Canadian GP Facts, Stats & Memoirs

By Marcel Schot, the Netherlands
Atlas F1 Magazine Writer

The European Grand Prix two weeks ago saw the rise of Takuma Sato's star continue with his first front row start. The Japanese driver improved throughout the weekend and ended the first part of qualifying with a stunning lap, almost six tenths of a second faster than number two Michael Schumacher. Unfortunately for Sato he wasn't able to keep the same pace in the deciding lap, seeing the World Champion take pole ahead of him. While Sato's race ended in retirement, it was a historic event for him and his home country. When Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso pitted ahead of the Japanese driver, Sato led the race for two laps until his own pitstop. This made him the first driver from Japan to lead a Formula One race.

The race result was hardly surprising. After a one race hiatus, Michael Schumacher was back on the top step of the podium. In his 200th race, the German booked his 76th victory and 60th pole position. With Rubens Barrichello coming second, it was the fourth one-two of Ferrari in seven races, which keeps the Maranello team on schedule with the record of ten one-two's by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost for McLaren in 1988. It's only the 16th time that a team score four one-two's in a season. Both McLaren and Ferrari have done it five times now, while Williams follow with three. Alfa Romeo, Mercedes and Lotus have done it one time each.

In Canada one-twos are relatively rare. The last one was in 2000 when Michael Schumacher won ahead of Barrichello. Before that we have to go back to 1996 when it were Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve doing it for Williams. It was also Williams before that in 1989 when Thierry Boutsen won, followed by Riccardo Patrese.

A driver who used to do well in Montreal was Giancarlo Fisichella. However, after four straight point finishes between 1997 and 2000 the Italian had to settle for less. In 2001, collisions with Enrique Bernoldi and Jenson Button ended Fisichella's race in the first lap. A year later, Canada was one of the highlights of his season with Jordan. A sixth place on the grid and a fifth in the race were the best result until that point in the season and only the grid position was surpassed as Fisichella qualified fifth in Hungary. Last year, a good race from a bad qualifying position was ended prematurely when the Jordan driver lost first gear, which is essential on a circuit with hairpins. All in all, Fisichella is certainly a force to be reckoned with for the upcoming Grand Prix.

The Seventh One

This weekend Michael Schumacher can win the Canadian Grand Prix for the seventh time. By doing this, he will be the only driver to have won one event seven times. The German has already won the Grands Prix of Belgium, Canada, France, San Marino and Spain six times. There are only two drivers he has to share the record of most wins per event with. Ayrton Senna won six times in Monaco and Alain Prost won six races in both Brazil and France. Senna never had a chance to win a seventh time in Monaco and Prost's sixth win was the last race he drove in France. This means only Michael Schumacher in France and Alain Prost in Brazil have had a chance to win their seventh, but failed.

Alain Prost had already won the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990, when the circus travelled to Interlagos for the 1991 race. After his arch rival Ayrton Senna had won the opening round in Phoenix, Prost was poised to set the record straight in Brazil. However, even an excellent record in the land of the samba didn't change anything about the driveability of the Ferrari. First qualifying was concluded with Prost down in fifth, 1.3 seconds behind provisional polesitter Ayrton Senna. In the second session Prost dropped a place, as Riccardo Patrese in the Williams had found the pace he lacked on the Friday.

A second place in the warm-up was hopeful for Prost, but once the race started it was clear that a miracle had to happen for Prost to win his seventh one in Brazil. He immediately dropped behind Nelson Piquet, where he got stuck until he pitted for new tyres after 18 laps. Soon after that, the Frenchman was back in seventh and before his second stop even up into fifth, but being 40 seconds behind Senna just before his stop meant that there was very little chance for a win. While Prost was clearly the faster driver in the final part of the race, his progress ended in fourth place.

After 1991, Prost retired for a year and returned to action in the powerful Williams in 1993. This time Prost was fastest in all sessions with only his teammate Damon Hill coming within one second in both of the free practice sessions. The grid after qualifying saw Prost on pole, Hill a second behind and Ayrton Senna a distant third, 1.8 seconds behind. This time nothing could prevent Prost from winning his seventh race in Brazil.

Alain Prost retires from the 1993 Brazilian GPAs the race got underway, Prost disappeared into the distance as Senna and Hill battled for second. The Frenchman opened a big gap over his rivals and when the rain started after 27 laps, he was leading by 11 seconds. As chaos erupted, Prost stayed out of trouble, unlike the drivers behind him. In a matter of two laps his gap increased to 36 seconds after which it was time to pit. However, the Frenchman misheard his engineer on the radio and stayed out for another lap. This proved to be a turning point in Prost's luck, as on that very lap he slid into the wreck of Christian Fittipaldi's Minardi, who had just crashed. This ended a race that was bound to be Alain Prost's seventh victory in Brazil.

It took ten years for another driver to have the chance to win an event for the seventh time. The 2003 French Grand Prix saw Michael Schumacher challenge for his fifth win of the year. While things were hard to judge on the Friday, as the circumstances were wet, the practice and qualifying sessions on the Saturday showed Schumacher and Ferrari that they were less competitive than they thought to be. The German qualified third, nearly half a second behind both Williams. At the start of the race, the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen moved to third and in the early part of the race Schumacher had trouble with both the McLarens, while the Williams proved clearly too fast.

A three-stop strategy brought Schumacher past the McLarens, but in the end there was nothing the Ferrari driver could do against the Williams. While Ralf Schumacher took a clear victory, Juan Pablo Montoya secured second five seconds ahead of Ralf's brother despite having had a significantly slow final stint.

So far the challenges for a seventh win have stranded on bad luck or strong opposition, but with Michael Schumacher's current dominance, the six time World Champion might just score his seventh one this weekend.

This Week in History

This week it's nine years ago that Jean Alesi won his one and only Formula One Grand Prix. While the Drivers' Championship was already very much a battle between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill, the Constructors' Championship was a three way affair. Coming to Canada, Benetton were leading with 36 points, with Williams four points behind and Ferrari at five points. In qualifying, Jean Alesi and his teammate Gerhard Berger were usually behind the Benettons and Williams, but their race pace was excellent and only bad luck kept them out of the lead of the Championship. In the last two races before Canada, Jean Alesi had retired, putting him fourth in the Championship behind Schumacher, Hill and a very constant Gerhard Berger.

Jean Alesi celebrates his first and only GP winFirst qualifying on Friday saw the order the same as in the championship, Alesi narrowly faster than the Williams of David Coulthard. A day later, the Briton was faster than both Ferrari drivers, relegating them to fifth and sixth on the grid.

On Sunday the top five got away from the grid in order. In the second lap the pressure the Ferraris were putting on David Coulthard already paid off as the Scotsman missed his braking point and spun off into retirement. At the end of the lap the gaps were already substantial. Schumacher was 2.8 seconds ahead of Hill, who in turn was three seconds clear of the Ferraris, who had traded position. Alesi pulled in a few fast laps to cut the gap towards Hill in half. After that the gap didn't go below one second until Hill hit traffic in lap 18. While the Williams driver was negotiating his way past Ukyo Katayama and Pierluigi Martini, Alesi took profit and surprised the Briton.

Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher was 12 seconds away and even though Alesi was able to make up some ground, the German appeared to be cruising towards victory. In lap 34 Alesi was among the first to stop for fuel and tyres, dropping him back to third. A lap later, the Frenchman was back in second, as Gerhard Berger crawled to the pits, nearly out of fuel. While the enraged Austrian was able to continue, he was no longer in contention for a podium spot. Leader Schumacher only stopped four laps after Alesi, having increased his lead in the laps he drove on low fuel. When Schumacher was back on track, the gap had increased to a seemingly impossible to overcome 26 seconds.

From that point on the race was a mere formality for Alesi. Schumacher was impossible to catch and ten seconds behind him Damon Hill was driving a troubled race. When after 50 laps Hill retired, Alesi was completely in no man's land. The gap towards Schumacher had increased to 33 seconds, while Barrichello was a safe 23 seconds behind the Frenchman. However, eight laps later, drama struck for Schumacher and Benetton. All of a sudden the leader slowed down to a crawling pace when electronic problems kept the car in third gear. The World Champion was able to make it to the pits and resolve the issue, but the damage had been done.

Jean Alesi was leading the race and with a clear margin towards the cars behind him, heading for victory. His birthday had suddenly been given a golden edge. The experienced Ferrari driver didn't make a mistake in the ten laps that followed, taking the chequered flag in a very emotional victory.

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Volume 10, Issue 23
June 9th 2004

Atlas F1 Exclusive

Interview with Mario Theissen
by Biranit Goren


Every Other Sunday
by David Cameron

The Fuel Stop: Guest Appearance
by Reginald Kincaid

2004 Canadian GP Preview

2004 Canadian GP Preview
by Tom Keeble

Canadian GP Facts & Stats
by Marcel Schot

The F1 Trivia Quiz
by Marcel Borsboom


Bookworm Critique
by Mark Glendenning

On the Road
by Garry Martin

Elsewhere in Racing
by David Wright & Mark Alan Jones

The Weekly Grapevine
by Dieter Rencken

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