Classic Races: 1995 Canadian Grand Prix

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Source: Montreal Gazette-Dave Sidaway

The main story of the 1995 Formula 1 season was the continuation of the rivalry between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill.

However, on June 11th, 1995, the day belonged to a determined Frenchman in his beloved Ferrari. That man was Jean Alesi who won the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix.

At the start of the weekend, attention was centred around the temporary chicane which had been 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.

Michael Schumacher took pole position by 0.378 seconds with Damon Hill second, and Williams team-mate David Coulthard in third. Ferrari drivers Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi in started fourth and fifth, whilst Johnny Herbert’s Benetton rounding up the top six.

The race started cleanly, with the cars maintaining their positions through the first two corners without incident. This didn’t last though, as Mika Häkkinen (McLaren-Mercedes) tangled with Herbert after attempting a pass at the hairpin, leading to their early retirements.

On the following lap, Coulthard spun off at Turn 7 into the gravel trap and ended his day early, later stating that he’d hit a bump in the road under braking.

Taking advantage of the clean air in front of him, Alesi set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:32.091, closing to Damon Hill in the process. Shortly after, Schumacher responds and begins to build a gap to those behind.

Hill then responds and takes sixth tenths of a second out of Schumacher’s lead on the following lap. Unfortunately for him, he gets caught up behind backmarkers and this allows Alesi to catch up and pass at the hairpin for second on Lap 16. 

Schumacher continued to dominate, gathering a lead of 12.665 seconds three laps later. Behind him, Hill struggled with tyre wear and conceded third place to Berger at Turn 3.  

While the other front-runners pit, Berger is forced to stay out for another lap to avoid stacking in the pits behind team-mate Alesi. The Ferrari then ran out of fuel and loses valuable time as the Austrian coasts back to the pit lane He drops to eighth.

Schumacher stops on Lap 38 before pit with a 52 second gap to Alesi and retaining first place for what seemed to be a likely victory. On Lap 47, Blundell’s engine expires, parking his McLaren before the chicane with engine failure. Three laps later, Hill experiences similar problems, stopping on the pit straight.

The race took a dramatic turn on Lap 58, when Schumacher slowed suddenly due an electrical problem, forcing him into an unscheduled pit stop. The Benetton is stationary for more than a minute, before re-joining in seventh having been robbed of a certain victory, with Alesi inheriting the lead.

Thanks to Schumacher’s misfortune, Berger moves into the points looks to overcome Brundle’s defence for fifth. After attempting a pass at the hairpin, in which he is forced out wide by the Briton, Berger lunges down the inside of Turn 1 with eight laps remaining. 

However, Brundle closes the door and the two cars touch, spinning into the gravel trap and out of the race. Seconds later, Martini pulls up at the same spot and retires due to an issue with the throttle. With a 30 second lead, Jean Alesi cruised home to win his first and only Grand Prix victory across 201 starts.

The occasion was made more memorable for the fans as Alesi drove the famous No.27 Ferrari, the same number which was used by Canadian Gilles Villeneuve with his win at the same circuit in 1978.

Barrichello and Irvine completed the podium for Jordan, whilst Panis held off a resurgent Schumacher for fourth. 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 1’s most iconic images.

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

Trivia (Sourced from the Formula 1 Official Website)

  • Schumacher’s Pole Position was the 100th for a Renault powered car
  • 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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