"People say the track is dangerous and maybe that’s part of its appeal” - Jean-Eric Vergne.
Canada is one of the largest countries on the planet and its boundary with the United States is the longest land border in the world. The vibrant city of Montreal is part of Quebec, the largest province in Canada and the only part of the country with French as its official language, although even our friends at Renault don’t always understand the local version of their language!
As for the circuit, on the Ile Notre Dame, it’s a truly unique track, fast, bumpy, narrow, with a long straight and some tight turns. This means engines and brakes get a hard time and the stop-start nature of the layout means traction and acceleration are on the list of requirements from the cars. If it’s hard on the cars, it’s tough on the drivers too, because a quick lap here means gritting your teeth and banging over the kerbs. You also have to be constantly aware of who is behind you, as overtaking especially in and out of the hairpin at turn ten is a definite possibility.
A probability rather than a possibility is the arrival of the safety car, although unusually it wasn’t required in 2013. This can affect strategy in terms of when and how often to pit, with anything from a one stop to a three stop being on the cards. As for the tyres, the smooth surface means that we will have the same choice from Pirelli as we saw in Monaco, namely the Soft and Supersoft.
The Gilles Villeneuve circuit is definitely very hard on the cars. I had a very good Grand Prix there last year and I will be trying for a repeat performance this time, although finishing sixth, like I did in 2013 will not be easy. It is very demanding on the brakes, because of the hard braking areas after fast sections and you also need good top speed because of the long straight down the back. So you run less aero there.
I’m looking forward to the weekend, as I like going to Montreal, which is a really cool city and this event is on my personal podium for the best races of the year. People say the track is dangerous and maybe that’s part of its appeal. I find the circuits where the barriers are a hundred metres away from the track a bit dull. Taking a corner flat out, right on a knife edge, with walls to your left and right is a completely different feeling to going flat out where you know that if you go off you have several hundred metres of run-off.
The last corner here before the pit straight is a good example. It’s a nice corner, as it’s quick and you have to jump two big kerbs, so it feels a bit like going back to one’s karting days, throwing the car around at high speed. It’s a work of art getting it right.
The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is another one on the calendar where I have never raced before and Canada is another country that will be new to me. In preparation, I watched a few Canadian Grands Prixs on television, especially the on-board footage and a few days ago, I spent several hours in the simulator preparing for it. My first impression is that it’s going to be an interesting weekend. The track has a lot of stop and go sections, as well as the hairpin and chicanes. It’s going to be challenging and as always, it’s going to be about finding the right rhythm and putting the lap together. It’s a bit like Monaco, as there is not much run-off area, but after my first experience of Monaco nothing seems difficult now! All I know about Canada is that it’s a beautiful place and like us Russians they are mad keen on ice-hockey, so I hope to visit the Montreal hockey stadium if I have time.
Scuderia Toro Rosso