Jeremy Clarkson, arguably the most well known motoring journalist in the world, has talked exclusively to Formula 1 about his experience growing up with the sport and which driver he idolised as he immersed himself in open-wheel racing. Gilles Villeneuve was Clarkson’s favourite, and now 40 years since his death at Circuit Zolder, he pays tribute to the Canadian driver.
“I think there were two events that cemented him in my adulation really,” Jeremy told Greg Stuart, the talented writer behind the piece.
“The first was – well, I know it was the  British Grand Prix because I was there… At Woodcote, there was the most enormous crash. I can’t remember who caused it [but] these were the days when they used catch-fencing. And it was complete carnage, cars everywhere, people, marshals.
“But when it all sort of settled down, you could plainly hear that one engine was still running, and it was Gilles’. He set off back onto the track with really only half a car and most of the catch fencing wrapped around what was left of it. And I thought, ‘There’s a man so determined to win this race, he’s prepared to go, “No, no, I’m alright.”’
Jeremy continue to describe Villeneuve as the knight from Monty Python which would carry on without arms or legs before listing another favourite moment of his from the ’79 French Grand Prix in Dijon. He discussed further his love of this driver, admitting that he even had posters of him on his bedroom wall with Villeneuve sat behind the wheel of his Ferrari, famously marked with the racing number, 27.
“It’s still my lucky number,” Jeremy admits. “I still always choose 27 whenever I’ve got the opportunity – because of Gilles Villeneuve. If I see the number 27 in any context, whether I’m betting on a horse or anything, if it’s 27 I will always bet 27 – because of Gilles Villeneuve.
Villeneuve died during the qualifying of the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix as he assaulted the track with his aggressive driving style. He was angry over the breaking of a gentleman’s agreement by his teammate Didier Pironi, and as he went to overtake Jochen Mass in a March, both drivers moved to the same side of the track and Villeneuve hit the German driver at an estimated 140mph.
He was, awfully, thrown from his car and he died from a fractured neck.
“I know where I was,” Clarkson tells Stuart.