Re: Was John Bonham aware of Neil Peart?
Whether Bonzo was aware of Neil or not, Neil was certainly aware of Bonzo... with Zep being such a formulative influence on Rush's early sound, there would have been almost no way the name did not come up in Neil's early dealings with Alex and Geddy. However, just judging from the small-kick mod-style Rogers kit that Neil was playing when he met the other guys, Bonzo wasn't nearly as important an influence as Keith Moon in those days.
Rush recorded and toured in the UK in the very late 70's (77-78). During most of 1977 Zeppelin was touring stateside (this was the tour with their huge, record-setting concert at the Pontiac Silverdome, and also the year of the altercation at Day on the Green in Oakland). The tour ended abruptly when Plant's son died, so the band was on hiatus for a bit before recording In Through The Out Door in Sweden and doing Knebworth. By this time Rush was moving away from hard rocking and into prog and synths, which roughly mirrors the experimentation Zeppelin was doing on their later albums.
Did the two bands ever truly cross paths? Unknown, seemingly undocumented, but highly unlikely, given a mountain of circumstantial evidence. It seems likely that if Rush were anywhere near where Zeppelin was playing, at least Geddy and Alex would have tried to attend a show. But such a meeting between arguably two of the most celebrated drummers of the era would scarcely have gone unnoticed this long. Also, I would point to Neil's own testimony in Beyond The Lighted Stage (paraphrased): "When I was a kid, I was a big Who fan, but I never would have dreamed of finding out where they were staying when they came to town and showing up to have them sign an autograph." It also seems unlikely at that point in Bonzo's career that he would have made too much time to go see a band from Canada play on his home turf (where Zeppelin never really hit it as big as they did in America). And it is for certain that the two bands never shared a bill, which is where Neil appears to have made his most lasting drummer-friendships.
"Jus suum cuique"