Formula 1

PREVIEW: 2019 Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix – Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve

7 Mins read
Credit: Mercedes Benz Archive/Wolfgang Wilhelm

The seventh round of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will take place this weekend at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montréal, Canada. The Canadian Grand Prix has been the setting for exciting races in the past because of the layout of this street circuit and the mixed weather conditions.

The inaugural Canadian Grand Prix took place in 1967 at Mosport Park. The race moved to the current circuit in Montréal in 1978, first called the Circuit Île Notre Dame. Since then, this first flyaway race in North America has been held thirty-nine times at this circuit and attracts a large TV audience worldwide.

The first Canadian Grand Prix was won by the Australian Jack Brabham at Mosport Park. After that venue was deemed dangerous, the Grand Prix was moved to the current venue.

Gilles Villeneuve, a native of Quebec, recorded his maiden Formula 1 victory at the first ever Grand Prix hosted at this circuit. The Canadian has acquired legendary status because of his bold and fast driving-style that bordered on recklessness.

After his tragic death in 1982 driving for the Ferrari team at the Belgian Grand Prix, Villeneuve was immortalized in Formula 1 history. A few weeks after the tragic death of Villeneuve, the circuit was renamed after the iconic Canadian as “the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve” and the Canadian GP will forever be associated with him.

What happened at the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix?

Lewis Hamilton scored his fourth win of the season at the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix. The Mercedes AMG Motorsport team’s record of five consecutive 1-2 finishes came to an end at this race as Sebastian Vettel disrupted the podium.

Hamilton took pole position with a last-gasp effort. A good start saw the Briton comfortably lead his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel into Turn 1.

Charles Leclerc started down the field in fifteenth position after a botched strategy in qualification by the Ferrari team. Leclerc came to grief as he tried to overtake Nico Hulkenberg on lap 9. The early Safety Car period saw the top four drivers dive into the pits.

The Mercedes team put their drivers on the medium compound tyres. Verstappen and Vettel were on the hard compound tyres. An unsafe release of Verstappen resulted in him hitting Bottas in the pit lane.

The resulting slow puncture forced Bottas to pit again for hard compound tyres and dropped him to fourth position while Verstappen was given a 5-second penalty for the unsafe release from the pits by the team.

As the drivers behind Hamilton were on more durable tyres the Brit was forced to manage his pace to eke out the medium compound tyres till the end of the race.

Verstappen was within DRS-range and put maximum pressure on the race leader lap after lap. But on this hard to overtake track, Hamilton defended well and scored a dramatic win.

The win was hailed as “a miracle win” and was a fitting tribute to the late Niki Lauda, the recently departed inspirational leader of the Mercedes team.

Vettel finished in second position for his best finish of the season. Bottas completed the podium. Verstappen dropped to fourth position after the 5-second penalty was imposed.

Pierre Gasly finished in fifth position and Carlos Sainz completed the top 6 positions. Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon brought home a double points finish for Toro Rosso as they finished in seventh and eighth positions respectively.

Daniel Ricciardo had to be satisfied with ninth position after the early pit stop under the Safety Car resulted in loss of track position. Romain Grosjean held on to tenth position and scored points for the second straight race.

Gasly took the extra point for fastest lap to add to his points tally. With his fourth win of the season, Hamilton extended his lead in the drivers’ championship to seventeen points over Bottas.

What happened in the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix?

Sebastian Vettel dominated from the first lap to take his third win of the season at the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix. Vettel clinched his fiftieth career win and took over the top spot in the drivers’ championship.

Vettel started from pole position, Bottas joined him on the first row. Verstappen and Hamilton were on the second row. Kimi Räikkönen and Ricciardo lined up on the third row. Hulkenberg, Esteban Ocon, Sainz, and Sergio Pérez lined up at the front of the grid.

Vettel had a comfortable start and led into Turn 1, but behind the leaders, Lance Stroll and Brendon Hartley collided and the Safety Car was deployed early in the race. Not an unusual occurrence at this race.

It was a processional race without the dramatic overtakes that can be seen at this track. In the closing laps, Bottas moved in on the leader. Verstappen was also within sniffing distance of Bottas. Hamilton was within DRS range of Ricciardo in the final laps, but could not overtake the Australian for fourth position.

Vettel comfortably clinched his third win of the season. Bottas claimed second spot as Verstappen completed the podium places. Ricciardo finished in fourth position, as he held off Hamilton in the closing laps. Räikkönen , Hulkenberg, Sainz, Ocon, and Leclerc rounded off the top 10 positions.

What a difference a year makes. Ferrari made a strong start to the 2018 season and Mercedes was on the back foot during the early part of the season. Hamilton finished only in fifth position at one of his strongest tracks on the Formula 1 calendar.

The Circuit

The 4.361 kilometers road circuit built on a man-made island has fourteen slow and medium-speed corners connecting the long straights. The track surface is very smooth and offers very low grip, though the track rubbers down after every session during the weekend.

It is a medium downforce circuit with medium fuel consumption, but very heavy brake wear. The narrow circuit is enclosed and hemmed in by walls all around which does not forgive any driver errors.

The straights are connected by chicanes and a hairpin which creates high speed zones followed by heavy braking zones that cause extreme wear on the brakes. High G-forces of upto 5G is experienced by the drivers.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 5) starts with a slight kink before Turn 1 followed by a slow right-hander at Turn 2 (Virage Senna). Turns 3 and 4 are a right-left chicane followed by a flat out right-hand corner at Turn 5.

Sector 2 (Turn 6 to Turn 9) consists of two chicanes and two straights. A left-right chicane at Turn 6 and 7 leading to a straight and a right-left chicane at Turn 8 and 9 leading to another straight.

Sector 3 (Turn 10 to Turn 14) starts with a hairpin at Turn 10 (L’Epingle ). This is followed by the longest straight of the circuit (Casino Straight) leading to the chicane at Turn 13 and 14 which is the most famous part of the circuit.

The drivers are forced to take a racing line here which is very close to the wall at the exit and has seen champions like Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve crash into the wall. The wall has been nicknamed the “Wall of Champions” and more recently saw Vettel crash here during a practice session in 2011.

There are two DRS zones with the first DRS detection point before Turn 6 and the second detection point after Turn 9 in the lead up to the hairpin at Turn 10.  First DRS Activation Zone is before Turn 12 (Casino Straight) and the second DRS Activation Zone is after Turn 14 (Start-Finish Straight).

On a circuit with many overtaking opportunities, the two DRS zones will make the race interesting. Getting pole position is not so important on this track with many overtaking opportunities.

Tyre Strategy

The white-striped hard tyres (C3), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C4) and the red-striped soft tyres (C5) nominated for this race are the softest tyres in the Pirelli range of tyres. This was the same compounds of tyres nominated for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The drivers have chosen seven or more sets of the soft compound tyres (C5) in the thirteen sets allocated to them.  The Mercedes drivers have chosen eight sets of the soft compound tyres. The Ferrari and Red Bull drivers have chosen seven sets of the soft compound tyres.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a semi-permanent track built on roads open to the public during the rest of the year. The smooth asphalt surface offers low grip and there is significant track evolution as the race weekend progresses.

It was a one pit stop race for most of the drivers influenced by the early Safety Car last year. A Safety Car is highly likely given the narrow circuit with the barriers in close proximity which penalizes driver errors.

The high probability of a Safety Car and the mixed weather conditions tends to lead to a mix of strategies that makes the race exciting.

Credit: Pirelli Media

What should we look out for this year?

Mercedes has won three of the last four races at the Canadian Grand Prix. The Silver Arrows will probably bring an engine upgrade to this race. The team has dominated the season so far winning the first six races.

The Mercedes drivers clinched 1-2 finishes in the first five races of the season for good measure. Ferrari, unlike last season, has made a lacklustre start to the season.

The Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve features fast straights leading into tight, heavy-braking zones. This power track is well-suited for the Ferrari SF90 challenger which is very fast in a straight line. The extra grunt of the Ferrari Power Unit can help the Italian team close the gap to the dominant Mercedes team.

Verstappen has made a strong start to the season. Last season, it was at this race that the Dutchman set right the error-filled start to the season with a podium finish. Verstappen has since the Canadian Grand Prix last year been one of the top performers on the grid. The Honda Power Unit will be fully tested at this power circuit. Red Bull Racing needs to not only close the gap to Mercedes but also edge past Ferrari in performance at this race.

The midfield fight is as close as ever. Just four points separate the teams from fifth to ninth position. McLaren, mainly through Sainz, has recorded strong performances in the last few races and leads the pack. Toro Rosso with a double points finish in the last race has joined the midfield battle.

Hamilton (137 points) is now leading team-mate Bottas by seventeen points in the drivers’ championship. Vettel (82 points) has moved ahead of Verstappen (78 points) for third position in the championship. Leclerc (57 points) rounds off the top 5 positions in the drivers’ championship.

Mercedes (257 points) has extended the lead in the constructors’ championship to 118 points over Ferrari (139 points). Red Bull Racing (110 points) led by Verstappen sits in a strong third position. McLaren (30 points) and the Racing Point team (17 points) complete the top 5 positions in the constructors’ championship.

Can Ferrari fulfill their pre-season potential and reignite their title chances with a win at the Canadian Grand Prix? Can any driver stop the Mercedes drivers winning streak and stand on the top step of the podium? An exciting and dramatic race at the Canadian Grand Prix against the current run of form can rekindle the hopes of the teams in their bid to challenge the Mercedes team.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 7 June

14:00 GMT / 10:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
18:00 GMT / 14:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 8 June

15:00 GMT / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
18:00 GMT / 14:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 9 June

18:10 GMT / 14:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the Canadian Grand Prix.

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