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A history of Canadian drivers in F1

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll is the latest in a line of Canadian drivers who have enjoyed varying degrees of success in Formula 1 over the years.

Canada has produced 15 drivers in the history of F1, starting with the very first in Peter Ryan back in 1961.

Here’s a look at the F1 racers to have hailed from the Great White North.

A slow start to F1 life for Canadians

It’s fair to say that it took some time before a Canadian driver was given the tools to be a serious contender in Formula 1.

Starting with Ryan in 1961, the decade that followed produced a number of drivers, but none who managed a single race win or even any points for that matter.

Ryan, Peter Broeker, Ernie de Vos, Al Pease, Eppie Wietzes, Bill Brack, John Cordts, George Easton and John Cannon all earned entries into F1 between 1961 and 1971.

After Cannon’s final active year in 1971, there would be a six-year spell without a Canadian racing in Formula 1.

It will have seemed like a long wait at that time, but one that was worth it, with an iconic Canadian racer who inspired many about to enter the stage.

Villeneuve changed the game

The great Gilles Villeneuve changed the way the world regarded Canadian drivers in Formula One, as the man from Quebec came on to the scene in 1977 with McLaren.

Villeneuve impressed with his performances and quickly earned a seat with then-world champions Ferrari in 1978.

A driver who earned praise for his racing style, Villeneuve would earn six race wins in F1 and 23 podium finishes before his tragic death after a high-speed crash in qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.

Villeneuve left a lasting legacy and the racetrack on Notre Dame Island in Montreal, where the Canadian Grand Prix is held, was renamed the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1982.

The start-finish line at the track has the words "Salut Gilles", as a tribute to the great Canadian driver whose life was cut short at just the age of 32.

The Villeneuve era continues

Gilles Villeneuve’s younger brother Jacques-Joseph Villeneuve Sr was also a keen racer, but did not enjoy the same success as his older sibling. 

He would have active racing years in 1981 and 1983, but failed to record any points for the Arrows Racing Team or RAM Automotive Team March.

It was his nephew and son of Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques Villeneuve who would go on to shine at the top end of the sport when he made his debut back in 1996.

Racing for Williams in 1997, Villeneuve would enjoy his greatest season as he went on to beat the iconic Michael Schumacher to win his only Drivers’ Championship title.

A crash between the pair in the final race of the season saw Schumacher penalised and therefore handed Villeneuve the title in a dramatic end to the campaign.

Becoming the first Canadian to win an F1 title, Villeneuve is still the only driver from the country to do so.

The latest generation

Lance Stroll is the only Canadian featuring in the 2023 season. Ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, the Aston Martin racer found himself in ninth place in the Drivers’ Championship standings, with 47 points to his name.

Stroll has not been able to compete with veteran team-mate and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who has impressed this season.

Leading into the Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay, the Spaniard was in third place in the standings with 170 points.

Stroll is currently flying the flag for Canada in the world of F1, while Nicholas Latifi is another Canadian who had been on the scene since 2020, but he failed to secure a seat for the 2023 campaign.

After a slow start to life in F1, the Villeneuve family changed the face of Canadian F1 racing, with Jacques Villeneuve’s 1997 world title the highlight success that the likes of Stroll and Latifi are looking to emulate.

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