Brought to you by Marek, compiled and edited by Catman
The seventh round of the 2016 Formula One World Championship takes us to the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, named after the legendary Canadian driver who won here to the delight of the locals in 1978 for Ferrari. The circuit races around the Ile Notre-Dame, a man-made island in the Saint Lawrence River in Montreal, built from rock excavated for the Montreal Metro in 1965.
Long straights, very hard braking, a tempting hairpin, an unpredictable crowd of local groundhogs, a tight chicane and of course the Wall of Champions all stand between the drivers and victory!
The inaugural Canadian Grand Prix was held in 1961 in Mosport Park, with Peter Ryan taking the victory in a Lotus Climax – a result which would lead to Ryan having his one opportunity to drive in a Grand Prix at the US Grand Prix in Watkins Glen later that year. The Canadian Grand Prix joined the F1 calendar for the first time in 1967, with Jack Brabham the winner at Mosport. In the early years the F1 race was alternated between Mosport Park and Mont-Tremblant, but Mosport took the race full time from 1971.
In 1975 the race was cancelled, after the Formula One Constructors Association teams (led by a certain Mr Bernie Ecclestone) refused to attend the race due to contractual issues. The teams had demanded more money, in a move viewed as an early test by Mr Ecclestone of the bargaining power of the teams and to act as a warning marker to the European venues (no teams, no race). An inspirational story for the smaller teams in dire financial conditions today!
The race was back on in 1976, and stayed at Mosport until 1978, when the race was moved to its current home on the Circuit Île Notre-Dame. Gilles-Villeneuve took the first race at the new circuit for Ferrari and the circuit was renamed in his honour after his tragic death in 1982. The track has hosted a Formula One Grand Prix every year since then with two exceptions, 1987 where a commercial dispute between rival sponsors put paid to the race, and again in 2009 after the organisers failed to agree terms with (that is, would not pay the requested fee to)…Bernie Ecclestone, now in his role as CEO of F1.
Interestingly when the teams bemoaned the loss of the Canadian Grand Prix Bernie mused that if the teams wanted to race there so badly they could agree to race there for less money, an interesting turnaround from 1975 indeed!
The track is characterized predominantly by its long straights punctuated by hard braking for hairpins or chicanes, providing plenty of overtaking opportunities. In between, the circuit winds across kerbs marshalled by barriers and walls that invite contact from drivers pushing to extract the maximum from their cars.
The circuit is low in grip so expect to see plenty of spins during the practice sessions before the track is rubbered-in. It is one of the hardest on the calendar in terms of braking with the performance and reliability of the brakes set to be tested to the maximum. The final chicane represents one of the hardest braking points on the entire F1 calendar.
There is also always the threat of suicidal groundhogs trying to scurry across the track (just ask Anthony Davidson) – in the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix a round up operation is carried out to capture and move as many as possible to the nearby Ile Ste-Helene try to minimise the numbers meandering on to the track, but some have a habit of sticking around to watch the race!
The charge into the first corner is one that is bound to provide interest, a left hander feeding into the Senna curve. This combination is sure to provide opportunity for some action, and surely Sebastian Vettel’s radio will be worth listening to on the opening lap! Once into the race, the first corner presents an opportunity for overtaking, coming at the end of the second DRS activation zone. It has seen plenty of wild attempts over the years, Nico Rosberg and Jarno Trulli performing a perfect display of synchronised spinning here in 2007 as Nico attempted to go around the outside and Jarno got squeezed onto the inside kerb. As the race wears on expect to see some desperate late lunges here of the Ricciardo speciality, although all too often it ends in stalemate or tears….Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez suffered a huge collision here in the closing stages of the 2014 race as Perez attempted to defend his spot on the podium.
After winding around the Senna curve there is a short burst up to a tight right left flick through turns 3 and 4. The combination of kerbs on entry and wall on exit make this section a likely flashpoint! It’s also proved to be a spot where the most optimistic driver can have a go but it’s unlikely to be a smooth pass- Jenson Button prodded Alonso into the wall on the exit of turn 4 during his magic ride in 2011 while Adrian Sutil got himself in a spin trying to go around the high qualifying Valtteri Bottas here in 2013.
From here the track snakes left then right through the trees towards before arriving at turn 6 and 7, a tight left hander immediately followed by a flick to the right, with kerbs and walls again inviting trouble for anyone pushing too hard to gain speed onto the following straight. The cars burst forward and disappear briefly under a bridge before heading into the fast right left combination of turns 8 and 9, again plenty of kerbing to launch a car pushing too much into the waiting wall on the exit of turn 9.
Out of the exit of turn 9 the cars spring pass the DRS detection point and wind to the left down to the chicane at turn 10. This is a favoured spot for wild overtaking attempts. It was on the run down to the chicane that Robert Kubica had his horrific accident in 2007 after going off the track trying to go around Jarno Trulli. The hairpin should provide plenty of action throughout the race, and will be a spot to keep an eye on during the first lap as the field are all bunched together.
From the chicane the cars blast down the back straight and the first DRS activation zone, before breaking hard at the last chicane. Scene of many a desperate overtaking manoeuvre over the years, Sebastien Vettel pulled one off against Nico Hulkenberg last year with a little help from the kerbs while Hulkenberg spun in avoidance, while Romain Grosjean had an unusual collision with Will Stevens after cutting across Stevens car while lapping him. The kerbing here is crucial as it sets the drivers up for the dreaded wall of champions and the exit to the main straight and the finish line.
BRAKING WITH BREMBO
Montreal 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!
TYRES WITH PIRELLI
Just two weeks after the debut of the new P Zero Purple ultrasoft tyre in Monaco, it appears again as part of exactly the same nomination for Canada: soft, supersoft and ultrasoft. Canada however will present a number of different challenges to Monaco, with notably higher speeds and higher loads that generate more temperature and put increased energy through the tyres.
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW: Like Monaco, Canada is a low-grip circuit with a high degree of weekend track evolution. The cars reach speeds in excess of 300kph, meaning that they tend to run low downforce. The track is also famous for high kerbs, which provide the tyre structure with a big challenge. Weather conditions are variable: a factor that has led to a number of safety cars in the past. The hallmarks of Canada are acceleration and braking: longitudinal rather than lateral forces. Montreal is a semi-permanent facility, so track surfaces (and grip) can vary during the lap.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS: Yellow soft: the hardest compound in the selection, poised to play an important role in the race. Red supersoft: two teams have interestingly chosen not to nominate this compound at all. Purple ultrasoft: very popular on its Monaco debut and chosen extensively in Canada.
HOW IT WAS A YEAR AGO: Winner: Hamilton (one stop: started on supersoft, changed to soft on lap 32 of 70). Best-placed alternative strategy: Raikkonen, fourth with two stops. Started and finished the race with the supersoft tyres but did his middle stint on the soft tyre. The top-three finishers all used a one-stop strategy, stopping within three laps of each other
PAUL HEMBERY, PIRELLI MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR: “In Canada there’s the potential for some quite mixed weather conditions, as we also saw in Monaco, so this could make it a very complex race as has often been the case in the past. The compounds that we have nominated mean that there is plenty of scope for strategy, on a circuit where it’s definitely possible to overtake on the track as well. The ultrasoft made its mark when it first appeared in Monaco but Canada is a very different type of circuit with more demands on tyres. This could lead to a number of different tactics coming into play, as evidenced from the tyre choices made by each team prior to the race.”
WHAT’S NEW? The new wider 2017 Pirelli F1 tyres were revealed in Monaco, attracting plenty of comment. A new pit and paddock complex is planned for next year, so this will be the final time we see the ‘traditional’ Montreal paddock, which is cramped but full of atmosphere.
TJ13 Analysis: Renault and Haas have chosen to completely ignore the supersoft tyre. The supersoft showed itself to be more durable and less grippy than had been expected in Monaco, but this may change this weekend as the track surgace in Monte Carlo is completely unique.
1989 – Thierry Boutsen secures his first ever grand prix win in a race run on a soaking track. The race produced quite an unusual start, as the initial start was aborted due to stalled cars on the grid, a number of driver pitted to swap to slicks on the second warm up lap as the rest of the field lined up on the drying grid. Nigel Mansell and Allesandro Nannini then exited the pits and charged back on the track before the race had started while the rest of the field lined up on the starting grid! Mansell and Nannini would both be disqualified. In appalling conditions, Ayrton Senna put on a wet weather masterclass to dominate the field, but retired from certain victory with an engine failure, handing Boutsen his first win.
1991 – Nelson Piquet’s last grand prix win. Nigel Mansell led from the start and had the win wrapped up, but Mansell started his celebration early and as he waved at the crowd on the last lap his car stalled at the hairpin and Piquet inherited the win with Mansell classified in 6th.
1995 – Jean Alesi took his sole Grand Prix victory on his 31st Birthday. Michael Schumacher led most of the way but his Benetton developed an electrical problem 11 laps from the end, promoting Alesi to first. Amazingly this was only win for the talented Alesi.
1999 – Birth of the ‘Wall of Champions’ – Mika Hakkinen took the chequered flag, but this race will be remembered for giving us the name ‘Wall of Champions’ – the wall on the outside of the final chicane, with Hill, Schumacher and Villeneuve all hitting the wall in the same race.
2008 –Robert Kubica took his sole Grand Prix victory in a BMW-Sauber, but it could so easily have been taken away from him. During an early safety car period the leaders dived into the pits, Kubica got out just ahead of Raikkonen but as the pit exit was closed Raikkonen and Kubica had to stop and queue up alongside each other at the exit waiting to be released. After a slower stop Hamilton came flying out of his pit box and unaware of the closed pit lane clouted into the back of Raikkonen, taking both out of the race. For good measure Rosberg followed into the back Hamilton, losing his front wing in the process! Kubica survived and went on to claim his only F1 victory.
2011 – Jenson Button took an amazing win on the last lap from Sebastien Vettel in a wet-dry thriller, Jenson recovering from last place after busy race that saw him clash with team mate Lewis Hamilton resulting in Lewis retirement from the race, incur a drive through penalty for speeding under the safety car, have a further collision with Fernando Alonso that caused Fernando to retire and forced Button to pit. Michael Schumacher shined in one of the better performances of his second stint in F1, looking at one point like he might even be able to push for victory before eventually finishing fourth.
Last year Mercedes were untouchable here with Lewis Hamilton leading from pole to bring home a rather sedate one-two for the Silver Arrows, and if Mercedes can navigate the first corner with both cars intact and in the lead we could be in repeat performance.
Hope springs eternal however, as Renault will bring their upgraded power unit for both Red Bull drivers. Daniel Ricciardo will be desperate to convert his good form into a victory and the team will be just as desperate to make up for the mistakes that have cost him those wins.
Ferrari too will be hopeful they can fight for victory, if not they may find themselves fighting for their future under the demanding leadership of Sergio Marchionne – surely he would not be impressed were Kimi Raikkonen to spin at the chicane for a third consecutive year!
The race has seen several drivers take their maiden grand prix victory here, including current world champion Lewis Hamilton back in 2007 and Daniel Ricciardo in 2014. Michael Schumacher dominated here (as elsewhere) and holds the record for the most wins with 7 – Lewis Hamilton is in second with 4 wins and will surely fancy his chances of making it number 5.
Canada has a reputation for mixing things up, with safety cars and contact a regular occurrence. Hamilton has had the measure of Rosberg here in terms of pace, and all things equal should still start as favourite…but will all things be equal on race day? Tune in to find out!
GP2 and GP3 will stay in Europe, leaving local categories to provide the entertainment in the run up to the Grand Prix. At time of writing all the events are (still) TBC, but hopefully we will see the F-1600 (small formula cars), Ferrari Challenge and Porsche Cup, along with an appearance from the Olympic torch!
Year Winner Constructor
2015 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2014 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault
2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2012 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2011 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
2010 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2008 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber
2007 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2006 Fernando Alonso Renault
2005 Kimi Räikkönen McLaren-Mercedes