1979 Canadian Grand Prix

Montreal, September 30th

Last year the Canadians organised a re-vitalised Grand Prix on a temporary circuit around the roads on an island in the St Lawrence river where it passes through Montreal. The fact that the home-town boy Gilles Villeneuve won it for Ferrari was eminently satisfactory for all concerned, but two features seemed to mar the event, one being the tightness of some of the ess-bends and the other the freezing cold weather. For this year the organisers rebuilt two of the worst ess-bends, making them faster and more interesting, but they could not guarantee to do anything about the freezing cold. However, the weatherman obviously approved of the track alterations for he rebuilt the weather pattern completely, and though mornings were grey and gloomy, afternoons were bathed in beautiful sunshine and at times it was positively warm.

More than the usual number of teams and cars turned up, which immediately posed problems, for the circuit was licensed for twenty-eight cars for practice with twenty-four for the race. In addition to all the regular entries Alfa Romeo arrived with two cars, and Tyrrell and Fittipaldi both entered an extra car, the “wood-yard” cars numbering three, and the Brazilian team entering two. This made a total of thirty so an half-hour of pre-practice qualifying was arranged for Daly (Tyrrell), Ribeiro (Fittipaldi) and Giacomelli and Brambilla with the Alfa Romeos. Not unnaturally the factory Alfa Romeo team were a bit incensed at being bracketed with a couple of drivers from two “no-hoper” teams who seemed quite unjustified at entering an extra car. If Williams, Renault or Ferrari had decided to enter an extra car it would have made sense, but neither Tyrrell nor Fittipaldi have exactly been pace-makers this season, and to penalise the works Alfa Romeos with these two entries made little sense. Alfa Romeo made it clear that they had no intention of suffering the indignity of pre-qualifying with a couple of “rabbits”, whereupon the organisers cancelled the pre-qualifying half-hour with little or no warning and stated that the Tyrrell and the Fittipaldi cars could take part in the official practice and the two Alfa Romeos were barred from practice; and thus it was on Friday, with the two red cars from Milan sitting in the pit road but prevented from running, while the two “no-hopers” took part. Not unnaturally there was a lot of table-thumping and FOCA and FISA meetings, and one point that came out loud and clear was that Ferrari and Renault were strongly on the side of Alfa Romeo. A compromise was made and one Alfa Romeo was permitted to take part in the second day of practice, the decision as to which one being left to the Alfa Romeo team. By mutual agreement they decided it would be Brambilla and that Giacomelli would stand down, but the whole affair was a classic example of mismanagement and bungling on the part of all concerned, and shows a sorry state of affairs in the mentality of those responsible for the running of Formula One when two small private teams, neither of whom win races, are allowed to foul up the efforts of a major manufacturer.

Race Results


Circuit - Montreal




Montreal, Quebec


Temporary road course


2.74 (Miles)


Nelson Piquet (Williams FW11-Honda), 1m25.443, 115.446 mph, F1, 1986