The 4 Best Canadian F1 Drivers: Gilles & Jacques Villeneuve…

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Canadian F1 drivers Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve

Canada doesn’t have a lengthy roster of Formula 1 drivers, with only 13 having ever started a Grand Prix. 

Most of the country’s F1 achievements are credited to Gilles Villeneuve and his son Jacques, both of whom are considered to be some of the best Formula One drivers in history.

In this article I’ll look at the 4 best Canadian F1 racers. Along with the Villeneuves from a few decades ago there’s two other drivers who are much more recent.

Canadian F1 driver stats:

Canadian F1 drivers
Number of F1 drivers 13
World championship titles 1
Grand Prix competed in 402
Race wins 17
Podiums 39
Pole positions 16
Fastest laps 17
Drivers on current F1 grid 1

The 4 best F1 drivers from Canada

As shown in the table above, a total of 13 Canadian drivers have collectively competed in 408 Grands Prix, taking 17 wins, 39 podiums and 16 pole positions.

Of those drivers, only one has ever won the F1 World Championship; Jacques Villeneuve.

But Jacques wasn’t the first member of the Villeneuve family to compete in the sport. His father Gilles raced a few decades before him, and became one of the greatest drivers the sport has ever seen.

Together the Villeneuve family are responsible for all of Canada’s 17 victories. 

Here’s a look at the country’s four best drivers in a little more detail. 

4 - Nicolas Latifi

  • Previous teams: Williams
  • First season: 2020
  • Last season: 2022
  • World championships: 0
  • Wins: 0
  • Podiums: 0
  • Pole positions: 0
  • Number of GP starts: 61  
  • DOB: June 29, 1995
  • Hometown: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

As a young racer, Nicolas Latifi showed some promise. Before joining F1 his best result in any of the junior motorsport series he competed in was finishing 2nd overall in the 2019 FIA F2 championship.

Latifi made his debut in F1 the following year at the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix, but unfortunately he had a pretty challenging time in Formula One. 

He competed with Williams for three seasons, during which he only scored nine championship points. He participated in 61 Grands Prix before temporarily withdrawing from racing to focus on his studies

Most F1 fans will remember him for the role he played in deciding the hugely controversial 2021 championship. He crashed out of he Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with only a few laps to go, bringing out the safety car which eventually turned the championship result on its head.

For that, and for a few year’s worth of fairly lacklustre performances, he coined the ironic nickname ‘GOATifi’.

He may be far from the greatest of all time, but he is one of only 4 drivers from Canada to ever score points. That’s why he’s on this list.

3 - Lance Stroll

  • Previous teams: Williams, Racing Point (now Aston Martin)
  • Current team: Aston Martin
  • First season: 2017
  • Last season: Ongoing  
  • World championships: 0
  • Wins: 0
  • Podiums: 3
  • Pole positions: 1
  • Number of GP starts: 143 
  • DOB: October 29, 1998
  • Hometown: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Lance Stroll, officially named Lance Strulovitch, had a very successful run up the motorsport ladder before entering F1. 

He absolutely dominated the 2016 FIA Formula 3 championship, taking 14 wins and 6 further podiums from 30 races. He stormed to the title in commanding fashion beating other future F1 drivers like George Russell and Guanyu Zhou in the process.

His dominance in 2016 put his name firmly on the map as one of the hottest young talents. And next season he joined the Williams F1 team at only 18 years old. 

He had a good first season, taking his first podium finish at Azerbaijan despite his Williams being fairly un-competitive. In 2020 he moved to the BWT Racing Point team and managed two more podium finishes, but both the car and Stroll’s performances were still lacking.

In a bid to get him a seat in faster machinery, his father, billionaire Lawrence Stroll, bought a controlling stake in Aston Martin which resulted in Lance driving for their F1 team. F1 analyst Peter Windsor labeled him as “the greatest pay driver of all time.” 

In 2023 he had a new teammate in the shape of the legendary Fernando Alonso and a racecar that was finally back on the pace.

But he lacked consistency and seemed to struggle under the pressure of the F1 spotlight. He’s yet to show the same kind of form he displayed when he won the F3 title in 2016. Maybe there’s more to come for Lance yet.

2 - Gilles Villeneuve

  • Previous teams: McLaren, Ferrari
  • First season: 1977
  • Last season: 1982
  • World championships: 0  
  • Wins: 6
  • Podiums: 13
  • Pole positions: 2
  • Number of GP starts: 67
  • DOB (Date of Birth): January 18, 1950
  • Hometown: Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Gilles Villeneuve was one of the greatest drivers not only of his period but of all time. His aggressive and ruthless driving style, coupled with a fearless approach on the track, has solidified the Canadian’s legacy as one of the best F1 drivers in the sport’s history. 

After a one-off race for McLaren, he joined Ferrari in 1977 and would stay with the Scuderia team for his whole career in F1. He scored his first win in 1978, fittingly in front of his home crowd in Montreal at the Canadian Grand Prix circuit which was later named after him. 

Salut Gilles

Image licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

1979 saw Gilles play the leading role in one of the best laps of F1 racing ever. At the French Grand Prix at Dijon he battled with home-hero Rene Arnoux (in a Renault) for second place. 

On the final lap they banged wheels multiple times and despite the crowd being against him, Gilles’ never-give-in attitude meant he just finished ahead. Check out the videos on YouTube to see the drama for yourself.

1982 was the closest he came to winning the world Championship. He finished 2nd, just 4 points behind teammate Jody Scheckter but 7 points ahead of Alan Jones, the rapid Australian Formula 1 driver in 3rd place.

He participated in 67 Grands Prix, securing 6 victories and two pole positions. But those figures don’t do his ability justice, as his career was tragically cut short. 

On May 8, 1982, during the qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix at the Zolder circuit his Ferrari collided with Jochen Mass, sending his car airborne and into the catch fencing. He later succumbed to his injuries

Canadian F1 driver Gilles Villeneuve at Monaco

Gilles is only at #2 on this list because of the statistics; he simply didn’t win as many races as his son Jacques who’s at #1.

But he was undoubtedly one of the best drivers ever (some will say the best ever) and it’s only because he was tragically killed that he didn’t get a chance to win more races or titles.

1 - Jacques Villeneuve

  • Previous teams: Williams, BAR, Renault, Sauber
  • First season: 1996
  • Last season: 2006
  • World championships: 1 (1997)
  • Wins: 11
  • Podiums: 23
  • Pole positions: 13
  • Number of GP starts: 165
  • DOB: April 9, 1971
  • Hometown: Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

Gilles Villeneuve’s competitive spirit and love for motorsports resonated in his blood, as his son Jacques Villeneuve continued his legacy—and eventually fulfilled the promise that his father had shown.

He became the most successful Canadian F1 driver ever.

Canadian F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve

Image licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Before he joined the Formula 1 grid, Jacques won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 —the first Canadian driver to do so. That year he also became the youngest winner of the NTT IndyCar Series at only 24 years old

He transitioned to Formula 1 in 1996 with the Williams team in a car that was the class of the field. He qualified pole on his debut and eventually finished second in the race behind teammate Damon Hill, who’d prove to be his toughest competitor all year.

Jacques Villeneuve Williams 1996

Image licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Just four races into his F1 career, Villeneuve celebrated his first victory at the the European Grand Prix. His rookie season was outstanding. He took 3 more  wins and 7 additional podiums, but in the end he finished second overall behind his teammate.

1997 was when it all came together for him. He dominated the season with 7 wins and won the championship with almost double the points of the second-place finisher Heinz-Harold Frenzen.

Jacques Villeneuve Silverstone 2003

Image licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The following year saw the Williams become slightly less competitive and Jacques finished 5th overall. He decided to move to BAR, a decision which only made his results worse. Despite further moves to Renault and Sauber he never returned to the sharp end of the grid and called it a day at the end of 2006.

Jacques Villeneuve became one of only four drivers ever to win both the F1 and IndyCar championships (the American driver Mario Andretti being another).

Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport travel guides based on my experience as racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who are planning on watching some racing themselves.

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