The pre-race shenanigans on a Formula 1 Sunday are typically quite samey, with the drivers’ parade, Pirelli Hot Laps and perhaps some support running all taking place.

But on Sunday in Montreal, there was an extra-special event taking place as 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve got the chance to drive the race-winning Ferrari 312 T3 from the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix, then piloted by his father, Gilles.

Seeing the square, simplistic, yet elegant Ferrari in the hands of a Villeneuve in Montreal brought memories flooding back for many, with Jacques himself admitting he found it somewhat emotional after the race as he celebrated 40 years since his father’s maiden grand prix victory.

Canadian GP - Driver Ratings Part 1

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Montreal has always been a big race for Ferrari, such is the lasting significance of Gilles Villeneuve to the F1 scene in Canada. So for Sebastian Vettel to deliver the beat-down he did on Sunday and record Ferrari’s first win at the circuit bearing the ‘78 winner’s name was particularly poignant.

Vettel never really looked like losing in Canada on Sunday after holding his lead on the short run down to the first corner. With second-placed Valtteri Bottas having to focus on the fast-starting Max Verstappen, going wheel-to-wheel through the first two corners, the Ferrari driver was able to quickly scamper up the road and open a gap. He perfected his restart following the Safety Car for the crash between Brendon Hartley and Lance Stroll, and from there controlled things at the front with aplomb. The victory was never in doubt.

Gilles Villeneuve’s own win - Ferrari’s first in Canada - in 1978 wasn’t quite taken with the same level of comfort, with the Canadian instead spending much of the race running in third place behind Jean-Paul Jarier and Wolf driver Jody Scheckter. Villeneuve managed to get the jump on Scheckter before inheriting the lead when Jarier was forced to retire from the race with an oil leak, seeing out the final 21 laps before crossing the line with an advantage of 13 seconds.

“It would have been so easy for the young French-Canadian driver to get over-excited in such a situation and perhaps throw the whole thing away by clipping a wheel against one of the many guard-rails that line the circuit,” the late Alan Henry wrote for Motorsport Magazine in review of the race.

“But, as he proved at Long Beach and Monza, Villeneuve is a very cool customer indeed and doesn't easily become flustered. He held himself carefully in check for the remainder of the race and came home to take the chequered flag, a delighted and satisfied winner of his home Grand Prix.”

Canadian GP - Driver Ratings Part 2

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“A very cool customer…” “Doesn’t become easily flustered…” - one could easily apply such a description to Sebastian Vettel when reviewing today’s race. At no point at all did he get overzealous; he did what he had to do, putting in the laps and maintaining the gap to Bottas behind.

“It was under control,” Vettel explained after the race. “I managed the gap to Valtteri. During the first stint I tried to build up a little bit of a cushion. I had one lock up when I lost of a bit of time, but after that I think it was fairly well managed. It wasn’t easy with the traffic and so on, but in the end, I was just praying that we don’t run into a problem which can always happen. So I tried to save the car a little bit, just stay away from the kerbs, and just bring it home.”

Vettel’s clinical nature when up front was a hallmark for much of his dominant years with Red Bull, and has been present throughout his time at Ferrari. When opportunities have arisen (such as in Australia this year), or he has been required to dig deep (take Bahrain), he has delivered. Sure, there are moments when things can boil over and he can get a little overzealous, like in Baku, but for the best part, he is one of the coolest customers out there.

Vettel’s celebrations after the race had something of an added edge, though. It wasn’t celebrated like a normal win. This was a victory that had catapulted him back into the lead of the drivers’ championship, just two races after staring down a 17-point barrel to Lewis Hamilton. It was also a win that came at a circuit Hamilton has made his own through the years, winning each of the three prior editions and taking a total of six victories in Canada.

But for Vettel, he was adding his chapter to Ferrari’s story in Canada, which had all started with Gilles Villeneuve.

“I said yesterday how much this place means to Ferrari. I think we saw it from the moment we touched down and came here,” Vettel said.

“To have a race like we had today is unbelievable. 50 wins for me, but I think after a long time, a long stretch that Ferrari didn’t win here, I saw the people around and they were super happy. I’m sure they had a blast and they will have a blast tonight.

“It’s the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, we had Jacques driving his father’s car early, so it was very emotional. To have a Ferrari win today and me driving it makes me very proud, and I’m honoured. It’s a day to remember the great Gilles Villeneuve.”

As for the wider race itself? Much like Monaco, it was a tepid affair with little in the way of on-track action or passing moves. The top three finished where they started, with Daniel Ricciardo making up one place off the line and one in the pit stops to take fourth. Given the recent rhetoric about the predictable, unexciting nature of F1 from time to time, this will do little to silence the naysayers.

“Racing’s like this,” Vettel said. “It’s not justified to criticise the racing or criticise the race. I don’t know if it was boring. From my point of view, you’re still busy inside the car. I don’t know why people today are so short-sighted. We’ve had seven races this year, I think some were phenomenal, some were boring.

“Next week the World Cup is starting, and I promise you that a lot of the games won’t be exciting, but still people will watch it. Some games will probably be incredible. That’s what we always look forward to, but it can’t just always continue to go up and get better.

“I think we do our job inside the car, and if we can race, we race. But obviously we also do our job inside the car to try and avoid racing, disappear or stay in front and not get overtaken. And some races are just exciting and others are not.”

The remedy is hard to find. F1 is hoping it can make steps towards fixing things next year with the aerodynamic tweaks, with a more far-reaching solution planned for 2021. Pirelli’s tyres once again were too hard despite the Hypersoft’s usage, with a one-stop race being possible for all, reducing the number of strategy options. Let’s hope we see a little more variety next time out at Paul Ricard.

But while we won’t be talking about this race for years to come for its on-track spectacle, it should not detract from the display Vettel delivered at the head of the field, nor its significance. Vettel has long bought in to the mystic aura of Ferrari in F1, following in the footsteps of Michael Schumacher as he looks to return it to the top of the sport. But on Sunday, it was a different Ferrari icon whose footsteps he followed in.

Forty years on, the spirit of Gilles Villeneuve and Ferrari is still very alive in Formula 1.



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