Formula One Update - Canadian Grand Prix

On June 11th Jean Alesi finally received the victory he deserved, and he couldn't of done it on a better day. Not only was it the second day of our Las Vegas track event and the day of the Huntington Beach Concours honoring Ferrari, it was also Jean's 31st birthday, he was sporting the number 27 of the late legendary Gilles Villeneuve, and it was his 91st Grand Prix since 1989 when he made his debut.

Qualifying had been dry and largely uneventful as a fairly predictable man came out on pole, Michael Schumacher, taking his 5th pole in 6 races. Damon Hill finally out qualified his "number 2" team mate, Coulthard. The qualifying order was: Schumacher, Hill, Coulthard, Berger, Alesi, Herbert.

After the parade lap the cars roared onto the grid engines revving high, the note of the Ferrari engine clearly distinguishable above all the other comparatively dull sounding engines. Remember back a couple of issues where Sempre Ferrari quoted Berger as saying that Ferrari should be in a position to win by the time of the Canadian Grand Prix? Well, the prediction was about to start unraveling towards its final dramatic conclusion. Gerhard Berger clearly fancied his chances of getting into the lead by the first corner; his car was not facing straight ahead of the grid as all the others were but angled towards his right, towards the gap which existed between Schumacher and Hill.

The red light came on and the cars started revving their engines up, the Ferrari's exhaust note gaining more and more identity as the revs climbed. The green light came on and the field stormed towards the first corner, all jostling for position. Both Hill and Schumacher made good starts but the car's length between them made all the difference as Schumacher got into the first corner first; Coulthard came along side Hill but had learned from Monaco and backed off the throttle too late. Hill keep his place. Herbert stormed ahead of Alesi but Alesi blitzed straight back into 5th place.

By the end of the first lap Schumacher had built up a lead of 2.5 seconds, eclipsing all of the opposition and making it look like the race was another forgone conclusion. The order at the start of lap 2 was: Schumacher, Hill, Coulthard, Berger, Alesi and Barrichello coming up to form the last of the top 6. Half way through the lap, however, Coulthard came out to try and get ahead of Hill. Going off the driving line, he went up onto a damp bump on the track causing his rear end to lock up and him to spin off. The two Ferraris who were following hard behind and had to take evasive action to get past Coulthard safely, Berger having to slow more than Alesi, giving Alesi third place. A close call for Ferrari!

The new order on lap 3 was: Schumacher (who was still building up an insurmountable lead), Hill, Alesi, Berger, Barrichello, Irvine. Although Schumacher was in first place and Hill remained in second place, the fastest car on the track was Alesi's Ferrari. Alesi was lapping 7 tenths of a second faster than Schumacher.

Jean Alesi racing Jean Alesi pilots the Ferrari in the Canadian Grand Prix.

Schumacher continued pulling away from the field and Alesi continued catching Hill, reeling him in at the rate of half a second a lap by lap 5. Alesi kept on gaining on Hill until on lap 17 coming up to a fast right hander Alesi dived onto the inside line and turned in late, forcing Hill to back off on the throttle and eliminate any chance of Hill counter attacking immediately. Berger was trying to follow Alesi on lap 18 but a Martini was deliberately blocking him. After the Martini received a 10 second stop-go penalty for jumping the start from which he had just rejoined. He was promptly given another penalty for blocking Berger.

On lap 26 Berger repeated almost exactly the pass that Alesi had done on Hill, again taking Hill and blocking any chance of counter att