Thirty years ago, Ferrari F1 driver Gilles Villeneuve lost his life during the qualifying session of the Grand Prix of Belgium. John Watson drove F1cars of the same era as Gilles Villeneuve. He reflects on the Canadian's life style and infamous accident.
"When you're overtaking a car and the guy you're passing veers –like Jochen Mass did, during qualifying of the Belgian Grand Prix, to let Villeneuve through when he saw him quickly filling up his mirrors – you have two choices. Gilles tragically anticipated the wrong move," Watson, Patrick Tambay's McLaren teammate from 1978, told Auto123.com.
"I think what happened at Imola's San Marino Grand Prix, two weeks before, profoundly affected his judgement," he added.
"The crash between the two cars took away one of the world's best drivers; a driver who had a serious option on the title that 1982 season. It was a loss for the whole sport, because Gilles was so unique. What made him who he was, of course, was his –sometimes excessive– risks craving."
"That hunger for danger shaped his career and, to a big extent, his life, since he lived the same way he drove," Watson, who retired from Grand Prix Racing in 1985, believes.
"I heard that, when the emergency crew came back to pick up Villeneuve's helicopter at the Zolder circuit, they were stunned to see how little fuel was left in the tank: Gilles was flying almost on fumes. He just couldn't get enough adrenaline, he lived for that intense feeling he got tip toeing on the ragged edge. Fans all over the world idolized him for that reason I think. Gilles was beyond brave, he took risks no one else who dare to."