Control

By Richard Kelley F1

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Gilles Villeneuve always had the air about him that he could do things that no one else could; he trusted his otherworldly car control to carry a bad handling F1 car around on his shoulders.

Villeneuve had damaged his nose wing in an earlier collision at the Hairpin at Montreal’s Île Notre-Dame Circuit , during the 1981 Canadian Grand Prix. He then completed two laps with the remains of his Ferrari’s nose in his face.

While his French Canadian fans feared he might be black-flagged, Villeneuve pounded on without hesitation in the blinding rain - he had a plan.

I believed his only chance was to break the nose loose under heavy braking, so I took my position alone in the Hairpin facing towards his oncoming car. Luckily, in those days, there was no deep runoff area, so I could stand on the edge of the tarmac, alone in the rain, and face on to his Ferrari.

My guess was answered a minute later with this spectacular frame as Gilles slammed the car onto the pavement under heavy braking. I shot three frames, just one in focus as the nose left the chassis.

Gilles was free, but without front downforce, to slither on to his heroic third place in the Canadian Grand Prix. He never gave up.

In 1977, Gilles Villeneuve arrived in Ferrari’s Mosport pit for his first F1 session as a Scuderia driver after every photojournalist had been physically removed. There were to be no exceptions.

I left the pit lane and took position in front of a narrow three-inch split between the concrete wall sections that formed the rear of Ferrari’s pit stall. I was totally alone, waiting quietly to avoid drawing attention.

When Gilles arrived, I gently placed my Nikon’s telephoto lens in the middle of the the split and made the only series of images of a joyous Gilles Villeneuve at the very moment the team placed the Ferrari jacket on his shoulders.

Gilles once said, given three wishes, he would be a racer, be a Formula 1 driver, and drive for Ferrari. This then was his completion of his dream and my witnessing that moment with him was pure bliss.

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