A look back at Canadian GP History by Carlo Carluccio in association with MISSED APEX PODCAST. Listen in the player below after you've enjoyed the article.
Welcome back to my continued scribblings. After yesterday’s memorial service I figured I would recount one of the best ever victories. Although before I head down that particular memory lane I should maybe throw in a little story about a certain Tom Selleck look-a-like – Britain’s very own Nigel Mansell.
The Italians had christened him Leone for a number of reason. With his brooding upper lip decorated with a forest – he resembled the legendary king Lionheart. He demonstrated the heart of a lion whilst driving for the Scuderia and he was born under the sign of Leo the Lion.
With the duplicitous Prost arriving in Maranello for the 1990 season, Nigel’s time there was limited and despite retiring to a Silverstone fanfare, Frank Williams enticed him back for 1991.
The FW14 that year was quite obviously a work in progress and many times retired whilst threatening the lead but surely Mansell’s retirement from the 1991 Canadian GP belongs in the top 10 of eye-rubbing retirements in history.
In 1984, Mansell had crashed out of the lead in Monaco after hitting “a white line” but on this occasion he had led throughout. As he came up to the final chicane he began waving to the crowd and simply forgot to engage the next gear down. The engine revs dropped too much and it stalled. With the hydraulics rendered obsolete the car could not be bump-started and Mansell coasted to a halt.
Irrespective of peoples finger tapping I am composing myself for this final segment today - with what to me is one of the greatest victories I have ever witnessed. The date is 11th June 1995.
Twenty one years ago Jean Alesi was celebrating his 31st birthday when he sat in his delicious Ferrari 412 T2 in preparation for the race that afternoon. He would work his way through to second position when the leader Michael Schumacher suffered a rare problem in his Benetton.
The ensuing pit-stop was to change his steering wheel and perform a complete reset of his car’s electronic systems which meant a stop of 70 seconds and sent the Canadian fans wild.
Over the last few laps, Alesi struggled to compose himself and his tears were hitting the inside of his visor every time he braked. After 5 seasons in F1 he was finally taking victory, it was his birthday but of probably most significance was the fact that to the Canadians, the Ferrari with the legendary number 27 was Gilles Villeneuve.
The normally reserved crowd spilled on to the track in an almost Monza type mass-effect as Alesi drove round celebrating. Nearing the end of the slow-down lap, either the crazy French-Sicilian forgot to change gear or his car ran out of fuel – either way he was stranded trackside until Schumacher provided a taxi service picked him up.
Alesi was one of those talents that deserved multiple race wins and titles and it remains almost tragic that he retired from the sport with just the one victory. But what a victory and to this day it remains the last time a V12’s glorious sonnet took the chequered flag first.
Join us here at www.spannersready.com/articles tomorrow for Canadian GP History.