The first Formula 1 season of Gilles Villeneuve!
It’s in 1977 that Gilles Villeneuve started to drive his first car in Formula 1. Behind the third car Team McLaren had at the England Grand Prix in Silverstone. Gilles had the chance to drive under this legendary team Woking thanks to James Hunt for his letter of recommendation.
The car driven by Gilles was the McLaren M23, the same McLaren M23 that let drivers like Fittipaldi and Hunt taste victory. The M23 is already at its 4th years of service. Team McLaren is, indeed, using this car for 4 season now. The M26 should be out of the english factory by the end of 1977. Even if the M23 start to get old, it still is the same powerful car driven by Gilles. The car has a V8 Cosworth motor and has 470 horsepower and it weight only 575 kilos. Back in the day, it wasn’t build with carbon fiber. The mats used was purely aluminum which do not have the same level of solidity during an impact.
Gilles Villeneuve got hired by the director, who was Teddy Mayer, for the Britain Grand Prix on the legendary race court of Silverstone. His car number was 40. Even though his very little experience in Formula 1, the Berthierville’s driver finished 9th place. During the Grand Prix, the Canadian was at the 4th place before his car starts to have mechanical problems. Gilles Villeneuve ended his first Grand Prix at the 11th place.
Teddy Mayer decided to not resign the Québécois for the next Grand Prix of the season, but his performance wasn’t in vain. The iconic boss of Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari, got touched by the natural talent of Gilles. He reminded him of Tazio Nuvolari (an Italian driver from back then performing controlled skids to start turns faster) who had a similar driving style as Gilles Villeneuve. He finally proposed him to test the official circuit of Team Fiorano. After a conclusive test, Gilles will perform the last two Grand Prix of the 1977 season wearing proudly the Rosso Corsa (the iconic red of the brand). He then participated to the Canada Grand Prix who was, back in the day, at Mosport in Ontario and at the Japan Grand Prix who was, back then, in Fuji Speedway. The Canadian driver finished 12th at this first Canada Grand Prix and couldn’t finish the Japan Grand Prix because of an accident at the fifth laps with the Tyrrell P34-B of Ronnie Peterson. This accident will cost the death of two people who was behing the security gates.
Even though the first season ended on a dramatic note, Gilles Villeneuve will stay in the Italian team for the whole year (1978).