Watch: the hidden story of F1 hero Gilles Villeneuve’s first Grand Prix

Published: 21 July 2017

► New video remembers Gilles Villeneuve
► ‘No-one could drive an F1 car like him’
► Original race engineer recounts his debut

In all the history of Formula 1, few drivers have created more excitement, or inspired the same kind of public adulation, as Gilles Villeneuve.

CAR’s F1 correspondent Tom Clarkson once wrote: ‘He was unpredictable, and when you mix that impetuousness with his natural speed, he was box-office gold. Fans loved him and rivals revered him… none could drive the wheels off an F1 car like Gilles. From the moment his talent was spotted by James Hunt in a Formula Atlantic race in 1976, it was always thus.’

This newly-created, fascinating video above tells the story of what happened next: on Hunt’s recommendation, Villeneuve made his F1 debut in a McLaren at the 1977 British Grand Prix – the old, chicane-free, notoriously fast Silverstone. Villeneuve’s race manager tells how he famously span the car at terrifyingly high speeds in practice, his inimitable approach being that the quickest way to find the car’s limit is to go past it. Before long, the unknown driver from Quebec was lapping on the same pace as F1 royalty.

‘No human being can do miracles,’ contemporary driver Jacques Laffite was once quoted, ‘but Gilles sometimes made you wonder.’

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer