O Canada! Today is Canada Day, so much like I have done for Finland and Australia previously here are some stats of the Canadians in F1. In total thirteen Canadians have entered a Formula One World Championship Grand Prix, with eleven of them starting at least one race. Of those eleven drivers only two have even managed to score a point, Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve. I won’t write about all thirteen Canadians as the eleven non-scoring Canadians most of you won’t have even heard of.
The first Canadian to race in Formula One and he was in fact the first winner of the Canadian Grand Prix. Peter Ryan won the 1961 Canadian GP, a non-championship sports car race at the time but one that was entered by Stirling Moss, Olivier Gendebien and both of the Rodríguez brothers. Ryan entered just one F1 Grand Prix, the 1961 United States GP, he qualified 13th and finished ninth in his Lotus, not bad. Before starting his racing career Peter Ryan was a junior downhill skier until he broke both of his legs in a skiing accident. He was just 21 years old during his only F1 race but sadly died just one year later at a Formula Junior race.
Al Pease is another Canadian with an interesting story. Pease entered three GPs, the 67, 68 & 69 Canadian GPs using an Eagle Mk1. Al Pease is in fact the only driver ever to be disqualified from an F1 race for being too slow, this was at his final race, the 1969 Canadian GP. He was well into his 40s at the time and in an aging car without the wings that most cars had at the time. Pease was disqualified after completing just 22 laps while the leaders had done over double that. Despite an unsuccessful F1 career Pease was highly successful in domestic Canadian motorsports and was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1998.
Everyone has heard of Gilles Villeneuve, the first Canadian to win in F1 and the only Canadian to win the Canadian GP while it’s been an F1 event. Gilles entered 68 GPs from 1977 to 1982, 67 of those for Ferrari and his first at McLaren. In his one McLaren race at the 77 British GP he was put into an older car and outqualified regular McLaren driver Jochen Mass, but only finished 11th in the race. Gilles was tipped by many to be a future champion, the best chance he has of becoming a champion was in 1979 where he finished second, four points behind his teammate Jody Scheckter.
Jacques Villeneuve Senior
Jacques Villeneuve, but not that one, instead his uncle and the brother of Gilles. Jacques entered just three GPs and failed to qualify in every one of them. His F1 career was short but he was a great snowmobile racer, winning the World Championship Snowmobile Derby three times, the first to have done that.
The only Canadian F1 champion and the most successful Canadian in F1. Jacques raced from 1996 to 2006 and came quite close to winning his very first race. He won 11 races in total, finishing on the podium 23 times and won the 1997 Drivers’ Championship, but after winning the championship he never won another race. Much like most other F1 Canadians Jacques has competed in a variety of motorsport, he has done IndyCar, Le Mans, NASCAR and V8 Supercars among others.