Jean Alesi celebrates his 60th birthday: 1995 Canadian GP, ​​his greatest gift

29 years ago, Jean Alesi won the Canadian Grand Prix... on his birthday! A look back at the French driver's only victory in Formula 1.

Published on 11/06/2024 à 15:41

Yannis Duval

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Jean Alesi celebrates his 60th birthday: 1995 Canadian GP, ​​his greatest gift

Canada 1995, Jean Alesi's first and only victory in Formula 1. ©DPPI

He turned 31 that day. On June 11, 1995, Jean Alesi blew out the few candles on his cake, just before boarding his Ferrari 412 T2 to make his 91st start in Formula 1. And what he didn't know was that his 31st birthday was going to change his life.

The Frenchman had qualified the day before, 5th on the grid, just behind his teammate Gerhard Berger. Michael Schumacher As for him, he starts on pole with his Benetton, and victory already seems to be reaching out to him, even before the start. He has been above the rest since the start of the weekend and, barring a tragedy, the top step of the podium is promised to him.

Under the threatening Montreal sky, the lights go out. The start is rather calm, Jean Alesi keeps his 5th position and Michael Schumacher is already flying away. In the first laps of the race, the Ferrari driver managed to overtake his teammate and, at the same time, David Coulthard spun and was forced to retire. In the space of a few hectometers, Alesi went from 5th to 3rd place. On the 17th lap, he took the advantage over the Williams by Damon Hill to take second place.

Schumacher continues his merry way in the lead and is now a little more than 13 seconds ahead of his runner-up of the day. Alesi pits on lap 34, and the leader enters four laps later. He keeps the lead very well and increases his lead as the laps go by. After 56 laps, Michael Schumacher is now 33 seconds ahead of Jean Alesi. With 12 laps remaining, the matter was settled.

Lucky day or birthday present?

The story would have ended if the mechanics of the Benetton No. 1 had not acted up. Although Schumacher had set a pace that no one could compete with, his car will experience a technical problem. The German driver will dive into the pit lane, remain immobilized for more than a minute before emerging in 6th place. Alesi therefore regains the lead, and will not let go until the checkered flag. The driver scored his first victory in F1, on his 31st birthday. At the end of the race, the Ferrari of the new Grand Prix winner will break down. Like a symbol, ultimately... Luck had very rarely smiled on him in his career, but today, June 11, 1995, is his lucky day.

“This happiness is very difficult to express, he explained at the end of the era, after the race. I just achieved what I always wanted to achieve. Win a Grand Prix. You saw me arrive in F1, you saw me have huge hopes and many difficult days. Of course I had dark moments, where I was fed up with a team that completely lacked competitiveness. Three years ago. Tired of being the privileged victim of capricious mechanics. Tired of always having to justify myself. But the restoration of confidence has arrived. Restructuring of the Scuderia, re-motivation of the people, good technical choices… The road ahead was long and winding but here we are.

Unable to return to the pit lane under his own power, Jean Alesi was then picked up by Michael Schumacher. Sitting on the single-seater of the world champion greeting the Montreal crowd, an image which, even today, remains one of the most legendary in the history of F1.

© DPPI

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