When I was a kid growing up in Canada, I first got into Formula One racing when Gilles Villeneuve took the Grand Prix world by storm. After dominating Formula Atlantic for a couple of years, he ran a couple of races with McLaren at the end of the 1977 season. Shortly after that he signed with Ferarri as second to Carlos Reutemann and really captured the F1 world's attention at the Long Beach Grand Prix where he flung his car around on the beach front streets, leading the first half of the race before crashing – something that happened all too often in his career.

At the end of a tumultuous rookie season, he won his first race at home in Montreal at the track that would ultimately be renamed in his honor. He finished second in the 1979 championship to new teammate Jody Sheckter before a couple of fallow years with Ferrari. In 1982, as the Italian team was making a resurgence, teammate Didier Pironi ignored team orders at the Imola race and passed Villeneuve for the win. At the next race in Belgium, Gilles went all out in qualifying to beat Pironi and pushed too hard, crashing into Jochen Mass. His Ferrari was launched into the air and came down nose first. The crash took his life, and one of tne of the most exciting drivers of all time was gone. Villeneuve may not have been the best technical driver, but watching him force some evil handling cars around a track was always a pleasure, and F1 has never been the same since. There is a tribute video from YouTube after the jump.

[Source: F1-Live]


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