The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been the home of the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978. The track is a semi-permanent circuit, with the area around the pits reserved exclusively for racing, while the rest of the circuit is opened up to road traffic during the summer months.
The contrast between the grands prix of Monaco and Canada really shows the versatility of the Formula 1 season, with the relatively low speeds of Monaco followed by the ultra-quick, heavy-braking layout of Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Built on a man-made island in the St Lawrence River, the circuit is, in essence, a sequence of straights linked by tight chicanes and a hairpin. Downforce is cut back to medium-low levels for the first time in the season to propel cars to top speeds in excess of 330km/h (205mph). Canada offers the season’s sternest test of brake performance with continuous heavy stops around the lap and not much time in between to cool the pads and discs. Traction is also a concern, with drivers keen to get the power down early coming out of the slow turns. The chicanes also demand a delicate hand with suspension settings: soft enough to ride the kerbs but without compromising the swift change of direction required to dive through the chicanes. It’s one of those things drivers and engineers need to fine tune during practice – so everyone looks for a dry weekend.
Montreal often has other ideas, and rain is at least as common as blazing sunshine. Neither eventuality seems to affect the crowd, however, which always fills the grandstand and makes the Canadian Grand Prix one of the most enjoyable at which to work.
Fernando took victory here in 2006, while Jenson won a memorable race in 2011, one of our 13 Canadian Grand Prix wins. With the greatest of respect to the stellar list of names that have gone before, it’s difficult to imagine a finer victory that Jenson’s in 2011, completed in atrocious weather conditions, involving a red flag and a record six safety cars. Jenson, who received a drive through penalty and made five pit stops, was running last well into the second half of the race. He took the lead coming into the final sector of the final lap. It simply doesn’t get more dramatic than that.
How McLaren defined 12 days in the history of the Canadian GP
September 22 1968
Denny Hulme leads home Bruce McLaren to give McLaren an historic one-two finish at Mont Tremblant. Hulme inherits the lead when Ferrari driver Chris Amon, who leads for 72 of the 90 laps, retires with gearbox failure.
September 23 1973
Peter Revson’s second and final victory in Formula 1. He qualifies second at Mosport in his M23, but drops to seventh in the early laps. A lucky break with the Safety Car catapults him into the lead, ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus.
September 22 1974
Emerson Fittipaldi qualifies on pole position at Mosport, but Niki Lauda jumps ahead at the start. The Ferrari driver leads until he crashes out on lap 70 after driving over debris, handing the lead back to Emmo. As a result, the world championship fight goes down to the last race at Watkins Glen – where it’s settled in Emerson’s favour.
October 3 1976
James Hunt takes pole position at Mosport in dominant style, but Ronnie Peterson beats him into Turn One at the start. On lap nine, James pulls off a robust overtaking manoeuvre to take a lead he never loses. With championship rival Niki Lauda finishing only eighth, James closes the gap in the drivers’ standings to eight points.
June 12 1988
McLaren’s fifth win from the opening five races of ’88. Ayrton Senna takes pole position at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but he’s beaten off the line by team-mate Alain Prost. Ayrton passes Alain for the lead on lap 19 and the pair proceeds to lap everyone up to Thierry Boutsen in third place.
June 10 1990
Ayrton Senna’s second victory in Montreal. He dominates from lights to flag, beating compatriot Nelson Piquet by 10s. Any chance of a McLaren one-two is ruined at the start when team-mate Gerhard Berger, starting second, jumps the start and is given a one-minute penalty.
June 14 1992
In a season dominated by Williams, Ayrton Senna takes an unexpected pole position and leads the race until he’s forced to retire with a gearbox problem. Gerhard Berger inherits the lead, coming home 12s ahead of Michael Schumacher.
June 13 1999
Michael Schumacher grabs pole from Mika Hakkinen by less than 0.1s and the pair race into the distance at the start. Mika pressures Michael into a mistake, which see the Ferrari star hit the “Wall of Champions” on the outside of the final turn. Mika takes the win from Giancarlo Fisichella’s Benetton.
June 12 2005
Juan Pablo Montoya leads the race until Jenson Button crashes into the Wall of Champions, bringing out the Safety Car. Montoya loses out in the subsequent pitstops, leaving team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to pick up the baton and take the fight to Michael Schumacher. Kimi beats Michael by 1.1s.
June 10 2007
The race is remembered for two things: Lewis Hamilton’s first victory in Formula One and Robert Kubica’s terrifying accident on the approach to the Hairpin. Lewis dominates the race from pole position; Robert emerges unscathed from the wreck of his car.
June 13 2010
McLaren’s second one-two in Canada, Lewis Hamilton leading home team-mate Jenson Button. They are separated by 2.2s at the flag, ahead of Fernando Alonso in third place.
June 12 2011
The longest race in F1 history, and one of the most eventful. Jenson Button wins in 4hrs4mins, after the race is suspended for two hours due to heavy rain. Jenson makes 34 on-track passes and eventually seals victory with a last lap pass Sebastian Vettel. “This has to be one of my greatest victories,” he said.