Yes, it’s a Buzzfeed style post, which means that I should be able to get away with the “eh” pun in the headline. Having watched far too many American sitcoms where they make fun of Canada, this article risks descending into a kerfuffle of maple syrup and Robin Sparkles. Instead, let’s focus on the racing…
1. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is all kinds of awesome
Is it a street circuit? Is it a permanent circuit? Is it both? We’ll say both. This track really does test the ability and gall of both the driver and the car. All of the greats have won here, but it does often spring a surprise. Jean Alesi’s win in 1995 came out of the blue, whilst Jenson Button’s titanic comeback in 2011 will go down in F1 history for a number of reasons (we’ll get onto that later). This is a mix of close walls, high speed straights, tight chicanes… just all round awesomeness.
2. It’s called the Wall of Champions for a reason
It’s called the Wall of Champions for a reason. In 1999, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve all binned it at the final corner, thus christening it. It is one of the most difficult corners in F1, as the final chicane is where a huge amount of time can be won or lost. Daniel Ricciardo said last week that it’s good to kiss it, but not too hard, and it’s true. You have to thread the needle and work the car through the chicane without losing too much time.
Without the 1999 menage-a-trois in the Wall of Champions, it could easily be called the Wall of Mediocre F1 Drivers. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Pastor Maldonado, Ricardo Zonta and Tiago Monteiro have been other victims of the circuit’s devilish final corner.
3. The Brits usually do pretty well there
Being a history nerd, I can tell you that Britain took control of Montreal from the French in 1760, as part of the Seven Years War. In the 19th century, Canada became an independent nation, and the city was then officially Canadian (albeit with a huge French presence, even to this day).
However, since 2007, Britain has again enjoyed a dominance in the city… well, at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, anyway. Hamilton has won the race three times (2007, 2010 and 2012), with compatriot Jenson Button winning in 2011. British drivers have won the race nine times, as have German drivers, meaning that Nico and Lewis will probably put one of their nations ahead.
4. And the groundhogs often make an appearance
Awh, groundhogs! They’re also known as woodchucks, and inspired the tongue-twisted “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”. Often, these little creatures will be seen scampering around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but this came to Anthony Davidson’s cost in 2007. The Super Aguri driver was running in the points, and looked set to score some for the first time ever, only for him to hit a groundhog and have to pit for a new front wing.
They are cute though!
5. It’s a bit of a car breaker
If you can get your car to the finish of the Canadian Grand Prix, you’ve usually done pretty well. Not only are the walls alarmingly close most of the time, but the nature of the circuit means that it pushes every part of the car – engine, tyres, brakes. Brakes are particularly stressed due to the heavy stopping points, with the final corner being a especially tough one.
The 2010 race was the one that set the precedent for Pirelli’s tyre designs. Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren went head-to-head with a variety of strategies on the Bridgestones, and it was a cracking race. F1 said “wow that was great! Do it again!”, and so came Pirelli’s tender to have more than one pit stop in a race.
Also watch out for other drivers crashing into you in the pits. No, really.
6. Got your umbrella?
If you’re thinking of going to Canada for the weather, then it might be best to think again and book a flight to Singapore or Abu Dhabi. The Canadian Grand Prix often offers all of the seasons across the course of the race weekend, ranging from bright sunshine and hot conditions to torrential rain. Again, 2011 (we’ll get to it) saw the latter, and it was crazy to see.
If you’re heading to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, you might be best to pack an umbrella. And some jumpers. And a cap. And a raincoat. And sun cream. Just the whole lot.
7. Montreal embraces Formula 1 with open arms
City races such as these are my favourite. Silverstone is great, but it’s just so far away from anywhere. Spa is much the same (but then again, it is Spa, so we shan’t quibble!). However, Montreal, like Singapore, just becomes all about Formula 1 when the sport’s circus rocks up in town. The streets become all about the sport, the parties and festivals are buzzing, and it’s just a real feel-good weekend.
If you’re heading to Montreal, be sure to check out our city guide from our resident Canadian, Ernie, with a few tips on what to do and where to go when visiting ‘the city of a hundred steeples’. They love their churches, apparently.
8. North American fans make this a great event
I’ve written before about the awesomeness of American and Canadian fans, and this weekend they finally get a lie in. No 7am start to tune in and watch the race with a cup of coffee and your breakfast. Instead, you can watch the race like we do in Europe (with a cup of coffee and your lunch) at 1pm local time. The US and Canadian fans flock to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and make it a really great event. They rock.
For those of you in Europe, this race starts in the evening, making it quite a pleasantly-timed one. You can head out and do whatever you need to do on a Sunday, see the mother-in-law, cook your roast dinner, and then sit down and watch the racing.
9. It’s a race steeped in history
Few races have a history like the Canadian Grand Prix. Perhaps the best of them come from the man it is named after, Gilles Villeneuve. The Canadian driver is arguably the greatest never to win the world championship, and the images of him racing for Ferrari in the late 70s and early 80s are very evocative.
All of the great drivers have won here, but it has a habit of catching people out. 2005 and 2007 saw drivers get disqualified for ignoring the red light in the pits, but in the latter, Robert Kubica’s horrifying accident was the real talking point. His victory one year later was no less than he deserved, and a wonderful story.
10. 2011 – the race of the century
Wowzeroonie. 2011 was a real humdinger of a grand prix. It goes down in the record books as the longest grand prix of all time, having sat through a two hour red flag period due to the torrential rain. Jenson Button endured a miserable race in the wet, having collided with his teammate, received a drive-through penalty, stopped six times and run in last place.
However, he remarkably fought his way through to win the race after passing Sebastian Vettel on the final lap. Seb cracked under the pressure and went off at the second chicane, allowing the Briton past. It was a truly great race, and deservedly voted as the ‘race of the century’ by Sky Sports F1 viewers.
2014 might not quite live up to 2011’s high standards, but you can be certain that the Canadian Grand Prix will once again be an eventful spectacle and fantastic festival of racing.
Images courtesy of Lotus F1 Team (1, 6, 10), Scuderia Ferrari (2, 8, 9) and McLaren (3).