The 1988 Canadian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 12 June 1988 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal. The race, contested over 69 laps, was the fifth race of the 1988 Formula One season and was won by Ayrton Senna, driving a McLaren-Honda, with team-mate Alain Prost second and Thierry Boutsen third in a Benetton-Ford.
The Canadian Grand Prix returned to the Formula One calendar after a year's absence. In the meantime, major changes had been made to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve: the start-finish line, pit lane and facilities had been moved from the top end of the track to the bottom end, necessitating the removal of two turns, while other turns had been re-profiled slightly.
The McLarens once again dominated qualifying, with Ayrton Senna taking his fifth consecutive pole position by just under 0.2 seconds from Alain Prost. The Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto filled the second row, while the Benetton of Alessandro Nannini was the fastest of the naturally-aspirated cars in fifth, just under 2.3 seconds behind Senna. Nelson Piquet was sixth in his Lotus, followed by Thierry Boutsen in the second Benetton, Eddie Cheever in the Arrows and Nigel Mansell in the Williams, while Philippe Streiff put in a strong performance to take tenth, which would turn out to be the best-ever grid position for the AGS team. Also achieving its best-ever grid placing was EuroBrun, as Stefano Modena took 15th.
The Saturday session saw Derek Warwick suffer a big accident in his Arrows. Entering the chicane into the new start-finish straight, Warwick slid on dirt kicked up moments before by Streiff's AGS. The Arrows spun onto the inside kerb, then bounced several times before hitting what is now known as the "Wall of Champions" at unabated speed. Warwick was briefly knocked unconscious and hurt his back, but nonetheless took up his 16th position on the grid.
At this, another circuit notoriously heavy on fuel for the turbos, Honda engineers decided to set the pop-off valve at 2.3 Bar for the race to lessen the possibility of running out of fuel. While this gave both McLaren and Lotus approximately 40 bhp (30 kW; 41 PS) less than they could use in qualifying, it was expected that the power of the Honda would enable McLaren to once again run comfortably in front of their rivals. Despite this, the leading atmo team Benetton were reasonably confident about the race and the B188s of Nannini and Boutsen allegedly went to the grid with 215 litres of fuel on board. The theory being that the while initially slower due to the weight, when the fuel load lightened the atmo cars could continue pushing while the turbo cars would be getting slower in order to finish before running dry.
Prost led from the start, away from Senna, the Ferraris and the Benettons, although after ten laps Gerhard Berger began having issues with the fuel system of his Ferrari. On lap 19 while coming up to traffic, Senna managed to pass his team mate at the L'Epingle hairpin to take a lead he would not lose. Alessandro Nannini retired from fourth position just past the pits with electrical problems on lap 15 while Berger retired with engine problems at the same place on lap 23. Meanwhile, Nigel Mansell relished passing his old team mate Nelson Piquet in the Honda turbo powered Lotus, although this would only last six laps before his engine failed leaving the Briton with his sixth DNF out of six races. The same happened five laps later to his team mate Riccardo Patrese.
On lap 34, Michele Alboreto retired, his Ferrari experiencing a similar engine problem as Berger allowing Thierry Boutsen to take the third place, which he maintained until the finish of the race, though he made no impression on the leading McLarens. With many of the front runners out, minor teams had a clear chance of scoring points. By the middle of the race Philippe Streiff brought his AGS up to the fifth place, ahead of Andrea de Cesaris' Rial in sixth. Their luck didn't last though: Streiff retired after rear suspension failure caused a spin on lap 41, while de Cesaris, with a car that was widely known to have too small a fuel tank, ran out of fuel with 3 laps to go. This allowed Ivan Capelli to put in the most surprising performance of the day, taking his March-Judd to the fifth place.
Ayrton Senna won, 5.9 seconds ahead of Prost with Boutsen 45.5 seconds behind Prost in third. Piquet was fourth in the Lotus, albeit a lap down on Senna, with Capelli finishing fifth in the March. The final point surprisingly went to Jonathan Palmer in the troublesome Tyrrell 017. The injured Derek Warwick put in the drive of the race in his Arrows-Megatron to finish just outside the points in seventh after a half-race long duel with team mate Eddie Cheever that ended when Cheever retired with a broken throttle cable on lap 31. Warwick also had to endure the turbo pop-off valve cutting in early leaving him with less than desirable power from his turbo engine and an increasingly sore back from his accident the previous day.
Senna set the circuit lap record with a 1:24.973 on lap 53 of the 69 lap race. This compared to Nelson Piquet's previous lap record set in 1986 of 1:25.443 set in a Williams-Honda when the turbo cars had approximately 400 bhp (298 kW; 406 PS) more than 1988. However, the changes to the circuit between the 1986 and 1988 races had eliminated what were the turn 5 and 6 curves which were replaced by making the new pit straight longer, leaving only a left hand turn leading into the now turn 2 Epingle de L'ile hairpin.
Boutsen's third place was the first time since the 1983 Dutch Grand Prix that a naturally aspirated powered car legally finished on a Formula One podium.Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.