Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Catman

Canada 1It seems that those in charge of producing the race calendar for Formula One do not actually own a map of the globe, as the European portion of the season is punctuated by a brief foray across the pond to Canada. We can forgive them though as this is one of the most popular circuits around and often provides a fascinating race.

Last year’s event was the first to see anyone other than the two silver-clad drivers to take the top step. Ricciardo took the win as both Mercedes suffered an almost simultaneous MGU-K faliure, losing horsepower and putting additional strain on the braking systems. Rosberg was able to adapt much better to the situation and limped home second, while Hamilton cooked his rear brakes and retired.


The Canadian Grand Prix has been part of the Formula One World Championship since 1967. The race was first held at Mosport Park in Ontario, a challenging track with elevation changes and fast sweeping turns, which was won by Jack Brabham. The original plan was to alternate annually with the circuit at Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, but neither circuit could become a permanent home for top-flight motorsport as their tight bumpy layouts were considered too dangerous for the increasing speeds of the Formula cars.

The circuit on the Ile Notre-Dame was built in 1978 in response to a series of serious accidents at Mosport Park and the desire to improve the standing of Canada on the world stage. The track was built on a man-made island in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, which was created from rock excavated during construction of the city’s Metro system. The inaugural event was won by legendary Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve driving his Ferrari and the circuit was renamed in his honour after his demise in the Belgian Grand Prix four years later. The circuit has held a race every year since except for 2009 when it was replaced by Abu Dhabi. Formula One was keen to keep a foothold in North America so returned the following season to the delight of the Canadian fans.


(Image Credit: Lotus F1 Media)

The Gilles Villeneuve circuit is a fascinating challenge that combines long straights and high speeds similar to Monza, with tight hairpins and chicanes flanked by concrete walls reminiscent of Monte-Carlo. As such the track demands a low-downforce setup and rewards those with an aerodynamically efficient car supported by a power unit that can deliver the highest peak horsepower. This power must be produced smoothly and predictably to get good traction out of the corners to catapult down the long straights. The circuit is known as being particularly tough on brakes, with plenty of heavy braking zones. Riding the kerbs is key to straight-lining the chicanes here and a compliant suspension setup is crucial to produce a fast lap time.


Canada 3The circuit is famous for the “Wall of Champions” which gained it’s name after the 1999 Grand Prix after Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve all ploughed into it one after the other. The wall, somewhat ironically, was emblazoned with the words “Bienvenue au Quebec”. I’m not sure it was the welcome they truly desired.

Since then other champions have fallen victim to the curse of the wall including Jenson Button (in 2005, four years before winning his title) and Sebastian Vettel. Perhaps not surprisingly, Pastor Maldonado has also crashed here…

The wall itself may soon be under threat. In order to pen the contract extension for the race for the next ten years, the organisers have had to agree to improving the facilities including a larger paddock area. Unless the planners think vertically, the start-finish straight may have to be pushed North, eliminating this spectacular corner.



Canada 4Montreal is without a shadow of a doubt the most demanding test bench for the single-seater braking systems. It is a “stop and go” type circuit characterised by sudden braking sections and acceleration. The braking sections, all hard and very close together, determine an extremely high operating temperature for the discs and pads which do not have time to cool sufficiently in the short straight stretches. These characteristics, combined with a significantly high percentage of time spent on the brakes, determine a very hard mix for the braking systems, also due to the fact that the aerodynamic load (in other words, the resistance to forward progress) is not one of the highest. The scenario can get even worse when there is a tail wind on the two main straight stretches which can significantly increase the straight line speed, putting the brakes to an even more severe test.

A critical point is the chicane before the famous “wall of champions” where control going into the turn is fundamental to avoid hopping the kerb. On this turn an excellent feeling with the brakes can make the difference between a good time and retiring with a crash!

(Figures from Brembo) Units Turn 1 Turn 10 Turn 13
Initial Speed Km/h 308 298 330
Final Speed Km/h 126 59 120
Stopping Distance M 105 141 122
Braking Time Seconds 1.22 1.71 1.29
Maximum Deceleration G 5 4.8 5.6
Maximum Pedal Load Kg 155 148 171
Braking Power Kw 2076 1914 2456

The drivers spend 19% of the lap time on the brakes, with turn 13 (into the final chicane) being the hardest stop as the cars decelerate from over 205 miles per hour. Many would be surprised that the retardation into the hairpin (turn 10) is not greater (only 4.8g) but the entry speed is much lower than the final chicane (276kph compared to 330kph). The braking distance is longer as the hairpin sits on a slight incline and the track surface is slightly less grippy, aiming to promote a last minute Verstappen-esque lunge

Overtaking is likely to be slighty improved this year with higher top speeds producing a greater slipstream effect and creating longer braking zones. The stopping distance into turn 13 this year is 122m, whereas last year the drivers could break 97m before turn in point.


Canada has the same tyre nomination as Monaco – soft and supersoft – but quite a different challenge. The track is a lot more demanding for tyres than Monaco, which should lead to a greater degree of wear and degradation. The biggest forces at work are longitudinal (acceleration and braking) rather than lateral (cornering) – and these are the factors that influence wear and degradation in Canada. The nature of the track also means that there is more opportunity to use tyre strategy to gain track position, with a variety of different strategies in the mix last year. Although the demands on tyres are not especially high, due to a low-grip surface, there are some big kerbs that require a tough tyre structure, and the circuit is also famously hard on brakes. Uncertain weather is often a factor at the semi-permanent track, which adds another element of unpredictability.

Paul Hembery © PirelliPaul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director:Canada often turns out to be one of the best races of the season, with a set of track characteristics that are not replicated anywhere else throughout the year. As a result it often throws up a few surprises and it’s also possible to win from lower down the grid, especially if you use a clever tyre strategy, or if it rains, or if there is a safety car: all of which are very possible in Montreal.

Once again we have nominated the soft and supersoft tyres: the supersoft compound has been completely redesigned this year to provide even greater resistance to graining and blistering. With the cool weather that we often see in Montreal, this resistance to graining in particular is something that should be appreciated by the teams. As anything can happen in Canada, the best strategy is always one that has a certain degree of flexibility, allowing teams to react to changing circumstances. As we saw in Monaco, the strategy stakes can be very high.

The biggest challenges for the tyres: Grip in Canada is generally low: especially at the start of the weekend when the track is ‘green’, because the former Olympic venue is not used extensively during the year. The low grip tends to continue into the race: one of the key reasons why so many drivers have acquainted themselves with the infamous ‘wall of champions’ – leading to incidents that can sometimes prompt a safety car.

The kerbs are an important factor in Canada as the cars hit them at around 130kph, testing the tyre structure. However, during laboratory tests in Milan, Pirelli’s Formula One tyres are accelerated at speeds of up to 450kph to test their integrity in conditions above the usual limit – with the structure remaining intact.

Unlike Monaco, the cars tend to run low downforce in Montreal, in order to maximise their top speed of over 300kph on the straights. There are no really long corners in Canada: instead it is all about acceleration and braking, with the challenge for the brakes in particular having caught some teams out in the past. Drivers must also be careful to avoid wheelspin, which can accelerate tyre wear.

Last year’s strategy and how the race was won: A variety of one and two-stop strategies were seen at the race last year, which was characterised by two safety car periods. Daniel Ricciardo won the race for Red Bull using a two-stop strategy, taking the lead on fresher tyres with two laps to go. The top four all stopped twice, with the highest-placed one-stopper being Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg in fifth, who started on the soft and completed a 41-lap stint before switching to supersoft.

Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.0 – 1.2 seconds per lap.


1989 – Ayrton Senna was set to take victory in an era dominated by the all-conquering Mclaren Honda partnership, but his engine failed and he retired from a comfortable lead. The top honours fell to Thierry Boutsen who claimed his first F1 victory, and the first win for the new Williams Renault partnership that would go on to succeed Mclaren-Honda as the dominant force.

1991 – Nigel Mansell started celebrating what he thought was a well earned victory too soon. He was taking in the atmosphere and waving to the crowd on the last lap as he cruised to victory. As he rounded the hairpin he let the engine speed fall too low and stalled the car. Unable to restart engine as the electrics had failed he couldn’t even roll to the line and was passed by his old rival Nelson Piquet to take a surprise victory. Mansell was eventually classified sixth.

Canada 51995 – Jean Alesi won his one and only Grand Prix of his career on his 31st birthday. The Frenchman was was an especially popular winner with the French-Canadian fans, and he was driving the #27 Ferrari made so famous by their beloved Gilles Villeneuve. He ran out of fuel on the way back to the pits and had to stop, but was given a lift back to the garages by Michael Schumacher. Alesi could barely contain his delight and nearly fell off while gesticulating wildly to the ecstatic crowd.

2007 – Lewis Hamilton led from pole position to take his first victory of his career in his rookie year. Takuma Sato had a fine race in his Super Aguri, overtaking Fernando Alonso’s Mclaren to come home sixth, the best result in the team’s short history. The race will be remembered though for the terrifying accident suffered by Robert Kubica coming into the hairpin.

Canada 6

He hit the back of Trulli’s Toyota, sending him flying into the concrete wall on the inside of the track. The car disintegrated in spectacular fashion and spun across the track to come to rest on it’s side on the outside against the guard rail. Despite being able to see his feet sticking out of the safety cell, he only sustained a sprained ankle and a mild concussion.

2011 – This was to be the longest race in history after rain delayed proceedings for nearly five hours (4h40min). Those who waited patiently in the stands and by their screens were treated to a thrilling contest, with Jenson Button triumphant. After two collisions, including one with his team mate Lewis Hamilton, all looked bleak as he found himself at the back of the pack. Taking advantage of changing conditions by making inspired tyre choices he stormed through the field (twice) and pressured Vettel into a last lap error to take a sensational victory.


Lewis Hamilton will be fuming after his problems at Monaco and will be fired up to take back the initiative this weekend in Canada, a track that has been kind to him. He took his first win here in 2007 and followed up in 2010 and 2012 and few will be betting against him to make it four. No other driver currently on the grid is a multiple winner in Canada.

Ferrari and Mclaren are the most successful teams in Canada, tied with 13 wins each. However, Mclaren Honda look set to struggle on this power-dependent circuit, so don’t expect them to repeat their impressive performance in Monaco by scoring any points.

Red Bull were flattered with 4th and 5th around the streets of Monaco, but their good pace was helped by the difficulty in overtaking allowing them to consolidate their position. High top speeds are not usually the team’s forte – but I said the same last year before Daniel Ricciardo took his first victory of the season, could another surprise be in order?

The nature of the circuit should lend itself to the characteristics of the Williams car and a change in fortunes would be very welcome for the team, especially after a pitiful showing at Monaco. They have to be careful to stop themselves slipping away from Ferrari into the clutches of the chasing pack of the Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Lotus teams.

Expect Max Verstappen to have a good outing once again at Canada, where braking zones are key and his excellent feel on the pedal could pay dividends… or it could end up in another smash. No matter which way it goes he will be sure to provide plenty of entertainment.


As the regular support championships sensibly stay in Europe, the F1 circus is joined by a unique set of regional series unique to the North American continent. The race is usually supported by the Canadian Touring Car Championship, but could not agree terms for this year’s event.

Canada 7

The new for 2015 Nissan Micra Cup, otherwise known as “Canada’s Most Affordable Racing Series”, is bound to provide plenty of action as it heads into the second round. So far Tharanoj Thanasitnitike has a 100% pole position and win record in the series after dominating proceedings at Mont-Tremblant.

Also putting on a show for the crowds will be the Ferrari Challenge, which gives lucky Ferrari owners the chance to experience their vehicles at some of the best circuits in the world, competing against other enthusiasts.

The F1600 championship also joins the schedule this weekend, with Scott Andrews currently leading the standings after an outstanding performance at the previous rounds at Road Atlanta and Watkins Glen.


Year Driver Constructor Location
2014  Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
2013  Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault Report
2012  Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes Report
2011  Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes Report
2010  Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes Report
2009 Not held
2008  Robert Kubica BMW Sauber Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
2007  Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes Report
2006  Fernando Alonso Renault Report
2005  Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes Report
2004  Michael Schumacher Ferrari Report


  1. 5 MEMORABLE MOMENTS – You missed one of the best. I was sitting across from the pits when it happened. Virtually everyone in the stand was howling with laughter at him when he ran into Raikonnen. Not much has changed.

  2. I would say 2008 was a memorable moment as well, given it was both Kubica and BMW Sauber’s first and only win. Even more memorable for Kubica after his crash in 07.

  3. After spa best track of the calender. Losing the wall of champions is the worst news I got today…

    • For me Spa and Suzuka dice it out for best on the calendar, with Canada not far behind.

      Losing the wall of champions for some damn accommodation (because of a clueless FIA and a butcher of a Tilke) would be a travesty…

      • Agreed.. I wonder if they would look at the original start location and use some of the old expo buildings. No need to change the wall of champions! Although they are changing Nico’s Mario Kart shortcut run-off..

  4. Any tips for a first time attendee at Montreal? Finally got it together to go to this race – been wanting to for years. We have grandstand tickets for the exit of the hairpin, but are there any general admission areas we should try out for a session?

    • If you can – walk the circuit on Thursday – you should have pit lane walk included if you are three day ticket holders (or at least circuit access). This will give you an idea of where to go during FP1,2,3 and possibly even qualifying.

      People like different things at a circuit. Some places are much closer to the cars for photographs – others give you a real sensation of speed.

      Walking the circuit – even if only on the access paths is good to do – because it brings to life everything you have ever seen on TV – and more.

      If your ticket is just for Sunday, you will struggle to move around too much during the race. You can always check out other vantage points during the support races, though an early start will then be required.

      • Thanks Judge!

        We don’t fly out until Thursday so will miss that access, but have a 3 day ticket so will try and get around the whole place on the quieter Friday and Saturday. Last race I went to was in Australia in 2003 so it is going to be interesting to see how things have moved on in terms of on-site entertainment for those of us dropping mucho $/£/€ on going to the race!

        Will try and take some notes for a ‘what is it like to be there’ report but we are taking a weeks holiday in the region afterwards so wont be any time soon.

        • It will still be a good read even a week or two after the event. Plus we can build a catalogue of these fan ‘race weekend experience’ reports over time to assist others in the future. Thank you

  5. Awesome wrap-up.

    I agree with you that T1, T10 and T13 are the three heaviest braking zones on this circuit. But I’ll go out on a limb again expressing surprise that Brembo put T8 as the 3rd heaviest braking zone in their graph. Is it me, or is it them?

    • Apparently it edges out T10 by three kgs of pedal pressure – so in effect not much of a difference! Fascinating stuff for a geek like me!

      • “it edges out T10 by three kgs of pedal pressure”

        Fascinating indeed. But I’m doing the math, and it all just doesn’t add up for me. Here’s my reasoning:

        – the distance between T7 and T8 is roughly similar to the distance between T9 and T10. So at similar initial speeds (on exit of T7 or T9), speed when brakes are activated should be similar.
        – but initial speeds aren’t the same. T7 follows a glacially slow T6, whereas T8-T9 are a relatively quick’n’done affair. So initial speed would be higher on exit of T9 than on exit of T7, meaning higher speed when braking in T10 (than in T8).
        – and lastly the T10 corner is significantly slower than T8, which would imply longer stopping distance (hence longer and harder brake usage).

        Am I missing something obvious?

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