F1, the Canadian Grand Prix
in ten points

F1, the Canadian Grand Prix in ten points 01

1. Montreal, and Canada, is a historic venue. While North America isn’t always exactly overflowing with interest in Formula 1, Canada has nearly always hosted a grand prix during every season since 1967: with only three exceptions. As recently as two years ago, it was suggested that Canada might drop off the calendar again, principally for financial reasons. But the popularity of the event persuaded local politicians to think again.

2. It’s visited a few different places: a former home was Mosport Park, well-known for its biting Atlantic winds, exacerbated by the fact that the race was held in autumn. Then there was Mont Tremblant, with the circuit practically next to a ski resort. These two tracks both hosted grands prix valid for the world championship, but since 1978 the race has been held at Montreal: a semi-permanent track on the Ile Notre Dame, inhabited mainly by groundhogs (who often obligingly pose for photographs) in the middle of the mighty Saint Lawrence river. It’s a legendary circuit inhabited by the ghost of one of the most legendary drivers in the sport – see below.

3. There are at least three very quick straights taken at more than 300kph. The corners themselves are nothing to write home about: instead it’s all about acceleration and braking to the very limit, as the drivers attempt to keep their cars on the road. A strong engine is vital. But not only that…

F1, the Canadian Grand Prix in ten points 02

4. The emphasis is on low downforce, in order to maximise top speeds and braking opportunities at the end of the straights. Because of this, the grip during the corners is marginal and each one becomes a challenge; especially the Esses after the start, not to mention the various chicanes and the right-hand hairpin at the furthest point from the pits. Here, with the cars having a tendency to slide, a mistake is just a heartbeat away.

5. Those Esses, straight after the start. They are preceded by heavy braking: from nearly 300kph to a maximum of 100kph through the left-hander, swiftly followed by a medium radius right-hander that goes slightly uphill. It’s not an easy place; complicated further by the fact that the pit lane exit is there too. Especially at the start, with a full field of cars squeezed into just a two-metre wide column, anything can happen. And it often does.

6. And then the walls. Those walls are all over the place as can be expected on a narrow street circuit, and the paint on them rarely stays white. But there’s one particular wall that attracts the most attention, which is near the pits, on the exit of the most demanding chicane of the lap. It’s so easy to get that wrong, to the detriment of a suspension arm or wheel – if things go well. Even the very best have tripped up here, which is why it’s famously known as the ‘wall of champions’.

F1, the Canadian Grand Prix in ten points 03

7. The Canadian Grand Prix is the only interruption to the European season, which makes up the bulk of the central part of the season. In June, with summer round the corner, the weather in Canada can be as warm as the Mediterranean but if the Atlantic wind decides otherwise, there can be torrential rain instead. Once back in Europe, it tends to be warm weather until further notice.

8. Canada is often the place where important upgrades are introduced: especially on engines, for the reasons detailed earlier. This year, Mercedes will introduce its first engine upgrade of 2019 in Montreal. Bad news for their rivals, as the team has already racked up five one-two finishes plus a win from the first five races of the season… 

9. Montreal is Gilles. Canada is Villeneuve territory through and through, and it's where he was born (on 18 January, 1950), learned what speed was – starting his career by winning on snowmobiles – made his debut with Ferrari at Mosport (on 9 October 1977), took his first win in Montreal (on 8 October 1978), and left behind an indelible memory following his horrifically public death in 1982. Reminders of Gilles are everywhere throughout the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.

10. Memories. Quebec is a nostalgic place. Memories of Gilles, of course, but also of something else. At least according to the slogan on the local number plates, which reads ‘Je Me Souviens’: I remember. But remember what? It's something we wonder every year… 

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