The fact that these two races ran at all were largely down to the initiative of local hotelier Leo Samson, who invested a small fortune to help bring Formula 1® to Mount Tremblant but didn’t know how to defend the circuit against criticism of its poor safety standards. And it was this that led to Mount Tremblant’s disappearance from the F1® calendar, and then eventually from international racing entirely. And yet it was very much Mount Tremblant that had whetted the general public’s appetite for motorsport in Quebec.
Once that wooded circuit, about 100 kilometres north of Montreal, was gone from the calendar, Canada’s powerbrokers understood immediately just how much Formula 1® was worth to them. At the time, work was already underway in Montreal to host the 1976 summer Olympic Games. A grand prix would be a brilliant way to follow it up.
The Montreal debut finally came in October 1978, and what happened on that day has already been recounted a thousand times as Gilles Villeneuve claimed his first F1® victory.
Nearly 40 years later, the race that takes place on Sunday 10 June will actually be the 39th grand prix held on the Ile Notre Dame, just beyond Montreal’s city centre. And the unknown factors will be just the same as they have always been: three straights where the drivers hit more than 300kph, heavy braking, but no corners that can be considered truly fast. There is one double corner though that is truly symbolic. The tricky chicane near the pit entry has pulled a trick or two even on the most experienced drivers, introducing them at high speed to a concrete wall that is emblazoned with the beautifully ironic slogan of:“Bienvenue au Québec.”
Call it Canada dry humour.