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The 1981 Canadian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 27 September, 1981, at Montreal. Jacques Laffite won the race driving for Ligier. It would prove to be Ligier's last race win for fifteen years, until the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix. Williams clinched the 1981 Constructors' Championship with one race left, as the two points scored by the Brabham team were not sufficient to allow them to catch Williams in the final race. This was also the last time the Canadian Grand Prix was held at the near-end of the season.


BackgroundEdit

The big news heading into Canada was that reigning world champion Alan Jones had announced his retirement from Formula One at the end of the season. Jones like many of the older pre-ground effect era of drivers had developed a dislike of the new ground effect style Formula One car. There was also rumours that 1978 world champion Mario Andretti who had been having a torrid 1981 for Alfa Romeo would be retiring for similar reasons. Jones on the other hand still had a chance of claiming a second championship before his retirement. He sat fourth in the standings, equal on points with Renault's Alain Prost who had been dominating much of the second half of the year. Jacques Laffite also had an outside chance in the championship, three points behind Prost and Jones. The two main contenders were Carlos Reutemann and Nelson Piquet. Reutemann had led the championship for most of the season and currently had a lead of three points over main rival Nelson Piquet.

Whilst two champions in Jones and Andretti were set for their final races, another former champion was rumoured in returning. After much speculation of a relationship between Niki Lauda and McLaren, Lauda had been spotted testing with McLaren at the Donington circuit.

The Montreal circuit was home turf of the feisty Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve. Villeneuve's success in Formula One during recent years had boosted Formula One's popularity in Canada significantly. For 1981, there notably would be not just one but two Villeneuve's competing in Montreal. Arrows driver Siegfried Stohr had been significantly effected after hitting his chief mechanic Dave Luckett back in Belgium. The already mentally effected Stohr suffered a huge accident during qualifying at Monza. Realising he no longer was psychologically fit for Formula One, Stohr announced his retirement with immediate effect after Italy. For the North American races, Arrows signed Gilles Villeneuve's brother Jacques Villeneuve, Sr.. The younger Villeneuve had also appeared impressive, having won the 1980 and 1981 Formula Atlantic championships.

Practice OverviewEdit

QualifyingEdit

In qualifying, Nelson Piquet crucially took pole position ahead of his Williams championship rivals, Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones. Alain Prost could only manage fourth on the grid, the Renault's seemingly less competitive on the slower circuits. Nigel Mansell put in an excellent performance for Lotus to go fifth fastest ahead of Héctor Rebaque and teammate Elio de Angelis. René Arnoux was eighth with John Watson and Jacques Laffite, a poor qualifying for the final championship contenders.

Gilles Villeneuve could only manage eleventh at his home race, with Ferrari teammate Didier Pironi directly behind him. Gilles' brother Jacques failed to even qualify alongside the two Fittipaldi cars of Keke Rosberg and Chico Serra, the two Toleman car of Brian Henton and Derek Warwick and Beppe Gabbiani's Osella.

Qualifying ResultsEdit

Pos. No. Driver Constructor
5 Brazil Nelson Piquet United Kingdom Brabham-Ford
2 2 Argentina Carlos Reutemann United Kingdom Williams-Ford
3 1 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford
4 15 France Alain Prost France Renault
5 12 United Kingdom Nigel Mansell United Kingdom Lotus-Ford
6 6 Mexico Héctor Rebaque United Kingdom Brabham-Ford
7 11 Italy Elio de Angelis United Kingdom Lotus-Ford
8 16 France René Arnoux France Renault
9 7 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom McLaren-Ford
10 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra
11 27 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari
12 28 France Didier Pironi Italy Ferrari
13 8 Italy Andrea de Cesaris United Kingdom McLaren-Ford
14 3 United States Eddie Cheever United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford
15 23 Italy Bruno Giacomelli Italy Alfa Romeo
16 22 United States Mario Andretti Italy Alfa Romeo
17 25 France Patrick Tambay France Ligier-Matra
18 29 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows-Ford
19 33 Switzerland Marc Surer United Kingdom Theodore-Ford
20 17 Ireland Derek Daly United Kingdom March-Ford
21 9 Sweden Slim Borgudd Germany ATS-Ford
22 4 Italy Michele Alboreto United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford
23 32 France Jean-Pierre Jarier Italy Osella-Ford
24 14 Chile Eliseo Salazar United Kingdom Ensign-Ford
DNQ 20 Finland Keke Rosberg Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford
DNQ 21 Brazil Chico Serra Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford
DNQ 35 United Kingdom Brian Henton United Kingdom Toleman-Hart
DNQ 30 Canada Jacques Villeneuve, Sr. United Kingdom Arrows-Ford
DNQ 36 United Kingdom Derek Warwick United Kingdom Toleman-Hart
DNQ 31 Italy Beppe Gabbiani Italy Osella-Ford

GridEdit

RaceEdit

ReportEdit

Due to torrential rain, the race start was delayed by 90 minutes. In the mean time, FOCA President Bernie Ecclestone frantically rewrote the insurance waivers for the organisers.

When the race finally got underway it was the two Williams cars that made the best start, Alan Jones forced his way down the inside of teammate Carlos Reutemann, banging wheels as Jones took the lead. Reutemann running wide dropped behind Piquet, Prost and De Angelis.

Home talent Gilles Villeneuve was climbing up the field, however in the first lap he tapped Rene Arnoux's Renault into the path of teammate Didier Pironi. Pironi and Arnoux collided, Arnoux was out of the race whilst Pironi sustained damage to his car.

The conditions continued to deteriorate, Riccardo Patrese and Patrick Tambay spun off on lap six whilst a lap later Eliseo Salazar went off. However most significantly on lap eight, race leader Alan Jones spun off the circuit. Jones was able to get going again however Alain Prost took the lead, getting by Piquet who had to take avoiding action to avoid Jones. Behind Prost came Jacques Laffite and Gilles Villeneuve. Laffite was flying in the wet conditions and by lap 13 he had overtaken both Piquet and Prost to take the lead of the race.

John Watson was also climbing the field overtaking the recovering Piquet and Jones. Lap 24 saw first the retirement of Pironi but more significantly Alan Jones who pulled in with handling issues. Jones's retirement ended his slim hopes of retaining his world championship.

Following this Villeneuve also moved ahead of Prost, however the fastest car on track was Watson's McLaren who quickly disposed of both Prost and Villeneuve. Things became much harder for Villeneuve in the final laps, whilst lapping Mario Andretti's Alfa Romeo, Villeneuve clipped the back of Andretti's car, flipping his front wing vertically obscuring his vision. Villeneuve guiding his car based on his peripheral vision and knowledge of the circuit, drove around expecting to be black flagged due to the danger of his car on circuit. Eventually the front wing came off and Villeneuve was able to trundle around the track to take a distant third behind Laffite and Watson. Bruno Giacomelli put in a strong performance for Alfa Romeo to take fourth place. Piquet finished in fifth place, now only one point behind Reutemann in the championship going into the final race. Elio de Angelis took the final point in sixth place.

Reutemann still led the championship, however he struggled to perform in Canada, finishing a distant tenth. Now only one point ahead of Piquet in the championship, Jacques Laffite was now only six points as well also having an outside chance in the championship.

ResultsEdit

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 63 2:01:25.20 10 9
2 7 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom McLaren-Ford 63 +6.23 9 6
3 27 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari 63 +1:50.27 11 4
4 23 Italy Bruno Giacomelli Italy Alfa Romeo 62 +1 lap 15 3
5 5 Brazil Nelson Piquet United Kingdom Brabham-Ford 62 +1 lap 1 2
6 11 Italy Elio de Angelis United Kingdom Lotus-Ford 62 +1 lap 7 1
7 22 United States Mario Andretti Italy Alfa Romeo 62 +1 lap 16
8 17 Ireland Derek Daly United Kingdom March-Ford 61 +2 laps 20
9 33 Switzerland Marc Surer United Kingdom Theodore-Ford 61 +2 laps 19
10 2 Argentina Carlos Reutemann United Kingdom Williams-Ford 60 +3 laps 2
11 4 Italy Michele Alboreto United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford 59 +4 laps 22
12 3 United States Eddie Cheever United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford 56 Engine 14
Ret 8 Italy Andrea de Cesaris United Kingdom McLaren-Ford 51 Spin 13
Ret 15 France Alain Prost France Renault 48 Accident 4
Ret 12 United Kingdom Nigel Mansell United Kingdom Lotus-Ford 45 Accident 5
Ret 9 Sweden Slim Borgudd Germany ATS-Ford 39 Spin 21
Ret 6 Mexico Héctor Rebaque United Kingdom Brabham-Ford 35 Spin 6
Ret 32 France Jean-Pierre Jarier Italy Osella-Ford 26 Accident 23
Ret 28 France Didier Pironi Italy Ferrari 24 Engine 12
Ret 1 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford 24 Handling 3
Ret 14 Chile Eliseo Salazar United Kingdom Ensign-Ford 8 Spin 24
Ret 25 France Patrick Tambay France Ligier-Matra 6 Spin 17
Ret 29 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows-Ford 6 Spin 18
Ret 16 France René Arnoux France Renault 0 Accident 8
DNQ 20 Finland Keke Rosberg Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford
DNQ 21 Brazil Chico Serra Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford
DNQ 35 United Kingdom Brian Henton United Kingdom Toleman-Hart
DNQ 30 Canada Jacques Villeneuve, Sr. United Kingdom Arrows-Ford
DNQ 36 United Kingdom Derek Warwick United Kingdom Toleman-Hart
DNQ 31 Italy Beppe Gabbiani Italy Osella-Ford

MilestonesEdit

Standings after raceEdit

Canada Canadian Grand Prix
Circuits Mosport Park (1967, 1969, 1971–1974, 1976–1977), Mont-Tremblant (1968, 1970), Montreal (1978–1986, 1988–2008, 2010–present)
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