The first Canadian Grand Prix to be held in warmer June weather instead of the fall saw Brabham drivers Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese finish first and second, albeit in entirely different cars. Piquet, driving the current car, gave BMW its first Formula 1 victory as an engine supplier, while Patrese held off McLaren’s John Watson for second place in an older, Ford-engined vehicle. Perhaps most impressive was that Piquet persisted with badly burned feet for 60 of the race’s 70 laps, the result of an oil leak around the bulkhead at the front of the car.
Sadly, the race was not without tragedy, as Osella’s Riccardo Paletti perished in only his second career Formula 1 start. Polesitter Didier Peroni stalled his Ferrari at the start, and while the rest of the field was able to avoid or only suffer a minor impact as a result of the chaos, Paletti slammed into the back of Peroni’s car at 110 miles per hour. Having already suffered severe chest injuries, Peroni’s car then caught fire, and it took nearly half an hour to safely cut him from his car in order to avoid reigniting the spilled fuel. Ironically, the fatality came at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which had been renamed after Villeneuve’s death just five weeks earlier.