F1 returns to the venue named after Ferrari’s favourite son

Gilles Villeneuve scores his madien F1 win at the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix - with him on the podium are Carlos Reuteman (3rd) and Jody Scheckter (2nd)

Gilles Villeneuve scores his maiden F1 win at the 1978 Canadian GP – with him on the podium are Carlos Reuteman (3rd) and Jody Scheckter (2nd)

This Sunday sees the 45th running of the Canadian Grand Prix. The race was first held in 1967, when Jack Brabham won in his own car. It’s been held on three circuits: Mosport Park eight times, Mont-Tremblant twice and Montreal, 34 times, making it a classic on the calendar.

Ferrari has won the race 11 times which is a 25% success rate. The first win was even a one-two finish at Mont-Tremblant, where Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni crossed the line in that order in the 312B.

The Montreal track made its debut eight years later in 1978, built on the perimeter roads of the man-made Ile Notre Dame. It used the excavated soil from the construction of the 1976 Olympic village. Local hero Gilles Villeneuve the won the inaugural race at the venue in the Ferrari 312 T3.

Gilles Villeneuve on his way to his maiden F1 win at the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix

Gilles Villeneuve on his way to his maiden F1 win at the 1978 Canadian GP

The repercussions from this win were incredible, being the first victory for a Canadian, as well as taking place in Quebec, where Gilles was born. The track was named in his honour after his death at Zolder in May 1982 and the following year, Ferrari won again in Montreal with Rene Arnoux and a further two years on, Michele Alboreto was victorious.

In 1995, the famous number 27 won again, giving Jean Alesi the best day of his career: Michael Schumacher in the Benetton had an electrical problem, which meant he had to pit to change the steering wheel and to have the system reset.

For once, Alesi managed to shake the monkey off his back that had been there for so long. The Frenchman crossed the line to celebrate his 31st birthday in the best way possible. Montreal has a big Italian population and the fans invaded the track, risking getting run over as cars were still on track.

Alesi had to park his car as he was mobbed by fans and in the end, it was the aforementioned Schumacher who gave him a lift back, wrapped in the French flag.

Michael Schumacher won the 2004 Canadian GP

Michael Schumacher won the 2004 Canadian GP

In fact, the remaining six Ferrari wins in Canada all came courtesy of Schumacher, the first of them in 1997. The following year was a bit more controversial, as the Ferrari man drove into Heinz-Harald Frentzen coming out of the pits, putting the Williams out of the race. Michael was given a stop-go penalty, but he still managed to win.

Walls close to the track edge are a feature of this circuit and one in particular, on the outside of the last turn before the pit straight, has ended the hopes of many of the best drivers over the years.

It has become known as the “Wall of Champions” and it has caught out big names such as Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill, Rubens Barrichello and more recently, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, the latter on Friday in 2011.

Schumacher wasn’t immune to it either, his race coming to an end there in 1999 while leading, but he made up for it, winning in 2000, 2002 and 2004, making him the king of Canada with no less than seven wins. (Ferrari)