a mere four points, and the historically domininant driver that we are looking for would not have allowed that to happen, unless we are also prepared to launch Jody Schecket, as an equal of Villeneuve's, into the top three.

Finally, Villeneuve simply took too many risks. He was critisized severely by the F1 establishment for his ontrack heroics in France with Arnoux. As much as we cherish that memory today, that sort of driving behaviour falls outside the norm for truly successful F1 drivers. When Villeneuve died, he was travelling at 240 KPH while getting ready to come into the pits. Exuberant, exciting to watch, great for the crowds, but unnecessary, and in this instance, fatal.

No wonder Nigel Roebuck said of him, in a quote we are all familiar with, "the crowds loved him, because he, of all the men out there, was so clearly working without a net". Part of Villeneuve's margin of performance lay in the amount of risk he was willing to undertake in excess of that of the other drivers.

Bruce, regarding the bucketful of quotes on Villeneuve. I am sure that you could also produce, off the top your head, an equal quantity of superlatives regarding Stewart, Clark and Ascari. Equally, if you dug hard enough you could even find some quotes criticisizing Villeneuve's driving style. What has been proved ?

#39 Williams

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 05:06

The 1979 season as requested.

Argentina - Schekter crashes and GV's engine blows in .

Brazil - The Ferraris finish a respectable 5th (GV) and sixth (JS) the last race for the outmoded T3.

South Africa - GV wins in the new 312/T4, in a well-judged performance. But Jody is right behind him.

Long beach - dominating GV victory and a Ferrari 1-2.

Spain - momentum begins to shift in Schekter's favour, as Villeneuve spins twice, then makes one of his patented charges to a pointless 7th place. Jody finishes fourth, after having stared two places behind GV on the grid.

Zolder - after a spectacular aerial crash which eerily foreshadowed his fatal '82 crash at the same circuit, Gilles rejoins after some repairs are made and makes another charge to the front, only run out of fuel. Jody wins.

Monaco - Jody wins. GV flubs the start, but brilliantly passes Lauda for second before going out with a failed transmission. Jody feels that the broken transmission was due to GV's rough handling of the car.

France - the famous Villeneuve-Arnoux battle as Villeneuve battles to second. Jody finishes seventh, as he is unable to cope with the failing Michelin tires.

Britain - The T4 is uncompetitive on the highspeed Silverstone circuit, as Villeneuve languishes in 14th place, but Jody picks up points in fifth, pulling out a six-point lead over Villeneuve in the Championship.

Germany - Gilles collects fastest lap and 8th place, as his car falls apart around him, while Jody scratches out a few more points, finishing fourth.

Austria - A brilliant second for Gilles, as one of his lightning starts gives him the early advantage over the ground-effects Williams. Jody finishes fourth, later complaining of brake fade .

Netherlands - Gilles has a fabulous battle with Alan Jones, spectacularly passing him for first before going off with a defalted tire, amazingly kept off the barriers only by Gilles' brilliant car control. This as the scene of his famous three-wheeled drive back to the pits. Jody finishes second.

Italy - Villeuve's chances for the title have dimmed, as the Ferraris complete their third 1-2 of the season, this time with Scheckter in the lead, while Gilles faithfully follows team orders in third place. Jody emerges as the last Ferrari World Champion for the next 21 years.

Canada - Villeneuve clashes brilliantly with the superior Williams of Alan Jones to take second, while Jody, relishing his position as WDC, finishes fourth.

USA - Villeneuve's famous plus-11-second performance in a wet practice underlines his brilliant victory in the equally wet race.

Gilles probably had a good chance to get the title if he could only maintain the initiative. Scheckter's consistency over the season saw him in good stead however, as he finished a mere 4 points ahead of Villeneuve.


#40 Falcadore

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 05:17

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest Gilles Villeneuve was chosen over Alan Jones becuase Villeneuve represented a marketting opportunity for Ferrari road cars in a market as important as North America.

Gilles Villeneuve
1978 Ferrari 312T3
1979 Ferrari 312T4
1980 Ferrari 312T5
1981 Ferrari 126CK
1982 Ferrari 126C2

Alain Prost
1980 McLaren M29 Cosworth
1981 McLaren MP4 Cosworth
1982 Renault RE30B
1983 Renault RE40
1984 McLaren MP4/2 TAG Porsche

the first two years Alain Prost were spent in the last Teddy Mayer McLaren, then the first Ron Dennis McLaren. McLaren in 1980 were not the team they'd been three years previous. The M23 was one of the best cars of the 'Garagiste' era. But it was too good the M26 that followed was merely and update and by the time the M29 arrived McLaren were slipping. The MP4 was the first car John Barnard built for McLaren and his concepts that would revolutionise Formula One desig was in it's infancy. By the time Prost returned in 1984 they would be ascendant. In the meantime Prost spent two years with the awesome horsepower of the factory Renaults. There was no clear number one driver at Renualt in 1982, with Prost and Arnoux scoring similar results. By 1983 the car was much better and finally reliability was starting to occur. The title went down to the wire at Dijon between Prost's RE40, Arnoux's 126C3 and Piquet's BT52. That day would unlikely as it seemed at the time belong to Piquet, the least favoured of the three as the two Frenchmen were beaten on homeground. The public backlash against Prost, hurt him savegely, causing his move to Switzerland.

Ayrton Senna
1984 Toleman TG184 Hart
1985 Lotus 97T Renault
1986 Lotus 98T Renault
1987 Lotus 99T Honda
1988 McLaren MP4/4 Honda

The Toleman was a nice little car, but did not have the resources. There were plenty of talented people involved and Senna was able to achieve great things with it. Although the car's greatest achievement was Monaco were with the nature of the circuit and the weather conditions the car's influence was minimised. Lotus was a different proposition. In 1985 Lotus had become the superior Renault team, inlcuding Renualt's own team. They also had enginerring talent and resources. But they were slipping quietly away. Peter Warr was not able to run the team they way Colin Chapman had, and politican that would have been superflous with Chapman in control beset the team. It had caused talented journeyman Nigel Mansell leave the team, but Senna had arrived - the second coming. Senna clocked up regular wins, proving him to be more than a measure for Elio de Angelis. By 1986 the team has his to mould as he liked. By 1987 he had Honda in his hands as well. Honda's preferred strategy was the innovaters at Lotus would take Senna to the drivers crown well the technical abilitie of Williams won the contructors title. Of course it didn't work that way, with Lotus stumbling over it's innovations, like active suspension which they couldn't get to work universally, while Williams disappeared into the middle distance. By 1988 Senna had has championship capable car.

#41 Bruce

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 06:25

Thanks for the clarification Rich.

For George Bailey;

From "the Encyclopedia of F1"

Although he signed (with Ferrari) as outright #1 driver, Scheckter was t6eamed with the mythically fast Gilles Villeneuve, then just embarking on his second full season with the team. Initially it was Villeneuve who did all the winning in Ferrari's new 312T4, Scheckter being runner up. Ferrari responded by giving Scheckter until the Monaco Grand Prix to stamp his authority on the team; if he did not, it would put it's efforts into gaining the title for Villeneuve. Fortunately Scheckter took a win at Spa and a dominant win in Monaco to retreive the situation. By the time the season reached Monza for the Italian Grand Prix only Scheckter or Villeneuve could win the title. When the cars settled down into the 2 leading positions of the race team orders were issued and Villeneuve was instructed to hold station behind Scheckter.; True to his word that is exactly what he did, conceding Scheckter the World Crown

Finishing positions (points finished only) 1979:
Argentina: -
Brazil : GV 5th, JS 6th
South Africa: GV 1st, JS 2nd
USGP West: GV 1st, JS 2nd
Race of champions (non championship) Brands: GV 1st
Spain: JS 4th
Belgium: JS 1st
Monaco: JS 1st
France: GV, 2nd
Britain: JS 5th
Germany: JS 4th
Austria: GV 2nd, JS 4th
Holland: JS 2nd
Italy: JS 1st GV 2nd
Imola (non champ): JS 3rd
Canada: GV 2nd JS 4th
US: GV 1st

The turning point was Belgium and Monaco. In Belgium, where Gilles ran into the back of Reggazoni's car when something on it broke, stopping it when GV was immediately behind. The damage put Regga out on the spot, but GV made it to the pits to repair the car and re-join dead last. He recovered to third place and was running there on the final lap when he ran out of gas - he had run the car too hard. It's worth noting that he losy the WDC by 4 points...
In Monaco he was running a strong second to JS but had transmission failure.

Back to the matter at hand... stats...

If we are to consider the racing record of Gilles Villeneuve, it must be done in context. 1978 was his first full year in F1, and in that year he gained a reputation for slightly "wild" driving but also scored his first win at the final event in Canada.

1979 was his best year by far, with 3 wins, 6 fastest laps, 2 poles and 4 second places. Perhaps more telling though, is the fact that in 1979, in 975 racing laps, GV led 308. The next best tally was by Jones who led 216, while Scheckter led 170. Villeneuve's 6 fastest laps compares favourably to next best, Regga, Laffite and Arnoux who had 2 each. GV led more races than anyone else that season, leading 7 races though winning only 3, while JS led 4 but also won 3.

It is important to remember that this was only his second full season in F1, and as such, he was still maturing as a driver - as Jackie Stewart is quoted in my above post, "he'll get better and better.

Before we attack any more stats, let's pause and look at those numbers...

Fangio's first 2 years of F1 (both years of which he was in the unquestionably dominant car - the Alfa Romeo which won every race in those 2 years bar 3) were in 1950 and 1951. It is worth noting that he had previous GP experience pre the official creation of the WDC in 1950. Regardless, Fangio, in his first 2 years of driving had a total of 6 wins - 1 in a shared drive with Fagioli, and he had 7 fastest laps. He had 8 poles.

Prost, in his first 2 years had 3 wins, 2 poles and 1 fastest lap.

Senna, in his first 2 years had 2 wins, 7 poles and 4 fastest laps.

Villeneuve compares favourably with 4 wins, 2 poles and 6 fastest laps.

These statistics are even more interesting when you look at the fact that, ignoring Fangio, all three drivers (AP, AS and GV) got the lions share of their results in their 2nd full seasons in cars that were more competitive than what they started with.

But why compare only the first 2 years, and not all of GV's four? Because, after 1979, his stats cease to be representative;

In 1980, Ferrari, flush with the success of having won the CC with 98 points and had their drivers finish 1st and 2nd in the WDC proceeded to modify the 312T4 as opposed to build a new car. The result was disaster. Scheckter argues that the modifications to the car actually made it worse - on top of that, the legendary reliability of the Ferrari 12 was nowhere in evidence that year. Result? The same drivers who finised 1-2 and secured 98 points for their team in 1979 managed to collectively get 8 points for the team in 1980 - GV with 6 of those. Scheckter also gained th e dubious distinction of becoming the only reigning WDC to fail to qualify when he missed the grid in Canada.

In 1980, GV was a 3-1 favourite for the WDC... He got 6 points. Given his partner's perfomance I think we can safely say that the car was a complete dog. Surely, this is an exceptional circumstance worthy of our consideration?

In 1981 the Ferrari was improved and GV had a new team mate in the promising D Pironi - already a race winner with Ligier. Sadly the improvement was limited. The car was still quick in a straight line but suffered from turbo lag and evil handling. It was more reliable than the 312T4 but still suffered 10 Mech. DNFs (6 for GV and 4 for DP). GV carried the team in this year, giving Ferrari their only 2 wins, and 25 of their 34 points which netted them 5th in the CC. Earlier stats posted in this thread confirm GV's advantage on DP in this year.

1982 likely would have been GV's year, and in his absence should have been DP's. In 4 starts, GV had a turbocharger fail in South Africa while he rane third. In Brazil he spun out of the lead. In the USGP he finished 3rd but was dsqed for a wing infringement, and he finished an infamous second behind Pironi in San Marino.

Despite having his legs badly broken in Hockenheim and missing the last 5 races of the season,, Pironi missed being WDC by only 5 points. Given his performance vis a vis Pironi in the previous year, it is safe to extrapolate that, even with the odd "Villeneuve drama" GV would likely have taken his WDC.

Regardless, what I wish to point out is that 1980 and to a lesser extent, 1981 rob GV of a competitive points and wins tally. Had he, like JMF, AS or AP lived to race more years, the effect of these years in uncompetitive cars would likely have been minimised by more years like 1979 when he was in competitive machinery.

To be just, GV's stats must be judged only on his 1st 2 years. When viewing the stats he compiled in 1980 and 1981, the context of the cars he drove and the cars he was competing against allied to the results of his team mates must be weighed to achieve an understanding of why the man was and is revered as one of the greatest ever. In context his statistics in 1980 and 1981 are actually very impressive, however, lacking perspective, they are not.

#42 ASaSeN

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 06:31

Statistics tell a tale but they dont always show the complete story,as many have stated.

Lets see how JV compared to his teammates.

In 78 his rookie season,he was soundly beaten by an ancient 36 year old reutemann.

In 79 he was beaten by Jody Scheckter.
Now if JV was one of the true greats and one of the fastest ever why didnt he shatter jody?
Jody was hardly comparable to senna,shumacher,yet he beat GV.
The GV defenders say it was only GV second season.

IN 92 michael schumcher finished ahead of one ayrton senna in the WC in only his second season.

Gv never dominated his teammates to the extent that senna,prost,schumcher dominated theirs,and since your teammate is the best comparision I dont see how GV can be ranked with the big 3.

Dont forget that 1980 was jodys last season in F1,he retired that year because he had no motivation to go on.

So in 1980 GV beat a man in his retirment year with little motivation.Hardly a massive acheivment.

After than he beat pironi,who is really a nobody in F1 history.

#43 mtl'78

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 07:34

Here are some statistical comparisons.

For Prost, Senna, and Villeneuve through 68 GP's.

Crashes: Prost 10, Senna: 9, Villeneuve : 7.
Mech. trouble : Prost 15, Senna 17, Villeneuve 17.
Podiums : Prost 9, Senna 18, Villeneuve 13.
Wins Prost 13, Senna 9, Villeneuve 6.

As you see Gilles crashed less, had about the same amount of retirements, was average for podiums, but lacking in wins. Further analysis of this total reavals the following:

Senna never won in the Toleman, he won 2 each in '85-86-87 for Lotus then 6 for Maclaren in '88. Toleman was literally a 1 driver team, so there are no comparisons to be made. Senna beat out De Angelis 38-33 in 85, then faced in succession: Dumfries (who never raced again...) and Nakajima. He destroyed both of them. Then in his 4th year he faced Prost and edged him out 90-87 in the '88 Maclaren-Honda.

Prost on the other hand won early with Renault. 3 wins in his second season (same as Villeneuve), but the car remained competitive and he did well against Arnoux, though Arnoux was faster in Qualifying he would often crash in races. He beat Arnoux 44-11 and 34-28. In 1983 Prost faced none other than Eddie Cheever, whom he edged out 57-22, and in his 4th year, he went to Maclaren for his 1st serious title shot and lost out to Lauda by one point.

So In Senna's case the only decent driver he faced 'till Prost was De Angelis, whom he beat 38-33. But he did win his 1st serious attempt at the title. Prost faced weak opposition as well. Arnoux was fast, but not very consistent, kind of like Coulthard. Cheever, well... and then he narrowly lost in his 1st title bid to Lauda, his Teammate.

So One way to look at it is:

Gilles lost his 1st title bid, to his teammate, by 4 points (despite team oders) in only his second season.

Prost lost his 1st title bid, to his teammate, by 1 point, (no team orders) at his 4th season.

Senna won his 1st title bid, in his 4th season, by 3 points (no team orders) at his 4th season.

I think it is quite reasonable to deduce that Gilles was at least as effective as the average of those two drivers. Interesting to me is that he crashed or spun less than the other two, Prost especially, and that he had only two more retirements than Prost, legendary for his mechanical sympathy. I think that dispells much of the idea that Gilles was an "accident waiting to happen" Yes he was on the ragged edge, but he was in control at least as much as Prost or Senna. Those two had competitive machinery early. Arnoux had many poles in 1981 and De Angelis had more podiums than Senna, showing that both cars were fast. So Both Senna and Prost had incentive and pressure to drive for points. In Gilles' case, half of his career he was fighting for 10th position, so what did it matter if he drove recklessly to try and do the impossible, he wasn't sacrifycing anything but himself, yet despite this, his record is quite in line with the other two.

#44 355 boy

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 10:27

I am not going to try and raise any new statistics or bring any new comments or annedotes to light - I merely want to raise a few minor points that may make people think.

1. Many of the quotes come from after GV's unfortunate death. I know that some of them are from when he was still alive, but the majority of them, especially the more flattering ones, are from after his death.
Is this really suprising? Of course people said how great he was after he died - it's normal. I'm not denying that he was a great driver - all I'm saying is that it is very easy to be overly generous when talking about someone after his or her death.

2. I would contest that part of being a great ALL-AROUND driver would be getting yourself in a position to win. If that meant having the best car, then so be it. Look at Senna and Prost - they were nearly always in the best or near-best cars - this was not accidental, they had a desire to win and so used their skill to put themselves in a position to do that. To a lesser degree, we can even say that about Schumacher. I know he left Bennetton to go to Ferrari when Ferrari was a joke, but he knew that if any team had the financial resources to make it back to the top (and yes, these days it is mostly about financial resources), Ferrari did.

To really prove that your good, you HAVE to win and win allot. That’s part of life. Gilles may have had fantastic talent - I don't think I or anyone else is denying that, but the fact is he never did enough to warrant a place with the top three. I don't doubt for a second that if he were alive for a few more seasons he may have been, but that was not to be.

#45 Spot

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 12:01

Originally posted by Indian Chief

Villeneuve was undoubtedly the quickest driver of all time, in the rain.

Like AD, I wonder how true this is. Other than being 11 seconds faster in a meaningless practice session and being 3rd in Canada in 1981, can you point out his other outstanding wet weather performances?

At that time, the Friday afternoon session was not meaningless, and was in fact the first of two qualifying sessions. Had the weather on Saturday been any worse (could it have been any worse?) the Friday times would have decided the grid.

#46 Spot

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 12:10

Originally posted by Indian Chief

In 1981 he totally dominated over Pironi despite their equal status. The totals are very low but that's because of the true wretchedness of the Ferrari cars at that moment.

Mtl, Wouldn't you agree that it is easier for a better driver to outperform an inferior driver in a car handling badly, like the 1981 126C, rather than an extremely well handling car?

Looking at the results, other than his two wins, Pironi did have the measure of his teammate, even though he was new to the team, which says a lot about Pironi's speed.

In 1980, Pironi scored 32 points in his Ligier to Villeneuve's 6, including 1 victory and a total of 5 podiums. He was in with a chance of the championship until 4 straight retirements from Brands Hatch to Holland. Hardly the results of an obviously inferior driver? Or is this an admission that GV was so superior that even championship challangers could not hold a candle to him?

#47 Bruce

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 15:41


Falcadore; Alain Prost drove the McLaren Ford M29 and M30 in 1980, his first full season in F1. However in 1981 he drove the Renault RE30. The 1981 McLaren MP4 was driven by John Watson and Andrea de Cesaris. This somewhat changes the gist of your argument.

Originally posted by ASaSeN

Now if JV was one of the true greats and one of the fastest ever why didnt he shatter jody?
Jody was hardly comparable to senna,shumacher,yet he beat GV.
The GV defenders say it was only GV second season.

Actually, Asasen, GV DID shatter JS. Scheckter was hired to win the WDC for Ferrari and was slated to be their #1 driver (Read my previous post). Scheckter was an experienced driver and a WDC in waiting. He had already won races for both Tyrrell and Wolf and had taken the Wolf Team to a very impressive 2nd in the 1977 WDC, and despite the fact that the team was a one car team, Jody's points were enough to get them 4th in the CC. Villeneuve was a promising young driver with 1 win in his first year, but Ferrari had a no expectations of him winning the WDC. In 1979, however, he took the fight to Jody, losing the WDC only through being a gentleman and sticking to his word and through impetuosity which cost him 4 crucial points at Zolder. Interesting to note, too, that his mechanical DNF at Monaco not only swung the team to JS's side as promised, but cost him 6 points that, again, would have secured GV the WDC...

Scheckter won the WDC because of his consisitency which he had gained in his previous 7 years in F1. Villeneuve's performance was an impressive one for a driver in only his second year by any standards.

Originally posted by ASaSeN

Dont forget that 1980 was jodys last season in F1,he retired that year because he had no motivation to go on.

So in 1980 GV beat a man in his retirment year with little motivation.Hardly a massive acheivment.

After than he beat pironi,who is really a nobody in F1 history.

Why did Jody lose motivation and retire? Largely because the 312T5 was such a dog; From "Autocourse-History of te Grand Prix car";

In 1980 the hapless T5 was a makeshift ground effects car which was never adequately developed, and which in truth was run virtually as a spare time effort while everyone who mattered (excluding the drivers) concentrated on development of a new turbocharged engine and car for 1981...
...The ungainly cars simply destroyed their Michelin tyres and pitstops to change tyres were a normal part of their days racing. It was like the old days of the tortoise and the hare - unblown cars against thirsty, refuel-stopping, supercharged machinery - but in relative terms the unfortunate T5s were never capable of haring anywhere.

From F1, driver by driver;

For 1980, Ferrari form plummeted as the 1979 car was revamped into the 312T5 and proved hopelessly uncompetitive. Villeneuve tried his hardest, but Jody was demoralized and knew that his spark of motivation was beginning to dim.

Jody was demoralised because of the car, leading to his retirement. Gilles most impressive feat this season may not have been to beat a team-mate who was becoming increasingly disillusioned, but to continue to flog the Ferrari about as if it mattered, when the easiest thing to do would have been to join Jody in his disillusionment. - Lastly, I remind you - JS retired at the end of the year. he did not make plans to retire at the beginning - a big difference especially in light of the way you phrased your comment.

Pironi? A nobody?

In 1978, his first year in F1, he scored points in 4 of his first 6 races for Tyrrell, and won LeMans in a Renault. So impressed were Renault that they wanted him for their F1 team, but Tyrrell would not release him. In 1980 he equalled his more experienced team-mate - Jacques Laffite - with a single win in the Ligier.

(Gilles) put a tractor of a 126C Ferrari on Monaco's front row when the next fastest man of the time, Pironi was 17th in the sister car...

Motorsport, Novemmber 1999, page 29.

Far from being a nobody, Pironi was widely regarded as the next great talent in F1. Sadly for him, the fact that his career was cut short, the fact that GV overshadowed him as a team-mate and the fact that he is most remembered for his part in GV's death all conspire to make us forget his potential and his talent. He was far from a "nobody".

Lastly I would like to rebut the contention stated here in varous forms that GV was a wild or imprecise driver... :

From "Chasing the title" By Nigel Roebuck - quoting Sid Watkins;

...we were on the circuit in the medical car and the whole pack caught up with us in the hairpin. All the drivers gave us a wide berth - except Villeneuve, who seemed to us us as an apex! I started to give him a bollocking afterwards about how he'd missed us by an inch or soand he couldn't understand what I was talking about "Thats the whole point" he said " I missed you!". And then I realised that, to him, an inch was like a yard to anyone else. He was that precise with a car, that good.

Jody Scheckter:

I don't think he (Gilles) tried to do things that put him in uncalculated danger. I think from this point of view he was a responsible driver. He always had this image of being crazy, and he wasn't really.

I think Motorsport sums it up nicely;

Deprive such a man (Gilles) of an equal playing field and for each feat there will be a corresponding drama. Had his career gone it's full course and he found himself in better cars, dayys like Jarama 81 and Watkin's Glen 79, where his restraint and control were sublime, would have become the norm. Don't judge him on moment's of tightrope drama; marvel instead that sometimes - more than anyone but Nuvolari - he pulled off the miracle.

#48 Wolf

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 18:41

Under pain of being flogged for contempt of The Court, I'll speak my mind on a few things.

First, in this argument statistics have oft been quoted in peculiar manner. They have, in hands of different posters, shown quite the opposite results- and they were exactly the same numbers. I'd say someone has treated them as his private parts- he toyed with them for his pleasure.;)

Ere I forget; I'd like to add something that has been on my mind for quite a while and I wasn't prone to waste Court's time on that; but now that I post- I'll throw that in as well. I'd like to appologise to Mtl'78 and Your Honour, as well as anybody who felt offended, for misusing Mtl'78s quote in my earlier post. I did not realize that sentence was pertaining ONLY to his first qualifying session ever. Apart from that unfortunate mistake on my part, I still belive that particular part raised some valid points for discussion.

There was a mention of great drives here, and I feel I should address that issue. Take three Nürburgring races ('35, '57 and '61) for example- do you think tht Gilles would've won them? One might argue that XV Mille Miglia might have been more suitable for his mentality/character; but then one would ignore the fact that race did not make Nuvolari's legendary status, it merely brought it to another level, and that it was the swan song and not the song of Wilde's nightingale. Sorry for the literary digression. When it comes to sheer speed and skill, he was matched or very close to only a few drivers, IMHO; but it is only one of the prerogatives for the greatness. I would compare it to the iron- it has to melt with another qualities to excell to another level. He was determined, a thing I respect- even more for the quality of that determination (for it was self-consuming determination; not more and, certainly, not less), which could not cast a shadow on his career. But may I remind that it was different kind of determination alltogether that has brought the likes of Senna and Schumacher to where they are now.

Before I endavour to make my last point of a day, I'll say that I like him for his skills, but even more for his shortcomings. A things that may have prevented him to join THE greats in my eyes. If Court will grant me a allowance to be a bit of Devil's advocate and a demagogue; but the latter only in my mind. And may I appeal for Your Honours patience and benevolence- for I'm, reluctantly, about to fly in the face of Your previous ruling. It's a logical 'trickery'- I'll try to compare Gilles to 'mere' great of the sport, who was beaten fair and square by one of THE greats (and here's the hidden demagoguery- for I still belive him to be one of THE greats; yet many people don't- and that gives me the chance to argue on pretensis he was not). So, if I raise few points that may question his superiority over a 'mere' great- how can Gilles be one of THE greats? The 'mere' great would be Sir Stirling Moss,OBE- and one poster has here questioned his and Fangios ability to find a limit. Were we to compare statistics, Moss would have the upper hand. Neither of them had the best machinery (although Moss on one occasion had a W196, with JMF as a teammate, alas); but Moss was facing some superb drivers as his opposition (Fangio, Ascari, Farina, Brabham, Collins, Hawthorn, Clark, two Hills, Surtees, Gonzalez &c- note that only two of the mentioned drivers weren't WDCs). Both drivers were people's champions, yet I feel that Moss' stature seems a bit greater. And Moss made fewer mistakes, could find a tactics to optimize performance over whole race and had more than his share of unforgettable races (won a Watkins Glenn 'Formula Libre' race with second finisher 7ish laps behind, IIRC, in appauling wheather conditions- rain, snow). And won by almost two laps over second placed Brabham in a wet race.

#49 George Bailey

George Bailey
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Posted 16 January 2001 - 18:43

Thanks Williams and Bruce (I'm forgetting someone I think) for the info on 1979.

GV fans please don't freak, but here is what I see:

1)In the same car, GV and JS swap winning qualifying race after race for the season and until JS has clinched the WDC, JS is ahead by one.

2) Team orders kicked in during the deciding race, not before the season. JS is "allowed" to keep his 1st place at Italy because he is ahead of GV in the standings and ahead on the track - not exactly moves that are unfair to GV. If GV slowed and moved over for JS that would be another event entirely.

3) GV finishes 4pts back of JS, but JS seems to coast in the final races. The statistics do show "only" 4 pts, but the circumstances suggest JS was not pushing at the final races.

These facts lead to three questions:

1) If GV is the much faster racer, why didn't he lead JS in qualifying up to and including Italy?

2) How can GV be said to have lost the WDC due to team orders if they only kicked in at Italy with JS ahead in the standings and in the race? True anything could happen and GV might have won the title if allowed to race - but isn't it also reality that the same JS who lead in points and on the track may also have continued to lead for the rest of the season?

3) Is GVs performance at The Glen a sign of dominance in the rain, or a sign that only GV still cares to risk his life in the rain after the WDC has been decided?

It looks to me like JS matched GVs speed in qualifying, and outpointed him in the races - it's hard for me to take those two facts and make the claim that GV was obviously the much more talented driver - which he would have to be to be included with the big three.[p][Edited by George Bailey on 01-17-2001]

#50 AD

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Posted 16 January 2001 - 21:30

The best times to compare drivers in the wet is during the race, not during qualifying. This is so becuase in the race everyone is on the track at the same time, and hence they all have the same conditions to deal with.

Gilles never won a race in the wet- Does this make him a great wet-weather driver? If so, I think that it's insulting to Senna and Schumacher.