The stamps, which will be sold in booklets of 10 and a souvenir sheet of five, depict Canadian hero Gilles Villeneuve, along with Sir Jackie Stewart and Lewis Hamilton, of Great Britain, Brazil’s Ayrton Senna, and Germany’s Michael Schumacher. Three of the drivers are still living.
The stamps were formally unveiled May 15 in a ceremony in Montreal, home to Grand Prix racing in Canada, and will be officially released today, Tuesday, May 16. This year’s race is June 11. Here is the video of the unveiling event:
In addition to the driver’s profile, each stamp features a small checkered flag (indicative of the winning driver in a race), the driver’s native flag, an outline of a race car, the Formula One symbol and the year dates 1967–2017.
The popular Villeneuve won the Canadian Grand Prix in 1978 and had six wins total, but is honored just as much for being a native racing legend, though he was active only for six years. Villeneuve died at age 32 on May 8, 1982 in the final qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix when he hit a slower car from behind at a speed of about 140 mph. Driver Jody Scheckter delivered a simple eulogy,, in part: “I will miss Gilles for two reasons. First, he was the most genuine man I have ever known. Second, he was the fastest driver in the history of motor racing. …” The Montreal race track, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, is named in his honor. Canada Post in 1997 issued a pair of Villeneuve stamps. That same year, Villeneuve’s son, Jacques, became the only Canadian to win the world championship.
Schumacher, a seven-time Formula One champion also won the Canadian race a record seven times. He was active in 1991 through 2006 (when he temporarily retired) and 2010 through 2012. Schumacher sustained a serious head injury in December 2012 from a skiing accident. He was in a coma six months and continues to receive medical care at his residence.
Stewart, 77, is Scottish and won consecutive Canadian Grand Prix races in 1971 and 1972. He was active from 1965 to 1973, grabbing 27 victories in all, and winning the Formula One championship in 1969, 1971, and 1973. His familiar to millions of sports fans having served as a television sportscaster for many years. Stewart was knighted in 2001 and in 1973 was Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year. Following the death of John Surtees on March 10, Stewart became the oldest surviving Formula One World Champion.
Three-time world champion Hamilton has won the Canadian race five times, is the current defending champion and is considered one of the best racers in history. His 2017 team is Mercedes. As testament to his talents, he is the first driver in the history of Formula One to have made the podium after starting 20th place or lower at least 3 times and is the only driver in the history of the sport to have won at least one race in each season he has competed to date.
Senna won the Canadian race in 1988 and 1990 and won the world title in both those years and in 1991. He ranks No. 5 on the list for all-time wins. Senna died at the age of 34 in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. He was leading the race on lap 7 when his car collided with a wall at 145 mph.
The first Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, a 90-lap race, was held in 1967 at Mosport Park in Ontario. Australian Jack Brabham, driving for his own Brabham team, beat out 16 other cars – including Stewart, Dan Gurney, and Graham Hill – to take the checkered flag over countryman Denny Hulme. Two Canadians did not fare well. Eppie Wietzes was disqualified after 69 laps; Al Pease only finished 47 laps. Brabham won three more times in Canada.
The Formula One Grand Prix du Canada website offered the following details about the race, moved permanently to Montreal in 1978:
In 1977, French Canadians, motivated by the incredible success of Gilles Villeneuve, decided it was about time they built a race track. …Their solution was simple and effective. Taking the Ile Notre-Dame, they connected all the island’s roads and made a circuit. The island had been the home of the … Expo 67 and was full of futuristic looking buildings. It was, everyone agreed, a perfect venue for a Grand Prix.
After $2 million was spent on upgrading the circuit to Formula One standards, the first race was held there in October 1978. Gilles Villeneuve, in his first season with Ferrari, was yet to win a Formula One race, but at his home Grand Prix he took a memorable debut victory. Following his tragic death in 1982, the track was renamed in his honor. His son, Jacques, never won at the track but some of the great drivers of the sport have taken the spoils here.