Formula One fever grips Montreal this week as the teams cross the Atlantic for the only North American round on the calendar this season, the Canadian Grand Prix. Widely regarded as one of the country's most favoured sporting events, the Canadians...
Formula One fever grips Montreal this week as the teams cross the Atlantic for the only North American round on the calendar this season, the Canadian Grand Prix. Widely regarded as one of the country's most favoured sporting events, the Canadians will be celebrating their 40th Grand Prix this year having hosted a race ever year bar one since 1967. Twenty nine of those have been held at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a track enjoyed by the drivers for its challenging layout, while also regarded with some degree of trepidation as its perilous walls loom threateningly close and are renowned for claiming even the most seasoned of drivers.
Traditionally a good track for the team, AT&T Williams has a strong record at Montreal with seven victories, second only to Ferrari's nine, seven fastest laps and nine pole positions. Nico Rosberg will be back in the cockpit in Canada having been given the all clear after his accident in Monaco, and will join Kazuki Nakajima in the team's fight to collect points to augment its position in the Constructors' Championship.
Monaco was a difficult race for me, which was a real shame as we'd been competitive all weekend. After two incidents in the opening stages of the race, I thought I'd settled into a rhythm but, coming to swimming pool after Tabac, the rear of the car twitched suddenly, probably on a patch of water, and I ended up in the Armco. After consulting the doctors on site, I decided to go to hospital as precaution for some routine checks. Fortunately, they came back clear so I was released on Sunday evening. Following a couple of days' rest, I resumed my normal training programme in preparation for Canada.
I'm heading to Montreal a few days early to get used to the time difference and to see the city. There are lots of cool bars, restaurants and clubs, and there are some good places to go shopping. There are also some beautiful places around the city, especially near the mountains, where I like to go for my daily run. The locals really get behind Formula One and they seem to be quite supportive of me too as many of them remember my father when he raced there.
AT&T Williams has a strong history around the Circuit Gilles Villeneueve and have traditionally been quick there, which gives me a lot of confidence and allows me to go to Montreal with positive expectations. I'm looking forward to getting back in the car because the speed we showed in Monaco was very promising and the track should suit our car.
I've only been to North America once when I went to Canada for last year's race and drove in Friday morning's practice session. Because of that, I do have some experience of the track, but this will be my first full weekend of racing there. The circuit is very challenging with its walls and high kerbs. It's not an easy track, but it should be fun to drive. Montreal itself is a great city. It's really picturesque and I enjoyed my time there last year so I'm looking forward to going back. Before heading to Canada, I'm going to New York for a week to have a look around and do some training.
Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams F1
Montreal always produces good racing, mainly because the cars run so close to the walls so there's a higher chance than normal of the safety car being deployed. As one of the few street circuits on the calendar, the grip level changes significantly over the race weekend, so the teams are continuously chasing the perfect set-up.
The circuit is dominated by long straights so the rear wing level has to be set lower than normal to ensure that the car is running at its optimum aerodynamic efficiency. The long straights induce high top speeds but, combined with the slow speed corners, also make Montreal the hardest track on brakes so we have to monitor their wear. Most teams opt for a one or two stop strategy in Canada. Our target for this race is to obviously score points, which we should be able to do considering the upturn in competitiveness we demonstrated at the last race in Monaco.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal
Located on the Ile Notre Dame, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a wholly different proposition to the previous race in Monte Carlo and demands a completely different set-up direction and a return to optimum aero efficiency. Above all, Montreal is a power track. The 4.361km lap is driven at an average of 200km/h with top speeds peaking at 320km/h on the start-finish straight where throttles will be fully open for 15 seconds going into Turn 2. As such, engine power and durability will be deciding variables this weekend.
Sufficient torque to power the car out of the corners will also be key as the high speed straights are met by a combination of slow and medium speed corners, the slowest of which being L'Epingle hairpin taken in second gear at just 65mph. Low downforce settings for the straights must therefore be complemented by medium grip levels and a well balanced set-up for good cornering capability to achieve a quick lap time.
With a total of 15 corners around the lap, the circuit is notoriously hard on brakes (temperatures can reach up to 1,000C during the race) so the teams bring bespoke brakes and pads to Montreal which can withstand the high wear levels and temperatures. The stop-start nature of the circuit also places considerable demands on the gearbox as up to 3,500 changes can be made during the 70-lap race. Combined with Montreal's imposing kerbs and the unforgiving run-off areas, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve invariably claims a number of casualties, but the fans' enthusiasm is always rewarded with an exciting Canadian Grand Prix.