Classic F1 Races – 1995 Canadian Grand Prix

(Above) Jean Alesi kisses his winners trophy after an overdue victory in Formula One.

Image Source: Formula One Official Website

You can watch the full race here: 

Alternatively, race highlights can be viewed here: BBC (English)

The main story of the 1995 Formula One Season was the continuation of the rivalry between Michael Schumacher in the Benetton-Renault and Damon Hill in the Williams-Renault.

However, on June 11th 1995, the story focused on a determined Frenchman in his beloved Ferrari; that man was Jean Alesi.

At the start of the weekend, attention was centred on a temporary chicane installed in the middle of the Casino Straight. 

This was done to slow down the cars and lower the top speeds reached at the final chicane in wake of the fatal incidents which claimed the lives of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna during the weekend of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

An aerial shot of Damon Hill (centre, Williams-Renault) and Gerhard Berger (Ferrari) going through the temporary chicane on the Casino Straight.

Image Source: TF1 (YouTube)

The stewards stated that drivers would not be allowed to overtake at this section of the circuit. Regardless, Michael Schumacher took pole position by 0.378 seconds with a time of 1:27.661 – the 100th pole position for a Renault powered car in Formula One.

Damon Hill qualified second, with Williams teammate David Coulthard in third, followed by Ferrari drivers Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi, with Johnny Herbert in the Benetton rounding up the top six.

The race started cleanly, with the majority of the cars maintaining their positions through the first corners without incident.

This wouldn’t last long though, as Mika Häkkinen (McLaren-Mercedes) attempted a pass on the inside of Johnny Herbert (Benetton-Renault) at the Turn 12 hairpin but the pair tangled and both subsequently retired from the race.

Mika Häkkinen (McLaren-Mercedes) and Johnny Herbert (No.2 car, Benetton-Renault) after their first lap collision.

Image Source: TF1 (YouTube)

On Lap 2, Coulthard spins off at Turn 7 into the gravel trap and ends his day early. The Briton stated the reason for this was the fact he hit a bump in the road under braking.

Taking advantage of the clean air in front of him, Alesi (Ferrari) sets the fastest lap of the race, with a 1:32.091 and closed up to Damon Hill in the process. Shortly after this, Schumacher responds with a 1:30.767 and begins to build a gap to the rest of the field.

After six laps, the German leads, with Hill and the two Ferrari’s seperated by two seconds, whilst the two Jordan-Peugeot’s of Rubens Barrichello and Eddie Irvine complete the top six.

Further down the field, the Minardi-Ford of Pierluigi Martini and the Tyrrell-Ford’s of Mika Salo and Ukyo Katayama each recieved a 10 second stop-go penalty for jump starts, leaving them at the back.

Ukyo Katayama (top left, Tyrrell-Yamaha), Pierluigi Martini (top right, Minardi-Ford) and Mika Salo (bottom, Tyrrell-Yamaha) serve their respective stop-go penalties.

Image Source: TF1 (YouTube)

As these penalties are served, Schumacher goes faster with a 1:30.367, increasing his lead over Hill to eight seconds. Hill responds and takes sixth tenths of a second out of Schumacher’s leadon the following lap.

Unfortunately for him, he gets caught up behind Martini and Katayama, allowing Alesi to close up and pass on the inside of Turn 12 for second place on Lap 16. 

By this point, Schumacher is pulling away with ease, amassing a lead of 12.665 seconds over Alesi after 19 Laps. On the same lap, Jean-Christophe Boullion (Sauber-Ford) spins out of the race from 13th.

Jean-Christophe Boullion (Sauber-Ford) has his car pulled out the gravel trap by the marshalls.

Image Source: TF1 (YouTube)

Hill struggles to maintain pace and eventually concedes third place to Berger, the Austrian braking late into Turn 3. 

Meanwhile, Katayama recieves another time penalty, this time for speeding in the pit lane. Shortly after, Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Sauber-Ford) just in front of the temporary chicane after suffering a engine failure. 

It was a tough day for Ukyo Katayama and Tyrrell.

Image Source: TF1 (YouTube)

As the teams begin to prepare the pit boxes for their drivers, Schumacher manages to go even faster, recording a 1:29.468 on Lap 33.

Irvine is the first of the front runners to stop, taking on a lot of fuel for his one and only stop. He concedes sixth place to Martin Brundle in the Ligier-Mugen-Honda.

The following lap, Alesi, Hill, Barrichello and Olivier Panis (Ligier-Mugen-Honda) all pit, also taking on a similar fuel load to Irvine. 

Berger is forced to stay out for another lap to avoid stacking in the pits behind teammate Alesi. However, he runs out of fuel and coasts to the pit lane, dropping eighth, between Brundle and Mark Blundell’s McLaren-Mercedes, who both pit at the same.

Gerhard Berger crawls his Ferrari back to the pits after running out of fuel. 

Image Source: TF1 (YouTube)

Schumacher optes to stay out until Lap 38 before pitting comfortably with a 52 second over Alesi and easily retains lead on what seemed to be a likely victory.

At this stage of the race, the German leads Alesi, with Hill third, followed by the Jordan’s of Barrichello and Irvine, whilst Panis was a distant sixth. 

The on track action calms down for a while, when on Lap 47, Blundell retires opposite to where Frentzen parked up, also with engine failure. Three laps later, Hill slows to a halt on the pit straight and retires from the race.

Mark Blundell (McLaren-Mercedes) climbs out of his car and suffering an engine failure.

Image Source TF1 (YouTube)

With 15 laps to go, Schumacher lead with ease, 30 seconds ahead of Alesi’s Ferrari. The Jordan’s of Barrichello and Irvine were third and fourth respectively, with Panis in fifth and teammate Brundle doing his best to hold off a resurgent Berger for sixth, albeit a lap down.

The race then took a dramatic turn when on Lap 58, Schumacher slows suddenly due an electrical problem, forcing him into an unscheduled pit stop. The problem costs him a minute and 10 seconds, the German rejoining in seventh and robbed on a certain victory, handing the lead to Alesi.

Now in the points, Berger is trying everything to overcome Brundle’s defence. After attempting a pass at Turn 12, in which he is forced out wide, the Austrian lunges down the inside of Turn 1 with eight laps left. 

As a result, the two cars touch and spin into the gravel trap and out of the race. Seconds later, Martini pulls up and retires due to an issue with the throttle. 

Frame by frame analysis of Gerhard Berger’s incident with Martin Brundle (Ligier-Mugen-Honda).

Image Source: TF1 (YouTube)

With a 3o second lead over Barrichello, Jean Alesi crusied home to win his first, and only, race in a Formula One career which consisted of 201 Grand Prix starts.

The occasion was made more memorble for the fans there that day as Alesi drove the No.27 Ferrari, the same number which was used by Canadian Gilles Villeneuve at the same circuit in 1978; one which bears his name today. 

Irvine followed his teammate to the flag in third, with Panis held off Schumacher for fourth and Gianni Morbidelli in the Footwork-Hart survived a race of high attrition to take the final points finish in sixth, a lap down.

Alesi’s car ran out of fuel before making it back to the pits, and boarded Schumacher’s Benetton in what has become one of Formula One’s most iconic images. 

Jean Alesi is chauffeured back to the pits by Michael Schumacher (Benetton-Renault).

Image Source: TF1 (YouTube)

In the post race conference, the Frenchman was understandably overwhelmed with emotion: “Winning with Ferrari is special, somethong you cannot get with any other team. I could not have wished for a better birthday present.”

Trivia (Sourced from the Formula 1 Official Website)

  • The day of Jean Alesi’s sole Grand Prix win was also his 31st birthday
  • It was also Ferrari’s 150th Grand Prix win as a constructor in Formula One
  • To date, the race marked the last time a V12 engine won a Formula One race


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