Toro Rosso head to Canada this weekend with two drivers that are making their debut on the difficult street circuit, which is named after Ferrari legend Gilles Villeneuve.
All in the team are looking forward to this weekend and, as team principal Franz Tost explains, the reasons for the excitement are both sporting and commercial: “[Toro Rosso] are looking forward to coming back to Montreal, as the city is a great venue that always gives Formula 1 a good welcome. It is also an important market for Red Bull and, until we return to the USA, this is our only North American venue and therefore it is commercially important for all teams and partners.
“In Montreal, you get the feeling that the people are very keen on F1, with a party atmosphere that lasts all weekend and is only rivalled by the Monaco event. The track itself puts the emphasis on engine power and brakes.
“Both our drivers will be racing here for the first time and the plan will be for them to do as many laps as possible on Friday to learn the track, because getting the most out of it is harder than it looks on paper.”
Sebastien Buemi explains that he has visited Montreal before, but conditions were somewhat different to what is expected for Sunday’s race. “I came here during the winter time, as part of a promotion that involved driving the Formula 1 car on ice,” says Buemi. “I didn't see much of the track because it was under one metre of snow!
“However, the last time there was a Grand Prix here, I was the Red Bull reserve driver, so I got a feeling for how the weekend pans out and how the track changes over the practice days. I remember they had problems with the asphalt breaking up and I understand that much of it has now been resurfaced.
“It will be the first race of the year where we run the cars in low downforce trim and that's something I'm looking forward to, as those conditions can make for a few surprises. It's the sort of track where the driver can make a difference and therefore I really hope I can pick up some points.
“I enjoyed visiting the city back in January, when I attended an NHL Hockey game and generally I really like Montreal and the fact they speak French here is neat. Oh, and the food is really good too!”
Jaime Alguersuari is yet to even visit the track, but is looking forward to the challenge it presents. “I only have a “virtual” memory of Canada, from seeing the races on television and, more recently, driving the circuit on our simulator,” explains the Spaniard.
“It looks like a very interesting circuit with the barriers very close to the track. I actually like this feeling of being on a street circuit, or a fast track with the walls very close.
“I know it is a very tricky circuit to get the best from because of the combination of low downforce and the fact the surface has very little grip, given that in winter it's covered in snow and ice and then hardly used during the year.
“I think my first race weekend here will be really interesting, getting used to the low downforce and its effect on braking, which in any case is an important factor here. It should all be about finding the right compromise in terms of your set-up to deal with these unusual characteristics that we do not encounter on any other track on the calendar.
“I will have a lot to learn, but I am really looking forward to another new experience as part of my F1 learning curve.”
Chief Engineer Laurent Mekies remembers an incident that took place three years ago in Montreal, and remembers the consequences it had for Toro Rosso and their sister team Red Bull: “I remember (Robert) Kubica's spectacular accident in 2007, partly because it opened the door for Sebastian Vettel to race in F1 (for BMW), at the following week's United States GP; an important moment in our future history and that of the whole Red Bull family.
“I also have mixed feelings about the last time we were there in 2008,” added Laurent. “Both our drivers – Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais – had accidents on Saturday morning. We could not repair Vettel's car which needed a new chassis and with Bourdais, we had to change the gearbox: not an ideal way to go into the rest of the weekend.
“Bourdais had to take a penalty therefore and started from 19th on the grid, while Vettel started from pit lane. But he managed to work his way up the order and eventually brought home one point for eighth place, which is Toro Rosso's best Canadian result to date.
“It would be nice to better it this time. I also “me souviens” the track breaking up. Since then, much of it has been renewed and it has so far survived a NASCAR race, therefore let's wait and see what damage the F1 cars do this year!”