|First race||British Grand Prix||Silverstone||July 16, 1977||Race results|
|Last race||Belgian Grand Prix||Zolder||May 9, 1982||Race results|
Some thought Gilles personified everything good about motor racing; his natural speed and spectacular style complemented by an open, irreverent character. Others said his flamboyance bordered on the reckless.
He dominated the Canadian Formula Atlantic scene, and wiped the floor at an invitation race at Trois-Rivieres at the end of 1976 that included World Champion James Hunt. That led to a drive with McLaren in the 1977 British Grand Prix, where he stunned everyone by running on the pace of the leaders in a two-year-old car. Unfathomably, McLaren did not take up an option on his services, but Ferrari signed him to replace Lauda at the end of 1977.
Gilles stayed with Ferrari until the end of his career. He scored his first win, on home soil in Canada, in 1978, and would have been World Champion in 1979, when he won three grands prix, had he not honourably stood by team orders at the Italian Grand Prix and sat behind team-mate Jody Scheckter, who took the title instead.
Then followed two years in hugely inferior cars (although he had two opportunistic wins in 1981) until in 1982 he finally had the equipment to win consistently. However, after having victory stolen from under his nose by team-mate Didier Pironi as he was cruising to the flag in the San Marino Grand Prix, Gilles was plunged into turmoil. He pledged never to speak to Pironi again, and, two weeks later, he crashed fatally during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Reproduced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One published by Carlton Books