“Bienvenue au Canada!”
After a short stint in Europe, the Formula 1 circus now heads to North America for a single flyaway event at the traditional home of the Canadian Grand Prix: the iconic Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
It’s refreshing to return to one of the sport’s most popular venues, and next year fans will have two North American races with the United States Grand Prix making its return in Texas next year for the first time since 2007.
Let’s have a look at all of the action that lays ahead for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix…
|FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DU CANADA 2011
|Date:||12 June 2011||No. Laps||70|
|Lap Length:||4.361km||Race Distance:||305.270|
|Lap Record:||1:13.622, Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) – 2004|
Built on a man-made island in the middle of the St Lawrence River, the circuit was named after Canada’s favourite F1 son, Gilles Villeneuve, who won on this very circuit in 1978 and whose legend still burns bright almost 30 years after his untimely death.
While there is currently no Canadian on this year’s grid for the parochial fans to cheer on – although Robert Wickens has recently signed as Virgin Racing’s reserve driver – fans will still flock to watch an interesting race.
Famed for being a car breaker, drivers will need to keep off the marbles and away from the walls that closely line the edge of the circuit. The track is murder on brakes, and there are usually a few retirees and bent chassis’ along the way…
The track combines some high-speed sections with some slow, blind corners, and it’s an incredible test of man and machine.
From the start of the lap, there is a hard-left kink that immediately feeds into a right-hand hairpin, followed by a sequence of chicanes and short straights before the track picks up speed. There are several long straights, cumbersome chicanes and big stopping points. The are several overtaking opportunities and the final chicane with its ‘Wall of Champions’ has caught many out…
Was last year’s race a preview for the style of Grand Prix racing we’ve seen this year?
Last year’s seemingly durable Bridgestone tyres made virtually every race in 2010 a one-stopping affair, but the Canadian circuit’s abrasive nature had the Bridgestone tyres wearing like never before – leading to a wildly unpredictable race that was one of the highlights of the season.
Red Bull was surprisingly off-form at Montreal, and Lewis Hamilton opened his win account with a fine drive to his second win on Canadian soil.
The Montreal circuit has a habit of providing some crazy races and throwing up some very odd results. There is so much potential for racing incidents here and the tough nature of the circuit has caught out many of the sport’s finest.
The famous ‘Wall of Champions’ has seen many big names bite the cement, and there have been plenty of strange incidents that have made the races at Montreal a talking point.
With all this in mind, there are plenty of memorable moments on the Isle de Notre Dame. These are some of our six favourite Canada moments…
1981: A downpour lashes the circuit, and the brilliant Gilles Villeneuve wrestled his Ferrari to an improbable third place after running half the race distance without his nose cone.
1989: A bizarre race hit by heavy rain. The race lead swapped countless times and at the end of two hours of mayhem that featured three mid-race disqualifications, Thierry Boutsen took his first-ever Grand Prix win for Williams, the team’s first of many with engine partner Renault.
1991: Six races into the season, and Williams’ Nigel Mansell had two podium finishes while McLaren’s Ayrton Senna had enjoyed four wins. The Williams’ were the better cars in Canada and cruised into the distance to look set for a comfortable 1-2 finish. But then Riccardo Patrese’s gearbox packed it in, and Mansell comically stalled his car on the final lap when celebrating prematurely with the crowds. An incredulous Nelson Piquet took an unexpected win in his Benetton, which was the last win for Pirelli before it returned to F1 this year.
1998: Michael Schumacher takes a brilliant win despite incurring a stop-go penalty for running Heinz-Harald Frentzen off the road after a pit stop. Jacques Villeneuve threw away a possible win with a wild lunge to take the lead, allowing Schumacher to use a better strategy to deny Giancarlo Fisichella of an unlikely win. Fisichella’s team-mate Alexander Wurz finished fourth after starting from the pit lane, having barrel-rolled his Benetton at the first start.
2007: A chaotic race that saw plenty of scrapes followed up by an almighty accident for Robert Kubica, from which he incredibly emerged with little more than bruising. Lewis Hamilton went on to score his maiden F1 victory.
2008: Showing his resilience just a year after his big smash, Kubica takes his maiden – and to-date, only – F1 win, leading an imperious BMW Sauber 1-2 ahead of team-mate Nick Heidfeld. Lewis Hamilton threw away his chances of a race win after colliding with Kimi Raikkonen in the pit lane.
Montreal Talking Points
What are the three big talking points of the Canadian Grand Prix?
The potential for thrills and spills: A fast, low-grip track with little run-off to speak of, the Montreal circuit has always provided plenty of action, thrills and spills. There have been some monster shunts over the years: Olivier Panis smashed his legs in 1997, Alexander Wurz barrel-rolled at the start of the 1998 race, and Robert Kubica had his enormous accident in the 2007 race. The first two corners are always fraught at the start of the race, and rarely isn’t there a Canadian Grand Prix that doesn’t feature a few safety car appearances. How the teams manage their strategy during these interruptions will be key to a successful weekend.
Will Red Bull again be found wanting here? Last year’s race was the first all season to show that Red Bull wasn’t the all-conquering outfit everyone had feared, and the team’s race pace saw it gobbled up by its major rivals. The high-speed, ‘point and squirt’ nature of the circuit will be more suited to McLaren and Ferrari, and there are few longer corners where the Red Bull RB7 can show its advantage over its rivals.
How will the double DRS zone fare? We tip our hats to the FIA for being willing to experiment with the new DRS technology by introducing two designated zones on track for the first time this season. The threat of Sunday rain will nullify whatever advantage it may provide, but in the dry it could make overtaking far too easy… That being said, overtaking has rarely been a problem at Canada, and would almost wonders if the DRS is even necessary at all here…
So what do the Richard’s F1 readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?
Matt, Richard’s F1 IndyCar Correspondent
“The Red Bull / Sebastian Vettel juggernaut rolls on in 2011 with only one blemish on an otherwise perfect record – and that was little worse that a second-placed finish anyway.
“Canada has traditionally been a strong hunting ground for McLaren and Ferrari. Both know time is ticking away to give Vettel anything to worry about.
“As an F1 fan first and an F1 columnist second, I would simply like to see a non-Red Bull domination this weekend. We need some life injected into a rapidly fading battle for the championship.”
Joseph, Richard’s F1 Technical Correspondent
“Montreal is one of the circuits on the calendar that is really unique, not only is it a rare visit into North America, its also a circuit which is interesting for its mix of chicanes and fluid straights. Notably, it was here where a certain Super Aguri went on an epic rampaging drive in 2007, so we know this circuit can create some interesting on track action.
Pirelli is bringing the soft and super-soft combination to this circuit, like they did last round in Monaco, though not expected to be a circuit with high tyre wear, it will challenge the drivers to push harder and harder, and we may see another entry into the famed Wall of Champions. With rain expected over parts of the weekend, it will make for an interesting race.
“The team to watch appears like it will be McLaren, with a seemingly stronger engine/KERS package, but given Vettel’s stranglehold on the top spot of late, its a must win situation for McLaren and Ferrari soon, or else it will start to feel like a Red Bull dominant season. Here’s to a hopefully, interesting and competitive race!”
Jen, Richard’s F1 reader, Canada
“My interest in this season is shifting away from who is leading the race to the battle that seems to ensue every race for 2nd-5th position. With no teams delivering any major updates in Montreal I have no doubt we will be seeing Vettel walking onto the top step again. I’m hoping to see Ferrari capitalise on their practice and qualifying pace and improve their strategy to hopefully challenge the McLarens instead of striving to defend and falling back. I’d also like to see Mercedes GP in the same battle, which they have shown glimpses of being able to achieve recently.
“An unusually cold day of 19°C is forecast for Sunday with the potential for light rain will most likely see all teams struggling with the tyres and could throw some unexpected drivers into the points if it rains, as Montreal can be a treacherous track in the rain.”
The Form Guide
Despite Red Bull now enjoying a particularly stellar weekend here last year, Sebastian Vettel enjoys all of the momentum after a sensational start to his title defence. But if he’s going to be beaten anywhere, then Canada is where it’s likely to happen because this place throws up such unusual results.
Of the frontrunners, Lewis Hamilton enjoys the best record here. Three visits to Montreal have seen him on pole position on each occasion, and were it not for that colossal cock-up in 2008, he’d have won here every time.
The man with the best record here is of course Michael Schumacher, who will be looking to bounce back after retiring from the last round in Monaco, as well as having a nightmare weekend here last year. That shouldn’t detract from the German’s performances here, for he has stood on top of the dais on seven occasions. Twelve podium finishes from 16 starts here; could a little bit of luck and some clever strategy calls give him a thirteenth? Don’t be too surprised…
As usual, we’ll be bringing you all of the action and highlights from this weekend’s event, so make Richard’s F1 your one-stop shop for the Canadian Grand Prix!