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The past, present and future of Formula One in Canada

Written by Ilona Datchary, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Round nine of 24 in the 2024 season of Formula One will be taking place in Montreal, Canada. The Grand Prix will be in the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Canada has a rich history of Formula One, not only in the form of the drivers hailing from the country, but the tracks to have hosted races too. 

The history of drivers from Canada 

In the long history of Formula One, 15 Canadian drivers have raced in this competitive car race. Even though many have started races, only four have managed to score points. 

From 2006 to 2016, there were no Canadian drivers, however, in 2017, a young driver named Lance Stroll joined Williams. In the 20th century, there were quite a few drivers, but who stood out among them? 

The first ever Canadian driver to have the talent and opportunity to race in Formula One was Peter Ryan. However, his career did not last long, for he only managed to race in one Grand Prix in the year 1961. 

Gilles Villeneuve with his family during the Italian Grand Prix in 1978; Image Credits: ‘Villeneuve Pironi’ (Noah Media Group and Sky Studios)

In the year 1977, a legendary name emerged, and made his mark in the sport, Gilles Villeneuve. He raced until 1982, for two big names in the sport, McLaren and Ferrari, and was even said to be Enzo Ferrari’s favourite. Gilles Villeneuve won six Grands-Prix during his Formula One career, and even managed to finish second in the World Championship in 1979. 

Unfortunately, his career was cut short when he died during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend in 1982, as a result of a collision with Jochen Mass. Due to his amazing track record and his fearless driving, many consider him to be the best Canadian Formula One driver of all time. 

Jacques Villeneuve on the podium during a Grand Prix; Image Credits: Paul-Henri Cahier/ Getty Images

In 1996 Gilles’ son Jacques made his way up to Formula One. Racing for Williams, British American Racing (BAR), Sauber, and BMW Sauber in an eleven-year stint, Villeneuve won 11 Grands Prix, his first being in 1996 the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, along with three other victories. 

He became world champion in 1997, winning seven races. Strangely, he wouldn’t win any more races after his world championship triumph, before retiring in 2006. 

A more recent driver who spent a shorter duration in Formula One is none other than Nicholas Latifi. He raced for Williams for three seasons, and is widely known for his race-changing crash at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021. However, he never scored any podiums; securing all of nine points in his career. 

The only active Canadian in the sport is Lance Stroll, currently driving in the Aston Martin F1 team driving alongside Fernando Alonso. Stroll joined in 2017, racing for Williams, before moving to Racing Point in 2019. Lance Stroll became the youngest rookie to achieve a podium in F1, finishing third in the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

Lance Stroll podium in the Italian Grand Prix, his second podium in his career; Image Credits: BWT Racing Point Formula One Team

Canadian tracks to have hosted Formula One

Canada has had many drivers as mentioned above, but that isn’t the only highlight of the Canada Formula 1 story. 

Since 1967, the Canadian Grand Prix has been held across three different venues: Mosport Park (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park), Circuit Mont-Tremblant, and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. 

The first one was the Mosport Park, located in Bowmanville, Ontario. It was active as the F1 Canadian Grand Prix during the years of 1967, and 1969 to 1977. 

The circuit was known to be challenging for the drivers, offering plenty of elevation changes throughout the circuit, apart from many high-speed corners. The venue last hosted a race in 1977, before dropping off the calendar due to safety concerns, and other circuits emerging as alternatives. 

The Circuit Mont-Tremblant in 2021; Image Credits: Motorsport Images

Following the Mosport Park Circuit was the Circuit Mont-Tremblant, located in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. 

However, it hosted only two rounds of the event, in 1968 and 1970. It was located in the area of the Laurentian Mountains and because of that, the circuit had very nice scenery despite that it had a lot of logistical challenges and was very remote which ended up meaning the Canadian Grand Prix would no longer be located there.  

Finally, the current host of the event, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is located in Montreal, Canada. It has been the sole circuit for the Grand Prix since 1978 except for two years, 1987 and 2009. Originally named the Île Notre-Dame circuit, the name of the circuit was changed in 1982, in order to honour the late Gilles Villeneuve. 

Similar to the Circuit Mont-Tremblant, the circuit is set amidst beautiful scenery, and is right next to the St Lawrence River. The circuit has high-speed straights and tight corners, being an exciting challenge for the drivers to conque. 

Not to forget the Wall of Champions at the outside of the final corner, which gets its name from several champions having crashed into the wall in the past.   

The view at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve; Image Credits: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

The future of Formula 1 in Canada 

Knowing Canada’s rich Formula One history, the sport will continue to flourish in the nation. The Canadian Grand Prix is set to remain on the calendar until 2031, around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. 

Owners of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve have plans to upgrade the facilities at the track, including the pit facilities, better amenities for the fans, and more safety for the drivers while driving. They aim to make the circuit more sustainable to follow the same goal of Formula One, to be carbon neutral by 2030. 

Stroll is now taking part in his eighth Formula One season. Aged 25, he is set for a long future in the sport. Will he add to his tally of three podiums in the sport? Only time will be able to tell.

1 comment

1 Comment

6 days ago

great article, love it :)

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