Circuit: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
First GP held: 1978
Circuit length: 2.709 miles
Interesting fact: The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix was the longest F1 race ever at 4 hours 4 minutes.
F1 takes a quick break from the European season to fly across to North America for the Canadian Grand Prix. Heading once again to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which has been the backdrop for some entertaining racing over the years.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has hosted the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978 and is a fan favourite due to its picturesque location on the Saint Laurence River, and the fact the track has provided some of the most dramatic racing over the years. Most notably the longest race in F1 history took place here in 2011, when Jenson Button arguably drove the greatest race of his career to win on the final lap having been dead last during the race.
Coming to Canada many teams and drivers have a lot to think about, especially the current Constructors Champions Mercedes. Following the rather easy 1-2 victory round the streets of Monaco for Ferrari, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff came out and said that in terms of the championship this year, Mercedes “are the underdogs.” Considering the team have won three of the first six races, and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has proved one of their happiest hunting grounds in recent years, you would have thought coming here they would have some more confidence in themselves. The main issue is their car, the W08, in terms of pace is the fastest car on the grid which is evident from the five poles it’s claimed so far this season. The price of this speed though is a “diva” car that is extremely hard work for both the team and driver to get into a sweet spot to exploit the most out of it. While Valtteri Bottas seems to be adapting slightly better to the temperamental car, Lewis Hamilton has had a much harder time of it with two non-performances in Russia and Monaco to show for it. He’ll be hoping for a change in fortune at the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend for the sake of him championship.
He is not the only Brit currently under pressure, as Renault driver Jolyon Palmer looks to be driving for his career this weekend. Palmer has not had the start to the 2017 season he was hoping for, with a combination of poor performance and mechanical failures resulting in him failing to secure a single championship point to his team mate Nico Hulkenberg’s 14 points. Well into his second season of Formula 1 the criticism of Palmer has been steadily building following the first six races. His best moment so far this season came at the Bahrain Grand Prix when he reached Q3 for the first time in his career, but even then he was a second shy of Hulkenberg’s time. Given the lack of reliability his Renault car has provided so far, perhaps Palmer deserves more time. But his team mate has consistently out scored, out drove, and out performed him, and Palmer needs to buckle down now if he doesn’t want to see himself replaced as soon as the Summer Break. Rumour is already spreading that the team are considering replacing Palmer with their F2 reserve drive Sergey Sirotkin. While fans have also speculated that maybe Robert Kubica’s recent test in an F1 car had more significance than we thought to it. And that the Pole could be on the prowl for Palmer’s seat. Whatever the rumours Palmer needs to silence them this weekend with a good performance.
The other big news for the weekend is the return of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso following his absence from Monaco as he ran in the Indy 500. Alonso did well at the iconic Indy race, till his nightmares came back to haunt him with a Honda engine failure with a handful of laps left.
“I’m ready to get back to my ‘day job’ and go racing in F1 again,” declared Alonso.
McLaren will be hoping for a good race in Canada, after failing to secure a single point in the championship so far this season, leaving them pointless and bottom of the Constructors Championship. The long straights of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will not play at all into the hands of the Honda power unit. As well as this the engine is very thirsty, and this track will highlight that deficit as well, meaning it’s likely to be another miserable weekend for McLaren.
In terms of the circuit itself the track has a brilliant combination of ultra-fast straights, slow corners and chicanes. Meaning that while cars reach speeds approaching 217MPH, they also have to endure several huge braking zones, notably at turns 1, 10 and 13. This means that the break demand here is arguably the highest on the calendar, so expect a lot of radio messages to drivers about taking care of their breaks and keeping them cool.
While the slow hairpin of turn 10 can be difficult to get right leading to many a spin for drivers, it’s the final chicane at the end of the lap that proves to be a challenge for the drivers. Drivers hit over 200MPH on approach to turns 13 and 14, meaning they will likely hit around 5.6G under braking to make the corners. Turn 14 however is possibly known by a better name by fans, the Wall of Champions. During the 1999 Canadian Grand Prix world champions Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, and Jacques Villeneuve all crashed into the final corner. Earning it the moniker the “Wall of Champions”. Since then the wall has gone on to claim many more victims, both champion and non champion alike. These have notably included 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg, 2009 World Champion Jenson Button, and even 4-time F1 Champion Sebastian Vettel.
The 2016 Canadian Grand Prix saw yet more sparks flying between the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Rosberg. At the start of the race, once Vettel had leapfrogged the pair of them off the start, Hamilton performed a rather aggressive defensive move on Rosberg that ran him off the track and cost him several places, resulting in the German finishing a lowly fifth in the race. While no contact had taken place between them, Rosberg was not thrilled post-race with his team mate. The race was also notable for a questionable strategy decision by Ferrari which many suspected cost them a shot at the race victory, and for being the only podium Williams scored during the 2016 season.
With Hamilton needing to claw back a deficit to Sebastian Vettel in the championship, as well as grudge matches up and down the field as drivers battle for those all important championship points, Canada always proves to be an entertaining race to watch. Overtake Motorsport will have reports throughout the weekend. Starting tomorrow with our Free Practice Report.
Feature Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Circuit_Gilles_Villeneuve_MAM2.JPG