The F1 fraternity leaves Europe and heads to America for the seventh round of the championship. The Canadian Grand Prix welcomes us for the 47th time: it became a part of the F1 calendar in 1967 when it was held at Mosport Circuit. Then the GP alternated between Mosport and Mont-Tremblant in Quebec for some years until 1971, when it moved to Mosport again. In 1978, due to safety reasons, it was moved again to Ile de Notre-Dame in Montreal, where races are held nowadays, even though in 2009 the race was absent from the calendar.
The circuit is located on Île Notre-Dame, an artificial island in the St. Lawrence River, originally built for the Expo. It is known for having the walls very close to the track, such as the famous “Wall of Champions”, which is on the outside of the exit of the final chicane. It is named after Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta ended their race famously at this very corner in 1999. In recent years Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel have also fallen victim to the wall.
June 10th, 2007 was one of the most critical days of this circuit: Robert Kubica had a serious accident in his BMW, when at more than 300 km/h he hit the back of Jarnos Trulli’s Toyota. His car disintegrated and went from side to side of the track. The worst accident in the circuit, however, was on June 13th, 1982, when Riccardo Paletti was killed in a crash at the start of the race.
The track is 4.361 km long and 70 laps are done around it in every GP for a race distance of 305.27km. The lap record is held by Rubens Barrichello since 2004, with a 1:13.622min.
The lap starts with one of the shortest straights of the calendar, even though the speed gets up to 300 km/h. There is a heavy braking at the end of the straight, to take the first corner to the left at third gear and 120 km/h. Right after, drivers fins a sharp turn 2, almost a hairpin, to the right, in which the speed is about 100 km/h. Then, they press the accelerator and increase speed until 250 km/h in a short slightly curved straight before getting to the corner number 3 and 4; a fast chicane right-left, taken at fourth gear and at 180 km/h. Following, a very long, fast and soft corner to the right to end sector 1.
Sector two starts with corner number 6 and 7, a medium speed left-right chicane which precedes a medium length straight where the cars get to 300 km/h again. We can see some overtaking manoeuvres at that point. The straight ends in yet another fast chicane formed by turns 8 and 9, first to the right and then to the left. Exiting the chicane, there is the first DRS detection point.
Full throttle before getting to the hairpin, where drivers slow down from 300 km/h to 100 km/h and sector three starts. This is the slowest point of the circuit and also one of the most exciting because we can see the drivers side by side at the exit of the corner before entering the final straight, the longest one. There are two slight corners in it, 11 to the left and 12 to the right but drivers don’t even brake to take them. DRS use is allowed here and takes the speed up to 320 km/h before the last chicane, a right-left one where the speed goes down to 130 km/h. Then, the second DRS activation point is located, and it can be used in the main straight, before starting the lap again.
In words of last year’s winner, Daniel Ricciardo, “Winning has made me love it a little bit more, but really I’ve loved it since my first lap, back when I was driving for Toro Rosso. I remember coming back into the pits and saying ‘what a circuit,’ I was amazed at how good it was - and I’d only done an install. It’s just a ridiculous amount of fun. You can jump across the kerbs and really get the car bouncing around. It’s like getting back to go-kart days, you really feel like you own it - and I love that. You can get aggressive with it, and aim to just brush the wall.”
“There’s a lot of risk but that brings a lot of adrenaline with it. It’d be wonderful if you were doing it in isolation but with 100,000 screaming fans urging you on, it’s just mega. How do you judge the risk versus reward between the walls? It’s a clear choice: some guys will play it safe and sacrifice half a tenth to get through there cleanly; others who will take a risk and go flat out trying to find a little bit. The nearer you are, the faster you’ll go. Give the wall a kiss and you feel pretty good: Kiss it too hard and that’s it!,’’ he added.
The tyre choice for Gilles Villeneuve circuit is on the soft side, the supersoft and the soft, as they are best suited to the low-grip characteristics of the track. Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport director, said about Canada’s circuit: "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."
Practice 1 Fri 10:00 – 11:30
Practice 2 Fri 14:00 – 15:30
Practice 3 Sat 10:00 – 11:00
Qualifying Sat 13:00 – 14:00
Race Sun 14:00 – 16:00