Formula 1 in Canada

Sir Jackie Stewart and Joann Villeneuve help to celebrate 50 years of Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada.

On August 27, 1967, a steady rain fell on Mosport Park as 19 teams prepared for the first Canadian Grand Prix in history. Back then, fans could – if they’d bought a full weekend pass for $5 – wander past canvas tents right up to the cars and chat with the drivers before they took to the track.

It was the start of five decades of thrilling racing in Canada. On June 11, the smell of high-octane exhaust will mix with the whiff of nostalgia at Montréal’s Île Notre-Dame as the 48th edition of the F1 Grand Prix du Canada roars to life. 

Several weeks ago, the sport’s first superstar teamed with the first lady of Canadian racing to mark the milestone by helping Canada Post celebrate five famous drivers who won the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada.

Sir Jackie Stewart and Joann Villeneuve, widow of Gilles Villeneuve and mother of former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, helped unveil a five-stamp set at 1700 La Poste, a unique gallery space in downtown Montréal.

The five drivers featured in the set – Sir Jackie Stewart, Gilles Villeneuve, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton – each represent a different decade of F1 in Canada.


Five famous Canadian Grand Prix winners

Between 1994 and 2004, Schumacher won an unrivalled seven Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada races. Hamilton, who is still racing, has won five. Stewart and Senna both won two Canadian races – Stewart at Mosport Park in 1971 and 1972 and Senna in Montréal in 1988 and 1990. Gilles Villeneuve recorded his first Grand Prix victory in Montréal at the track that now bears his name.

Stars of the stamps:

Sir Jackie Stewart – Smooth and precise behind the wheel, he was the man to beat in the first decade of the Canadian Grand Prix. He raced F1 from 1965 to 1973 – for BRM, Matra, March and Tyrrell. In nine years of racing, he won 27 races, took 43 podiums, 17 poles and three World Championships. His one-man safety crusade made the sport safer while his excellent communication skills made it more popular. In 2001, he was knighted for his services to motor racing. 

Gilles Villeneuve – This flamboyantly aggressive driver with amazing control represents the second decade of the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada. He raced F1 for McLaren and Ferrari from 1977 to 1982, winning six races, taking 13 podiums and two poles in a career that lasted little more than four seasons. On October 8, 1978, he won the inaugural race at the Île Notre-Dame Circuit, about an hour from where he grew up in Berthierville. Just less than four years later, on May 8, 1982, at age 32, Villeneuve was killed in a crash while qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. He was inducted to the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993.

Ayrton Senna – A fierce and fearless driver with spectacular raw talent and terrifying determination represents the third decade of Grand Prix racing in Canada. Senna drove like a man possessed and dominated F1 from the mid-1980s to his death in Italy in 1994 at age 34. He raced F1 from 1984 to 1994 – for Toleman, Lotus, McLaren and Williams. In 161 starts, he logged 41 wins, 80 podiums, 65 poles and three World Championships. Senna illuminated F1 racing and shed light on the extremes to which only the greatest drivers go. For many, he represents the purest driver to compete in F1. In Brazil, his homeland, he was considered a demigod.

Michael Schumacher – Representing the fourth decade of F1 racing in Canada is the most successful driver in the sport’s history. He raced F1 from 1991 to 2006 and 2010 to 2012 – for Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes. In 308 races, he registered 91 wins, took 155 podiums, 68 poles and a record seven World Championships. He won his first World Championship in 1994 and his second in 1995. After breaking his leg in 1999, he mounted a comeback that saw him win five consecutive World Championships from 2000 to 2004. He retired at the end of 2006 but returned to racing with Mercedes from 2010 to 2012.

Lewis Hamilton – In terms of raw ability, few drivers compare to the man who represents the fifth decade of Formula 1 racing in Canada. Hamilton won four races in his rookie season in 2007 and finished on the podium in the first nine races of his brilliant, unfolding career. In 194 races, the three-time World Champion has recorded 55 wins, 108 podiums and 64 poles. Hamilton, who has raced for McLaren and Mercedes, has finished in the top five in points in each year of the 10 years he’s competed in F1. He won the first of three World Championships in 2008 and back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.

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