Alonso shows his Gilles Villeneuve spirit

Alonso shows his Gilles Villeneuve spirit

After spending three and a half years in uncompetitive Formula 1 machinery, Fernando Alonso will exit the grand prix stage at the end of 2018. But in that time he has echoed the attitude shown by one of the championship's legends

It was close to freezing when they went out to qualify for the Canadian Grand Prix in the autumn of 1980, so the problem everyone faced was getting temperature into the tyres. A goodly amount of downforce helped, of course, but if - like the Ferrari drivers - you didn't have any, the afternoon was a nightmare. Gilles Villeneuve, ever mercurial, slithered round to 22nd place, three and a half seconds from the Brabham of poleman Nelson Piquet, and his team-mate Jody Scheckter did not so much as qualify at all.

The following day Villeneuve somehow finished fifth, and afterwards was as exhilarated as ever I saw him, sure in his mind he could have done nothing more. That drive, and a similar one in the rains of Monaco earlier in the year, were among the greatest of his life, and if not many noticed that didn't matter to Gilles: he knew what he'd done.

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