Jeremy Clarkson snubbed Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher to name favourite F1 star

June 4, 2024

Jeremy Clarkson snubbed Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher to name favourite F1 star


Jeremy Clarkson snubbed Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher to name favourite F1 star

Many would pick from the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna when choosing their favourite ever F1 drivers, but Jeremy Clarkson isn’t one to follow the crowd

Jeremy Clarkson’s favourite Formula 1 driver is not Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher (

He never won a Formula 1 title, but Gilles Villeneuve certainly cemented his place in the heart of one famous fan.

Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher are the sport’s most successful driver ever while Ayrton Senna is also revered by fans of a certain age. But none of them compare to Villeneuve as far as Jeremy Clarkson is concerned.

The Canadian racer started 67 F1 races in an all-too short career which saw him become a Ferrari icon. Villeneuve won six races and finished second in the 1979 championship but didn’t manage to summit the sport before his untimely death at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.

But as a young man, Clarkson had posters of Villeneuve on his wall having been blown away by the way the Canadian went about his business on track. In a 2022 interview with the official F1 website, the Clarkson’s Farm host described his adoration for one of F1’s cult heroes.

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He said: “I think there were two events that cemented him in my adulation really. The first was – I know it was the [1981] British Grand Prix because I was there… At Woodcote, there was the most enormous crash. I can’t remember who caused it. These were the days when they used catch-fencing. And it was complete carnage, cars everywhere, people, marshals.

“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’.

“He was sort of like the knight in Monty Python with no arms and legs. He’s still going to carry on racing, even though he didn’t really have a car anymore. And then of course, there was the ’79 French Grand Prix in Dijon.

The wreckage of Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari after his fatal crash at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix ( 


Corbis via Getty Images)

“He was racing for second place with Rene Arnoux. How many times did they hit each other on that last lap, five times? They took it in turns to be knocked off and then came charging back on again… It was absolutely fantastic racing and I just thought, ‘Okay, he’s my favourite racing driver’. I’ve never really seen anyone race like him since.”

Clarkson has since adopted Villeneuve’s racing number, 27, as his favourite in life. He continued: “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.

“I definitely had pictures of his racing car on the wall. I bought a Ferrari because of Gilles Villeneuve, the 355. I loved Ferraris because of Gilles Villeneuve… And it had to be red. And I damn nearly painted 27 on the side of it.”

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