The Big Preview: Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal

After two races in Europe, Formula One once again moves into flyaway mode, travelling to Montreal and the Canadian Grand Prix. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve hosts the seventh round of an enthralling 2013 FIA F1 World Championship.

Canada never fails to provide an entertaining grand prix. The high speeds and heavy braking zones make it a paradise for overtaking, while the unforgiving walls which hem in the race track on all sides provide a drama all of their own.

Additionally, the weather rarely fails to play a part in the race: searing heat and tremendous downpours have both been commonplace in recent years – either of which can serve to turn a race strategy on its head.

Aerial view over the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Ile Notre Dame

Aerial view over the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Ile Notre Dame

While the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve creates a host of challenges for engineers, the standout problem around its 4.361 kilometres is braking performance. The long, thin course is a stop-start race track, with a succession of straights broken up by chicanes and a hairpin.

The combination of heavy braking zones and relatively short straights sees pads and discs pushed to their limits but denied decent intervals in which to cool down. It means that brakes are pushed harder here than anywhere else on the grand prix calendar.

F1 comes to Canada with the familiar sight of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing leading their respective world championships – but neither the German driver nor his Anglo-Austrian team has demonstrated any conclusive superiority this year.

Four teams have recorded victories in the opening six races of the season, and despite each proving itself capable of dominating under the right circumstances, none has reached the top step of the podium without being made to work exceptionally hard for the privilege. The Canadian Grand Prix promises no less.

2013 Canadian GP podium

2013 Canadian GP podium

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Data

  • Length of lap: 4.361km
  • Lap record: 1:13.622 (Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, 2004)
  • Start line/finish line offset: 0.000km
  • Total number of race laps: 70
  • Total race distance: 305.270km
  • Pitlane speed limits: 60km/h during practice. 100km/h during qualifying and the race

Changes to the circuit since 2012

  • Gravel and grass around the outside of turn eight and the apex of turn nine has been replaced with asphalt.
  • A ‘speed bump’ approximately 50mm high and 500mm wide has been installed parallel to the track edge on the drivers’ left before the apex kerb in turn nine (around the outside of turn eight). Another has been installed to the drivers’ left after the apex kerb in turn 14.
  • Additional guardrail posts have been installed in places where the spacing between them was greater than 2m.
  • DRS – There will be a two DRS zones in Canada with a single detection point, 110m after T9. Activation One is 55m before T12 (Casino Straight), Activation Two is 70m after T14 (Start-Finish Straight).
Jack Brabham won the first Canadian GP back in 1967 at Mosport Park

Jack Brabham won the first Canadian GP back in 1967 at Mosport Park

Canadian Grand Prix Fast Facts

  • The have been 43 Formula One Canadian Grands Prix, the first being won by Jack Brabham in 1967. That race was held at Mosport Park, as were the races in 1969, 1971-74 and 1976-7. In 1968 and 1970 the race was held at Mont-Tremblant. It moved to its present home in 1978. The Canadian Grand Prix was not held in 1975, 1987 or 2009.
  • McLaren is the leading constructor at the Canadian Grand Prix with 13 victories, to Ferrari’s 11 and Williams’ seven. Nine of McLaren’s total came at this circuit, including a hat-trick of victories in the past three years.
  • Michael Schumacher is the leading driver at this race by some margin, with seven victories. Lewis Hamilton is the only multiple winner in this year’s field. He has three victories here (2007, 2010, 2012). Other winners racing this year are Kimi Räikkönen (2005), Fernando Alonso (2006) and Jenson Button (2011).
  • Of the seven braking points at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, four have loads in excess of 5G, the harshest of which is the approach to the hairpin, at which cars will brake from 300km/h down to a first-gear 60km/h for the tight turn.
  • The Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve offers a rare opportunity to compare various elite series. Champ Car made its final appearance here in 2006 and Sébastien Bourdais took pole position with a time of 1:20.005. When F1 visited in the same summer, Fernando Alonso had pole with 1:14.942 (though went quicker in Q2). The 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series race had Alex Tagliani on pole with a time of 1:40.865, in contrast to Sebastian Vettel’s 2012 F1 pole time of 1:13.784.
  • Unlike the previous grand prix, held on the streets of Monaco, the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve does not confer any particular advantage on pole position. Since 2000, the race has only been won from pole on four occasions. It has also been won from second on the grid four times in this period.
  • On his way to victory in 2011, Jenson Button occupied last place as late as lap 40. That notwithstanding, the race doesn’t particularly favour a charge through the field: it has never been won by anyone starting outside the top ten, and then only once, from the fifth row, when Jacques Laffite won from tenth position for Ligier in 1981.
  • Originally named the Île Notre-Dame Circuit, it was renamed in honour of Gilles Villeneuve after his death. In 1978 Villeneuve won the inaugural grand prix held on the island. Of the current F1 calender, the other circuit named in honour of a former driver is the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, home of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Like Villeneuve, Pace was a grand prix winner and local hero at the circuit now bearing his name.
  • Villeneuve’s win was the first of his six grand prix victories. Four other drivers have taken their debut win at this circuit: Thierry Boutsen (1989), Jean Alesi (1995), Lewis Hamilton (2007) and Robert Kubica (2008).
Force India will be running in their 100th grand prix

Force India will be running in their 100th grand prix

Reuters Statistics & Facts ahead of Canadian GP

  • Four different teams have won in six races so far this year (Lotus, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes).
  • Nico Rosberg’s win in Monaco, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel finishing second, was the first German one-two in Formula One since the Schumacher brothers Michael and Ralf at the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix.
  • Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has 32 career wins, Vettel 28, Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton 21, Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen 20 and McLaren’s Jenson Button 15.
  • Ferrari have won 221 races since the championship started in 1950, McLaren 182, Williams 114 and Red Bull 36.
  • Mercedes have been on pole for the last four races. Germany’s Nico Rosberg, winner in Monaco, is chasing his fourth pole in a row.
  • The last driver to take four successive poles was Vettel in 2011 (Hungary/Belgium/Italy/Singapore/Japan).
  • Vettel has 38 poles to his credit, putting him third in the all-time list (Michael Schumacher had 68 and Ayrton Senna 65). Hamilton has 27 and Alonso 22.
  • Caterham and Marussia have yet to score a point after three seasons in Formula One.
  • None of the five 2013 rookies have scored points so far.
  • Kimi Raikkonen has now finished 23 successive races in the points for Lotus and this weekend can equal Schumacher’s 2001/02/03 record of 24 with Ferrari, although scoring systems have changed.
  • Former champions Williams have yet to score a point this season and for seven races in a row – their worst start since 1975.
  • Hamilton has won the Canadian Grand Prix every time he has finished (in 2007, 2010 and 2012).
  • Alonso (2006), Button (2011) and Raikkonen (2005) are the other previous winners on the grid. Red Bull have never won in Canada.
  • Ferrari last won in Montreal in 2004 with Michael Schumacher. McLaren have won the last three Canadian Grands Prix and four of the last five.
  • In total, McLaren have won 13 times in Canada to Ferrari’s 11 and Williams’ seven. Michael Schumacher won a record seven times in Montreal.
  • This year’s race is the 44th Canadian Grand Prix and 34th in Montreal. The circuit is harder on brakes than anywhere else on the calendar.
  • Since 2000, the race has been won from pole only four times.
  • Four drivers have taken a debut win in Montreal: Belgium’s Thierry Boutsen (1989), France’s Jean Alesi (1995), Hamilton (2007) and Poland’s Robert Kubica (2008).
  • Rosberg’s Monaco win made him the first driver this season to lead every lap of a race. It also ended a run of 16 races won only by world champions.
  • Vettel’s second place in Monaco was the 50th podium finish of his career.
  • Sunday’s race will be the 100th for the Force India team under that name.
Gilles Villeneuve during the 1978 Canadian GP weekend

Gilles Villeneuve during the 1978 Canadian GP weekend

Canadian GP Race Stewards Biographies

  • Garry Connelly has been involved in motor sport since the late 1960s. A long-time rally competitor, Connelly was instrumental in bringing the World Rally Championship to Australia in 1988 and served as Chairman of the Organising Committee, Board member and Clerk of Course of Rally Australia until December 2002. He has been an FIA Steward and FIA Observer since 1989, covering the FIA’s World Rally Championship, World Touring Car Championship and Formula One Championship. He is a director of the Australian Institute of Motor Sport Safety and a member of the FIA World Motor Sport Council.
  • Radovan Novak has been actively involved in motorsport since 1963 and rose to become Secretary General of the ACCR in 1990.Since 1991 he has held the role of President of the FIA Central Europe Zone and over the past two decades he has acted as a steward and observer in WRC and ERC rallies, EC autocross and rallycross events and WTCC and GT races. He has been a Formula One steward since 1994. From 1994 to 2006, he was a member of the FIA Off-road Commission and was made a member of the World Motor Sport Council in 1998. In 2000 he became a member of the Sport Commission at the Ministry of Sport of the Czech Republic. An avid racer and co-driver, Radovan Novak has won a number of Czech rallying events.
  • Ulsterman Martin Donnelly, 47, was a star of junior racing categories in the 1980s before making his grand prix debut with the Arrows team at the 1989 French GP at Paul Ricard, substituting for Derek Warwick. He qualified 14th and raced to a creditable 12th. He was offered a race drive at Lotus alongside Warwick for 1990 and started 12 races, recording a best finish of seventh at the Hungarian GP. However, his time in Formula One was cut short when, later in the season, a suspension failure caused a huge accident in practice for the Spanish GP at Jerez. Despite the serious injuries he suffered, Donnelly recovered sufficiently to race competitively in national events. He now runs Donnelly Track Academy in Norfolk, England and has held a number of racing team management positions.

Subbed by AJN.

  • Apex Assassin

    Hard to believe the future of this hallmark race is in doubt. I hope the politicians in Ottawa take their heads out of their arses and bring the circuit up to spec.

    It’s such a great race, both live and from home and such a tremendous circuit as well… a real drivers challenge!

  • Sunshine117

    Im gonna throw a prediction out there, most likely won’t happen though. Race winner Raikkonnen followedy Alonso and a podium finish for one of the force india’s. One of the RBR finish outside the top ten or DNF (preferably Vettel). Jenson Button top ten finish as well as both torso rosso’s finish in the points.
    I know its far fetched but hay???