But I always felt he didn’t care about the tifosi. I think in his part of Canada they looked down on Italians, and I think he had that attitude. I always used to think it was funny that they liked him so much. Perhaps he was putting it on, and inside he did like them a lot, but outwardly he would make the odd remark…
One story sums him up – he had air-conditioning and a fire so he put both on. He wanted to do photography, and bought thousands of pounds worth of equipment he hardly used. Then he wanted tools, because he used to work as a mechanic. He went to Beta and bought a whole garage full of the best stuff, and never used them!
I then won in Belgium and Monaco, which put me back on track but he was dominant over me was Dijon. I battled like mad, but he was quicker, and I couldn’t really work out why. That was the race where he had the fight with Arnoux. I thought what they did was stupid. I told Gilles, and I think he knew it was stupid.
I was the President of the Grand Prix Drivers Association at the time, and Gilles really worked with me. From a safety point of view he was very responsible. I think we both wanted to make it as safe as possible. That didn’t mean to say we were driving carefully; you still drove with aggression. But you felt that if something happened, you wanted to have a chance.
I don’t think he tried to do things that put him in uncalculated danger. I think from that point of view he was a responsible driver. He always had this image of being crazy, and he wasn’t really. He was only crazy when he wanted to be, it was his image. I always tell the story about driving from Monaco with him. I didn’t want to do it, because I hated to be a passenger. But the whole time he drove perfectly, until we got just outside Modena, and soon the wheels were spinning and he started sliding around and everything. That was the proof of what I felt.
I also remember going with him in his helicopter, and again once we got over Modena he started his tricks again. I stopped that really quickly. I hated flying. He was going down and then up. I said you better stop now or I’ll wring your neck. He knew I meant it.
Zandvoort was really the turning point that year. I messed up the clutch at the start, and dropped to the back. He was at the front, and then his tyre went down, which was pretty spectacular. I went through the field and came second behind Alan Jones, and that really put me into a dominant position.
I had it under control in Monza. What gave me confidence was I knew Gilles was doing these silly things to keep his image up and that gave me comfort. He was testing qualifiers and getting the quickest times, and I was sticking to hard tyres and testing bits of the car I knew would help me in the race. In qualifying I think that was the biggest gap between us all year, and in the race I was quicker. As soon as Jacques Laffite dropped out, I cut my revs back and sat ahead of Gilles. Only on the last lap did I accelerate away again. Although I trusted him, I didn’t want to take a chance; it was too important a thing to take a chance with!