Becoming a legend without ever having even won the World Championship: Gilles Villeneuve succeeded, completing memorable undertakings with Ferrari one-seaters equipped with Brembo braking systems. About Gilles Villeneuve, Enzo Ferrari often said: «With his destructive ability that ground half shafts, gearboxes, clutches and brakes, he also taught us what to do so that a driver could defend himself in a moment of need».
The most senior Brembo engineers remember that “he scrambled the brakes well with his very aggressive style”. The Canadian is remembered for the way he always drove at the limit, stemming from his snowmobiling experiences on the ice fields in his home country.
One of his memorable duels is the won with René Arnoux at Dijon in 1979: at the start of the penultimate lap, on the Villeroy corner, Villeneuve managed to overtake his rival with an incredible late braking manoeuvre. The front left wheel locked up, but Gilles managed to control the 312T3.
On the next lap, Arnoux attempted to imitate the manoeuvre of the Ferrari driver who, however, lengthened his braking move and, despite being on the outside, stayed in front. But a few metres later the Frenchman took back the position. However, Villeneuve had still not be subdued and on the Parabolic turn he succeeded in moving ahead again with another breathtaking late braking move on the inside.
These efforts earned him a 2nd place finish behind the other Renault driven by Jabouille. The Brembo discs had done their duty in full.
Two years later, Gilles Villeneuve pulled off another feat at Monte Carlo: to compensate for the 126CK engine's turbo-lag, the first turbocharged single-seater from Maranello, the Canadian invented the left-foot braking manoeuvre. This way, thanks in part to a new brake caliper concept introduced by Brembo, he managed to win with a 40-second advantage ahead of Alan Jones' Williams. The same discovery allowed him to win the next race as well, at Jarama in Spain.
On 8 May 1982, however, a tragic accident during the Belgian GP qualifying sessions deprived the motoring world of one of its purest talents.
An immeasurable loss for Enzo Ferrari, who considered him a son, but also for the rest of the Ferrari enthusiasts who continue to venerate him even today.
In his honour, the Île Notre-Dame Circuit of Montreal, site of the Canadian GP, was renamed the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Despite his fame as a “brake scrambler” that he achieved among Brembo engineers, in 67 career GP races, not even once did Villeneuve have to raise the white flag because of brake troubles: a sign that the Brembo brakes he used in all of his GP races, except for his début race, the 1977 British GP driving the McLaren, were calibrated for the type of extreme use to which he subjected them.