Formula One Preview: Canada
Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
We’ve all missed it, but this weekend we’re returning to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal for the first Canadian Grand Prix since 2019. The race was cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but we now return to the track that has played host to the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978. We’ve seen many thrills and spills in the decades F1 has visited Montreal, from the last lap antics of 2011 to the comeback of Robert Kubica, who took his one and only F1 win at Canada in 2008 after his horrific accident the year prior. This year, as it always does, Canada provides the final round before the behemoth 7-round European stint of the calendar.
Canada is one of the shorter tracks on the calendar, resulting in a 70-lap race. The pole time in 2019 was 1:10.240 set by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with the fastest lap 2.8s slower than the pole time courtesy of Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas. Due to the recent technical regulation changes, these times will likely drop by 2-3 seconds in the 2022 edition of the Grand Prix.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is composed of 14 corners, with the cars ignoring 3 of them. Out of the track’s 6 braking zones, 5 of them are chicanes. The most notable of these is surely the infamous “Wall of Champions” of Turn 13 and 14. The Quebec Wall, as it’s also known, makes up the final corner and provides a tight chicane with curbs either side with the wall awaiting any drivers who’re caught out by the chicane. The wall was named the “Wall of Champions” after 3 former champions (Hill, Schumacher, and Villeneuve) found the barriers at the final corner in the 1999 race.
DRS is available three times on the circuit: on the 600m start/finish straight, between turn 7 and 8 (a shorter straight), and down the mammoth Casino straight between L’Epingle hairpin and the final chicane. The L’Epingle is the hardest braking zone on the track and the slowest corner as well, providing a good overtaking opportunity to those who get a strong exit out of turn 9. If you are unable to make a lunge up the inside or outside of L’Epingle, the Casino straight (or Droit du Casino) gives drivers a kilometre of straight to make a move into the final corner and take the position.
2019 saw Lewis Hamilton take a record-equalling 7th Canadian Grand Prix despite not leading a single lap. An off-moment for Sebastian Vettel at turn 3 saw the German skid across the grass before cutting in front of his rival Lewis Hamilton. Vettel received a controversial 5-second penalty for the incident and despite taking the flag in first, lost his win to Hamilton who finished 1.3s behind Vettel. The 4-time champion proceeded to swap the position boards in parc ferme, signifying his frustration with the decision to penalise him.
Let’s flash forward now to 2022. After 8 rounds it’s the reigning champion Max Verstappen at the head of the championship, with previous leader Charles Leclerc now down in 3rd after a second engine blowout of the season in Baku. After Round 3 in Melbourne, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was 46 points behind Charles Leclerc but the Dutchman has seen an immense comeback since then and is now 34 points ahead of the Ferrari man going into Canada.