Ever since he joined Scuderia Ferrari back in 1991, bad fortune, unlucky events and car unreliability had conspired to prevent Jean Alesi from managing to score a single Formula 1 win, altgough the French driver was universally acknowledged as one of the finest natural talents of his generation.
After a long wait, things finally fell into place at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix, which took place on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, in Montreal and was the sixth race of the 1995 Formula One season. Jean Alesi survived a chaotic race on his way to his first and, as it eventually turned out, only victory in more than 200 Formula 1 Grands Prix. To complete the celebration, it occurred on his 31st birthday, June 11, 1995, and at the same time was the last win for the Ferrari V12 engine and the iconic No. 27, which made famous by the Canadian racing driver Gilles Villeneuve.
Michael Schumacher for Benetton-Renault took pole position on Saturday, followed by the two Williams-Renault drivers, Damon Hill and David Coulthard. Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi, the two Ferrari drivers, finished fourth and fifth. On race day, the weather conditions were constantly changing, which led to an unpredictable race: drivers such as Mika Hakkinen, Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard or Damon Hill were incolved in incidents or made mistakes that forced them two retire. On lap 35, Gerhard Berger suddenly slowed. He was coasting down to pit lane and at first it looked like a mechanical failure, but then suddenly it became obvious – he had run out of fuel. Berger did eventually manage to get his car back to the pit but he had lost a lot of time and Ferrari’s hopes were now focused entirely on Jean Alesi.
Michael Schumacher led most of the Grand Prix however an electrical problem with his Benetton-Renault towards the end of lap 57 forced him into the pit, which gave Jean Alesi the lead, much to the delight of the numerous Ferrari fans from the stands. The French driver led for the last eleven laps, as the masses of Ferrari banners in the stands waved jubilantly. When he crossed the finish line, hundreds of fans invaded the track even before the other competitors had finished the race. On the back straight Alesi bought his car to a stop and stood up in the car to acknowledge the fans. His engine stalled and he was picked up by Michael Schumacher who gave him a ride back to pit lane.
It would be Ferrari’s 105th win, making them the most successful F1 team ever as they had been tied with McLaren at 104 wins each prior to this race. It was Ferrari’s first win since Germany the year before and Jean Alesi’s first win in Formula One. He stood on the podium in front of the main straight that was packed with his elated fans. French, Italian and Ferrari flags were everywhere and it looked like every Italian living in Montreal had come out to the track to see Alesi win. The crowd went wild as he was presented with the best birthday present in the world – the trophy for winning the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix.