Why Gilles is number one

Thank you for the 20 greatest F1 Ferrari drivers of all time article in February.

That Gilles Villeneuve was number one is true to those who have followed F1 all their lives. Why number one? Because in 1981 I got up in the early hours and stayed up past midnight to watch every race. The 126C was a dog of a car, but I knew that Gilles could win in it. No other driver has ever made me believe that, to the point of sleep deprivation.

All other drivers, if the car wasn’t competitive, then I didn’t have any hope for them. But Gilles could win in the 126C…

Deep down in his soul he was aware that no one on earth could beat him. The few chosen ones – Ali, Diego Maradona, Michael Jordan and so on – all know (or knew) that no one can match them at their best.

It’s my belief that at Imola in 1982 it was this idea that killed Gilles inside, not that Pironi betrayed him (that was an emotional hurt). It was that others had thought that Gilles had been beaten by Pironi. He would have been so angry to think that the world thought Pironi was faster at Imola.

Gilles knew that Pironi could not touch him, as fast as Pironi was. What we lost at Zolder in ’82 still hurts to this day. Thank you for still recognising the brilliance that Gilles represented.

Carlo Petraccaro, Adelaide, Australia