Canadian Grand Prix – the race that both drivers and fans adore
The Canadian Grand Prix is an annual racing event that takes place in Canada since 1961. Established as the sports car race at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, the Canadian Grand Prix became the part of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1967.
The race was organized at Mosport Park until 1977, with two exceptions in 1968 and 1970 when Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec hosted the race. Then, in 1978, the race was moved to the Circuit Ile Notre-Dame in Montreal, which was renamed to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1982. Since then, the race was out of F1 calendar just two times, in 1987 and 2009.
Michael Schumacher as the record holder with seven wins
In the rich history of the Canadian Grand Prix, the driver who left the greatest trail was Michael Schumacher. He won seven times at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve between 1994 and 2004, once as Benetton driver and six times with Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton is just a step behind great Michael, scoring six victories between 2007 and 2017, including three with McLaren-Mercedes and three with Mercedes.
On the list of other multiple winners, there is just one driver with three wins – Nelson Piquet. The double winners were Sebastian Vettel, Ayrton Senna, Alan Jones, Jackie Stewart, Jacky Ickx and Pedro Rodriguez.
The first Canadian Grand Prix was held in 1961 at Mosport Park
The first ever Canadian Grand Prix was held in September 1961 at freshly opened Mosport Park, the home of the Canadian motorsport. The race was opened for the sports cars and it counted for the Canadian Sports Car Championship. Twenty-six drivers started the race and after 100 laps at the 3.957km circuit, the Canadian Peter Ryan took the victory in a Lotus 19-Climax, defeating Pedro Rodriguez in a Ferrari 250 TRI and Stirling Moss in another Lotus-Climax.
In the next five years, the famous drivers took winner’s trophy at Mosport Park – Masten Gregory (1962), Pedro Rodriguez (1963, 1964), Jim Hall (1965) and Mark Donohue (1966). In 1966, the race was a part of the inaugural season of the Canadian-American Challenge Cup (Can-Am).
Formula One took over Canadian Grand Prix in 1967
Formula One World Championship took over the Canadian Grand Prix in 1967, although sports car competitions (CSCC and Can-Am) continued to compete at Mosport in their own events.
The first F1 race at Mosport took place in August, with Jack Brabham taking the inaugural victory driving a Brabham-Repco for his own team. He shared a podium with teammate Denny Hulme, who became a champion that year, and Dan Gurney.
Two events at Circuit Mont-Tremblant
It was decided that Mosport will be alternated with the Circuit Mont-Tremblant, so the 1968 Canadian Grand Prix took place at the 4.265km circuit in Quebec. During the qualifying, one of the championship contenders Jacky Ickx crashed out and broke a leg, losing a chance to fight for the title. The victory went to Denny Hulme (McLaren), who shared a podium with teammate Bruce McLaren and Pedro Rodriguez (BRM).
In 1970, the race returned to Circuit Mont-Tremblant and Jacky Ickx scored his second win. This time, he was driving for Scuderia Ferrari. Clay Regazzoni (Ferrari) and Chris Amon (March) completed the podium.
The 1969 event was unique and bizarre
It was the only race in the F1 history when the four-wheel-drive car scored points, with Johnny Servoz-Gavin finishing sixth in a Matra MS84. The race was also marked by a bizarre disqualification of Al Pease because he was driving too slowly in an outdated Eagle-Climax, even causing a collision between Jacky Ickx and Jackie Stewart.
Mosport Park was upgraded in 1972
Due to safety concerns, the Circuit Mont-Tremblant was not used again for Formula One after 1970. Mosport solely continued to host the Canadian Grand Prix from 1971. That year, the main race was delayed after a fatal accident during the Formula Ford support race. The F1 race was held under the rain and stopped after 64 laps, with Jackie Stewart (Tyrrell) taking victory ahead of Ronnie Peterson (March) and Mark Donohue (McLaren).
Safety car caused confusion at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix
The 1973 Canadian Grand Prix will be remembered as the first F1 race in which the Safety Car was deployed. The former F1 driver Eppie Wietzes was driving a yellow Porsche 914 that served as a Safety car and he was called in when Francois Cevert and Jody Scheckter collided on lap 32.
The Safety car entered the field in front of Howden Ganley, who wasn’t a leader, causing a big confusion. When the racing resumed, Ganley stayed in front and even took the checkered flag but, a few hours after the race, it was concluded that Peter Revson is the winner.
No race in 1975, last F1 race at Mosport in 1977
In 1974, Emerson Fittipaldi (McLaren) scored his only win at Mosport. It was the penultimate race of the season. Two weeks later, at the US Grand Prix, Fittipaldi took the championship title.
Labatt brewery was the main sponsor in that time but a big dispute between two rival breweries, Labatt and Molson, caused a cancellation of the 1975 event.
In 1976, James Hunt won the race for McLaren, ahead of March drivers Ronnie Peterson and Vittorio Brambilla. The young Canadian racing star Gilles Villeneuve made his debut for Ferrari at 1977 Canadian Grand Prix, not finishing the race due to a broken transmission. The winner was Jody Scheckter (Wolf).
Canadian Grand Prix moved to Montreal in 1978
The 1977 race was the last Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport. The safety concerns about the bumpy high-speed track were underlined by heavy accident of Briton Ian Ashley during practice, which ended his career. The decision was made to move the Canadian Grand Prix to Montreal, where the Circuit Ile Notre Dame would be constructed on the island in the middle of the St. Lawrence river.
The first winner at the 4.5km circuit was Canadian rising star Gilles Villeneuve in a Ferrari. The race was the last round of the championship. A year later, Villeneuve was fighting for victory again but lost to Alan Jones (Williams) by just a second. Alan Jones took the victory again in 1980, in the season when he became F1 champion. Gilles Villeneuve was on a podium again in 1981, finishing third behind the winner Jacques Laffite (Ligier) and second-placed John Watson (McLaren).
Circuit gets a new name after Gilles Villeneuve’s death
The Canadian racing hero Gilles Villeneuve, unfortunately, lost his life in May 1982. Ahead of that year’s Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal’s circuit had been renamed to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The 1982 Canadian Grand Prix was held in June. The organizers moved the race from autumn to June because of warmer weather and it has been held in June since ever.
Riccardo Paletti was killed at 1982 Canadian Grand Prix
Unfortunately, the 1982 race was marred by the death of Italian driver Riccardo Paletti in his only second F1 start. The fatal accident happened on the start when Didier Pironi, who was on the pole position in a Ferrari, stalled his car.
Most of the other cars were able to avoid him, but Paletti, who started 23rd in an Osella, ran straight into the back of Ferrari. He suffered injuries in the wrecked car caught by the fire and died a few hours later in a hospital.
Three victories for Nelson Piquet
The winner of the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix was Nelson Piquet in a Brabham-BMW, giving the first ever F1 victory to BMW. Nelson Piquet triumphed again in a Brabham-BMW two years later.
Seven years later, in June 1991, Nelson Piquet (Benetton-Ford) scored his third victory in Canada and became the first driver with three wins at the Canadian Grand Prix. It was his 23rd and final win of his F1 career. It came after the leading driver Nigel Mansell stopped halfway through the last lap.
Michael Schumacher started his era in 1994
Benetton-Ford was Nelson Piquet’s last car to win in Canada but also the car which Michael Schumacher was driving for his first victory at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1994.
Schumacher joined Scuderia Ferrari in 1996 and climbed to the top podium spot in Canada for the second time in 1997. The next win came in 1998, one more in 2000 and then three consecutive victories from 2002 to 2004, establishing Michael Schumacher as all-time record holder at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton scored his maiden Formula 1 victory in Canada
Lewis Hamilton clinched his maiden F1 victory at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix, opening one of the greatest careers in the history of Formula 1. Next year, he retired in Canada but won his first championship title.
There was no Canadian Grand Prix in 2009 and then, in 2010, Lewis Hamilton climbed to the top podium spot again. His third victory with McLaren came in 2012. He added three more wins with Mercedes from 2015 to 2017, coming just a step behind Schumacher.