Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Ayrton Senna and Gilles Villeneuve
Articles
Home
Articles
Senna Biography
Villeneuve Biography
Rivalries
Great Races
Stats
Quotes
Links

Here are a couple of articles I found from English newspapers. Enjoy.

Ferrari's Lost Hero by Andrew Benson

Twenty years ago, Formula One lost one of its greatest ever exponents, a man whose modest record belied an impact on the sport so profound that his memory lives on today.

He combined the best qualities of Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Juan Pablo Montoya - a dazzling talent, an unquenchable spirit and desire, and a magnetic charisma that attracted millions of fans.

He also possessed an honesty and honour from a bygone age - traits which were to be contributing factors in his death.

That man was Gilles Villeneuve, whose brief but glorious career was ended on 8 May 1982, in a horrific accident during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.

Like so many who have died when their star was burning brightest, Villeneuve - father of current driver Jacques - has passed into immortality as one of F1's greatest heroes.

But it was not just an early death that granted him legendary status, it was the swashbuckling way in which he lived his life.

In a career that spanned just four-and-a-half years, Villeneuve won only six of his 67 Grands Prix.

Yet his rivals were well aware of just how good he was - and that they were fortunate he spent most of his career in uncompetitive cars.

Alain Prost, whose record of 51 Grand Prix victories was broken by Schumacher last year, was one of them.

"Gilles was the last great driver," Prost said a year after the French-Canadian's death. "The rest of us are just a bunch of good professionals."

Villeneuve became synonymous with Ferrari during his career
That remark somewhat undersells Prost, who went on to have his own great career in which he won four world titles. But it sums up what people felt about Villeneuve.

Jacques Laffite, another contemporary, put it a different way.

"No human being can do miracles, you know, but Gilles made you wonder," he said.

Those "miracles" were what forged Villeneuve's reputation, and ensure it survives to this day in the flags that still bear his image at F1 tracks around the world.

Villeneuve spent all but one race of his career at Ferrari, at a time when they were going through a difficult period in their history.

So it was all the more impressive that he could forge such an iconic status.

Ferrari gave him two potentially title-winning cars in his time with the team.

He would have won the world championship in one in 1979 had he not obeyed team orders and sat dutifully behind his team-mate Jody Schecketer at the Italian GP.

Had Villeneuve won that race, he would have been champion - but he stayed behind because he had given his word and because he was sure his time would come.

That time looked like being 1982, but he was killed in just the fifth race of the year.

But whatever the car, whatever the race, Villeneuve could be counted on to do something to take your breath away - and that is why he is regarded as highly as he is.

Most stunning of all was his speed, which was apparent from the moment he first drove an F1 car.

In a one-off race in an out-of-date McLaren at the 1977 British GP, Villeneuve qualified ninth, and after an early pit stop rejoined a lap behind but right behind the leaders.

One of them was the reigning world champion, James Hunt, in a newer and faster McLaren.

Villeneuve's desire to win drove him to do spectacular things

Villeneuve stayed with the leaders for the rest of the race, setting the fifth-fastest lap of the day.

Throughout his career, in fact, Villeneuve did the seemingly impossible:

# In wet practice for the 1979 US GP at Watkins Glen, Villeneuve was fastest by 8.5 seconds - and at one point was 11 seconds quicker than any other car on the circuit at the same time, including Scheckter;

# At Monaco in 1980, driving the truck-like Ferrari 312 T5, Villeneuve was five seconds a lap faster than anyone else during a late-race shower of rain;

# Arguably his two greatest victories came in 1981, when he won in Monaco and Spain on the two tightest tracks in a car with a chassis that was years behind its rivals;

# In Canada in 1981, he finished third with a car that had lost its front wing in a collision.

He was also famous for being reckless, and having no concern for his own life.

One of his more notorious actions was when he forced a car back to the pits on three wheels after suffering a puncture while battling for the lead at the 1979 Dutch GP.


But those who said he was crazy missed the point that he was usually attempting to achieve the impossible in cars that had no business being up where he had them.

So why did he stay at Ferrari?

Villeneuve was a motor racing romantic, to whom driving for Ferrari was like living a dream. But by the time of his death, his patience with the Italian team was wearing thin.

That was much less to do with the speed of the cars than it was to do with the way he felt they responded to the incident that sent Villeneuve to his death a bitter man.

Villeneuve felt that his team-mate Didier Pironi had stolen victory from under his nose as they were cruising to a one-two finish at the 1982 San Marino GP.

Villeneuve was furious - with Pironi, but also with team boss Marco Piccinini, who Villeneuve felt had wrongly backed the Frenchman.

Injustice

Villeneuve told friends that he would almost certainly leave Ferrari at the end of the year.

He would quite probably have gone to McLaren, whose boss Ron Dennis had already offered him a $3m salary - a lot more than any other driver was earning.

Had Villeneuve lived, he might have joined McLaren at the height of his powers and just as they were embarking on a period of unprecedented domination in F1.

Who knows what records might then have fallen to Villeneuve.

As it was, he crashed to his death still fuming at the injustice, and so one of the finest drivers the world has ever seen never got the chance to reach the ultimate heights.


Driven To The Best by Andrew Benson

Michael Schumacher may statistically be the greatest Grand Prix driver who ever lived, but to many who watched Ayrton Senna's career no-one can equal the brilliant Brazilian.

Senna's greatness does not lie in statistics, impressive though his career record is. It is embodied in the irresistible force with which he dominated an era of Formula One.

Senna's death changed F1 forever, but his life also had an indelible effect.

In many ways, it was a negative one.

Senna's single-minded pursuit of success led to an uncompromising driving style that verged on dangerous, an approach since followed with conspicuous success by Schumacher.

But Senna also redefined what was possible in an F1 car.

He had a rage to win married to an ability that some would argue has never been equalled.

Senna dominated his cars every bit as forcefully as he did his rivals, employing a unique driving style to drag them to levels of performance their designers scarcely believed possible.

The ultimate example of this was perhaps in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix in 1988, when Senna was in his first year at McLaren-Honda as team-mate to Alain Prost.

Then it was Prost who the other drivers measured themselves against, and establishing primacy over the Frenchman was initially Senna's number one goal.

Monaco, where Senna went on to win a record six times, gave him a chance to demonstrate his superiority.

In qualifying, he set pole position with a lap 1.4 seconds faster than Prost managed in an equal car, and afterwards spoke in ethereal terms of an almost supernatural experience in reaching beyond his conscious self while driving.

The rivalry between Senna and Prost grew into the bitterest the sport has ever seen, and each man to a degree became defined by it.

But Senna had marked himself out as something special long before he went head-to-head with his greatest rival. His potential was obvious even before he reached F1.

In 1983, the Williams team gave the then up-and-coming Formula Three driver a test in their Grand Prix car, and within 40 laps he had taken it around Donington Park faster than its regular drivers, including reigning world champion Keke Rosberg.

Unfathomably, team owner Frank Williams did not offer Senna a contract, and it was to take him another decade before he had the chance to sign him again.

Instead, Senna moved to the midfield Toleman team and immediately made waves, being denied victory in torrential rain at Monaco, his sixth Grand Prix, only when the race was stopped before half distance because of the poor conditions.

His ability was already frightening his rivals, to the point that one said it was appropriate Senna's name had laxative connotations because that was the effect he had on him.

At the end of the year, showing the single-mindedness which was to become familiar, Senna walked out on a three-year contract with Toleman and joined Lotus, then one of the top teams.

Senna and Prost fought out a battle of such intensity that onlookers feared for their lives.
His first win came in only his second race with them, Senna using all his peerless ability in the rain to make his rivals look flat-footed at the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix.

Five more wins followed in three years at Lotus, but Senna saw the team's decline coming before most, and moved in 1988 to form a super-team with Prost at McLaren.

For three years - two as team-mates and one after Prost left to join Ferrari - the two fought out a battle of such intensity that onlookers feared for their lives.

It certainly drove Senna to new extremes. After one particularly frightening incident, Prost told Senna that if he wanted the title badly enough to die for it, he could have it.

Senna did sometimes appear to be putting his ambition ahead of his instinct for survival, most notably at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1990, when Senna secured the second of his three titles by driving into the back of Prost's Ferrari at 160mph, taking them both out of the race.

Throughout all this, Senna's breathtaking talent was in vivid relief. But if his driving was captivating enough, he was equally remarkable out of the car.

Senna was blessed with the good looks of a romantic hero, and his dark eyes were mirrors to a soul of complexity and surprising vulnerability.

This combination was made all the more powerful by his willingness to discuss the risks inherent in his job.

Deeply religious, Senna seemed sometimes to be overwhelmed by fatalism about the danger of his chosen profession.

Senna's determination to win took him to new extremes
His charisma was magnetic - he could hold in spellbound silence a room of hundreds of hard-bitten journalists - and his intellect, expressed with poetic eloquence in several languages, was formidable.

"You are doing something that nobody else is able to do," he said. "(But) the same moment that you are seen as the best, the fastest and somebody that cannot be touched, you are enormously fragile. Because in a split second, it's gone.

"These two extremes are feelings that you don't get every day. These are all things which contribute to - how can I say? - knowing yourself deeper and deeper. These are the things that keep me going."

When Senna joined Williams for the 1994 season, his position as the king of F1 was unquestioned. The team had dominated F1 in 1992 and '93, and Senna was expected to canter to the title.

But Williams' car initially had a serious design flaw, and only Senna's super-human ability put it on pole for the first race in Brazil.

In the race, though, he was flat beaten by Schumacher's superior Benetton, and Senna suffered the ignominy of spinning in his chase of the German.

Senna was killed in an accident that will never be fully explained

Anyone wondering how much of that performance Senna dragged from within only had to look at his team-mate Damon Hill, whom Senna had lapped by half distance.

Senna went to Imola trailing Schumacher in the championship and desperately needing to win.

Already it was clear that one of F1's great rivalries was in the offing, the young pretender challenging the supremacy of the veteran master, who was determined to hang on to his position.

But as Senna headed into the Tamburello corner at 190mph, with Schumacher just over a second behind, something went wrong.

The Williams speared off the road and hit a concrete wall, still travelling at 137mph.

As fate would have it, a front wheel was knocked back towards the cockpit and Senna's helmet visor was pierced by a suspension arm. If it had missed him, he would have stepped from the wreck unhurt.