Canadian GP 2014: 10 Facts About the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2014

Canadian GP 2014: 10 Facts About the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, home of the Canadian Grand Prix, hosts the seventh round of the 2014 Formula One World Championship.

    Nico Rosberg enters the weekend holding a slender lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the drivers' standings after the German's victory in the last round at Monaco, which broke Hamilton's career-best winning streak of four races.

    This weekend's Montreal race, however, presents Hamilton with a golden chance to retaliate, with the 2008 world champion the most successful driver of the current grid at the circuit.

    The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, one of the most picturesque and scenic of venues on the calendar, is a perfect setting for the title fight to take another twist.

    And as the race weekend approaches, here are 10 facts about the Montreal circuit. 


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    The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is located on Ile Notre-Dame, a man-made island on the St Lawrence River in Montreal, Quebec.

    The track is based in the Parc Jean-Drapeau, which is found east of downtown Montreal.

    The final sector of the lap sees cars travel alongside the Bassin olympique, a stretch of water which was used in the 1976 Olympic Games for rowing and canoeing events. 


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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    The circuit was originally called the Ile Notre-Dame Circuit, but was renamed the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1982 following the tragic death of Ferrari star Gilles Villeneuve at that year's Belgian Grand Prix.

    Villeneuve, often regarded as one of the finest drivers never to win the Formula One World Championship, was born in the Richelieu region of Quebec and won the inaugural race at the circuit in 1978. 

    A permanent tribute message to Villeneuve, seen above, poignantly sits beside the start-finish line of the circuit which bears his name.  


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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has a length of 4.361 km, according to the official Formula One website, with the average lap taking around 75 seconds to complete.

    The race's 70 laps sees cars complete a distance of 305.270 km, with the grand prix usually lasting between 90 and 95 minutes.

    The lap record is held by former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello, who set a time of 1:13.622s on Lap 68 of the 2004 Canadian Grand Prix.

The Wall of Champions

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    The concrete wall which lurks on the exit of the final chicane is arguably the most notorious barrier in Formula One.

    Previously known as Bienvenue au Quebec—which translates as "Welcome to Quebec"—the barrier was christened "The Wall of Champions" following the 1999 Canadian Grand Prix after Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve each suffered race-ending collisions with the wall, as seen above. 

    Since then, 2009 world champion Jenson Button and four-time title winner Sebastian Vettel have added their names to the wall's list of casualties.

    The dangers of the wall, of course, are not exclusive to world champions, with Ricardo Zonta, David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tiago Monteiro and several others slamming into the wall on various occasions. 

Troublesome Pit Exit

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    The pit exit in Montreal, unlike most circuits, feeds cars into the middle of Turn 1 rather than the main straight.

    This has created problems for several drivers in the past, especially with the circuit's high safety car probability due to the close proximity of its concrete barriers to the track.

    McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya was disqualified from the 2005 event for rejoining the track despite the presence of a red light at the end of the pit lane, while Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella suffered a similar fate in the 2007 race.

    It was the 2008 grand prix, however, which caused the biggest stir.

    After the safety car was deployed due to an accident involving the Force India of Adrian Sutil, the front-runners dived into the pits, with Lewis Hamilton losing his lead to Kimi Raikkonen.

    The red light at the end of the pit lane caused Raikkonen to stop, with an unaware Hamilton ploughing into the rear of the Ferrari. Nico Rosberg then hit the back of Hamilton, damaging the Williams' front wing.

    All of this took place within centimetres of the BMW of Robert Kubica, who emerged unscathed from the pile-up before going on to take his first and only race win.

Long Straights and Tight Chicanes

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    The Canadian Grand Prix is the first high-speed event of the Formula One season.

    According to an emailed Williams Canadian Grand Prix preview, a lap of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has an average speed of 130 mph, with the long straight between the hairpin and the pit complex contributing heavily to that high figure.

    Teams aims to remove as much wing as possible, but the need for stability under braking means drivers and engineers face quite a dilemma in terms of setup.

    The challenges posed by the brake-by-wire systems will provide an extra headache in this year's event.

Tyres and Braking

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    Pirelli are bringing their soft and supersoft compounds to the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix, in contrast to last year when the Italian manufacturer provided teams with mediums and supersofts.

    The weather conditions can significantly affect the performance of tyres in Canada, with Williams' Rob Smedley stating via an emailed press statement: "If the weather is cool we could suffer from tyre heating issues and if it's hot then there is the chance of thermal degradation."

    The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve's layout, with slow corners following long straights, means the Canadian Grand Prix is one of the most critical of the season in terms of braking.

    The track's semi-street circuit nature presents another compelling challenge, with Pirelli's weekend preview reading: "One of the biggest challenges for the tyres in Canada is the fact that the asphalt is extremely inconsistent, made up of a number of different surfaces that offer variable levels of grip."

Past Winners

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    Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, winning on seven occasions between 1994 and 2004.

    The seven-time world champion has a comfortable gap to the next most frequent victors, with Nelson Piquet—the first winner of a Canadian Grand Prix after the death of Gilles Villeneuve—tied with Lewis Hamilton on three wins apiece.

    Apart from Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen (2005), Fernando Alonso (2006), Jenson Button (2011) and Sebastian Vettel (2013) are the only current drivers to win at the track.

Pole Position an Added Bonus

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    Of the 34 grands prix held at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve thus far, the driver in pole position has only gone on to win the race on 15 occasions.

    Lewis Hamilton was the last driver to win in Montreal having failed to set pole position the previous day, becoming the seventh different victor in the opening seven races of the 2012 season.

    No driver has won the Montreal race having started any lower than 10th, which is where Jacques Laffite started the 1981 event for Ligier. 

The Longest Race in F1 History

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    The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was recorded as the longest Formula One race in the sport's history.

    Race winner Jenson Button crossed the finish line just over four hours after the race had begun behind the safety car due to rain.

    The intensity of the rain led to a mid-race stoppage lasting over two hours, with the safety car deployed on five separate occasions.

    One of those safety car periods led to Button, who collided with teammate Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, receiving a drive-through penalty for speeding, with the McLaren driver positioned in last place with 30 of the 70 laps remaining.

    Button's charge through the field, passing Sebastian Vettel for the lead on the very last lap, has led to the 2011 event being regarded as one of the most exciting—as well as the longest—in F1 history.