Formula 1 travels across the Atlantic this weekend for the 47th Canadian Grand Prix, which will mark the seventh round of the 2016 championship. Montreal will be the first stint of a sequence of back-to-back races this season and the first event in a series of six races within eight weeks.
Montreal may be a street circuit, like Monaco, but it has vastly different characteristics, with an array of chicanes, long straights and heavy braking zones. The same tyre compounds will be used but the track is far more aggressive and learning how to adapt to these conditions will be one of the keys to get a good result on Sunday.
The Canadian Grand Prix has witnessed some of the most unusual events in Formula 1 and it’s the kind of affair which can produce stunning racing, whatever the weather. This is the place where a driver was black flagged for going too slowly (Al Pease, 1969) as well as the venue where a race was red-flagged for the first time because of bad weather (1971). It also holds the title for the longest race in history - 4:04:39.537 - for the 2011 Canadian GP, an event that was suspended for over two hours due to the heavy rain which battered the region.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve joined the Formula 1 calendar in 1978, the third different venue which hosted a Canadian Grand Prix. Eight races were held at Mosport Park while two visits were made to Mont-Tremblant. The track went through multiple configuration changes since its inception but the current layout has been maintained since 2002.
The track is a semi-permanent street circuit located on the man made Ile Notre Dame and presents a combination of fast straights and tight, slow corners. It is very challenging for the drivers as they need to attack the kerbs and get really close to the walls to gain some precious milliseconds. The circuit features several overtaking opportunities, most prominently into the Virage Senna, L’Epingle and the final chicane.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is also notorious for the unforgiving Wall of Champions, a barrier which stands on the outside of the track’s final chicane. The 1999 event saw plenty of cars destroyed after some heavy impacts with the concrete. Ralf Schumacher was the first one to crash there in qualifying, followed by other four drivers in the race: Ricardo Zonta, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve.
"I'd describe the Montreal track as one where you are always bouncing on the different kerbs – they are very high and there are quite a few of them,” says Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
“This is because there are many tricky chicanes during a lap of this circuit – for example, Turns 3 and 5, 6 and 7, 8 and 9 or 13 and 14 – the famous 'Wall of Champions’. Another challenging part of the track is Turn 10, where you need to make sure you brake strongly. This is a slow hairpin and also a very good spot for overtaking. It's necessary to get a good exit here to then drive down the track's longest straight, where it's possible to benefit of a good slipstream when driving behind another car.”
The battle for the drivers’ title is firmly alive after Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Monaco enabled him to close the gap to Nico Rosberg to 24 points. Daniel Ricciardo lies in third place in the standings, only five points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, with Sebastian Vettel also in contention.
Mercedes dominated in Canada in 2015 but a year previously the Silver Arrows were undone by a mechanical issue, which struck both cars and allowed Daniel Ricciardo to claim his maiden victory. Red Bull and Ferrari will no doubt be pushing once again to threaten the Mercedes hegemony – Ferrari has not tasted success at the circuit since 2004.
Hamilton is the most successful active driver at the circuit, having picked up four wins in Canada, while Raikkonen, Vettel and Ricciardo, along with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, have all stood atop the podium.
Several teams will be bringing minor upgrades this weekend while Renault will have the upgraded power units available for Max Verstappen and Jolyon Palmer, after only Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen ran the updated package in Monaco.
Ferrari has spent two tokens on tweaks to its turbocharger while Honda is also bringing an upgrade in this area as it ramps up its development with McLaren.
Pole position is not as crucial as at some other races on the calendar. In the last 10 years only three victories came from pole position. The lowest grid position from which this Grand Prix has been won was 10th (Jacques Laffite, 1981).
The circuit is not only demanding for drivers but it’s also heavy on the brakes. Montreal is known as one of the the hardest-Grand Prix of the year in this area as up to 19 percent of a lap time is spent on braking.
As in Monaco, Pirelli has elected to bring the Ultra Soft, Super Soft and Soft compound tyres.
There will be a single DRS detection point exiting the Turn 8/9 chicane with two DRS zones; one along the back straight and another along the pit straight.
Derek Warwick will act as the drivers’ representative on the stewards panel.
Facts and stats
Circuit length: 4.361 km
- Turns: 14
- Direction: clockwise
- Race laps: 70 laps
- First Grand Prix: 1978
- Lap record: 1:13.622 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)
- Most wins (driver): Michael Schumacher - 7
- Most wins (constructor): McLaren (13)
- 2015 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
- 2015 Race: 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Valtteri Bottas (Williams)
Timetable (GMT +2):
Friday 10 June
- Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
- Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 11 June
- Practice Three: 10:00 – 11:00
- Qualifying: 13:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 12 June
- Race: 14:00 (70 laps or two hours)