Halfway through the season at Canada

Halfway through the season at Canada

Formula One started visiting Canada in the 1960s and the race was held at Mosport Park one year and Mont-Tremblant the next, until the latter was deemed too dangerous and Mosport took over full time from 1970. In the late seventies, due to the ...

Formula One started visiting Canada in the 1960s and the race was held at Mosport Park one year and Mont-Tremblant the next, until the latter was deemed too dangerous and Mosport took over full time from 1970. In the late seventies, due to the rising success of Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, it was decided a new circuit was needed.

Start/finish line, with the traditional 'Salut Gilles'.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Building a facility was too expensive and the solution was to join the roads on the Ile Notre Dame, near central Montreal, to form a circuit. The island, between the St. Laurence River and the St. Laurence Seaway shipping canal, had reverted to being a public park after being designed for the World Fair in 1967. After upgrading and rebuilding the combined road track and public streets, the circuit hosted its first GP in October 1978.

To the delight of the crowds, Gilles took his first F1 victory at the inaugural event. He was never to win at home again, tragically killed at Zolder a month before the 1982 Canadian race. The Montreal circuit was renamed in his honour. Some bad accidents have marred the race's history, which are best not dwelt on, and also debates between race organizers and F1 authorities in the late eighties caused problems.

Jack Brabham won the first Canadian GP, at Mosport, in 1967. Winners at Montreal after Gilles included Nelson Piquet (three times) and Ayrton Senna (twice). The circuit also saw Jean Alesi's one and only GP win, with Ferrari in 1995. Michael Schumacher has been dominant in recent years, with four wins, but brother Ralf took victory in 2001.

Montreal is very popular with the drivers both on and off track. The circuit itself is quite fast and downforce is medium to low to minimize drag. A compromise has to be found as there are some twisty corners that would normally require higher downforce, and also call for good brakes and traction.

The race is usually a one-stopper but fuel consumption is higher than usual due to the acceleration out of corners, so with the no-refueling rule strategy will once again be important. The track offers more overtaking opportunities than many and has a reputation for being a car breaker.

Drivers lap at an average of approx 200kmph at Montreal; the speeds can cause considerable tyre wear and the track is also quite bumpy. Medium to soft compounds will be the tyre choice.

Race winner Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Michael won last year's race after an early fight with the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian was on pole but lost the lead to Rubens Barrichello, then a safety car period after Jacques Villenueve's BAR died altered the face of things. Montoya suffered a blown engine and teammate Ralf Schumacher had a disastrous pit stop that ruined Williams' chances. Michael took victory from McLaren's David Coulthard and Barrichello.

The 2003 season is just about half way through and so far it's been an interesting one. There have been five different race winners and some surprising performances, both good and bad. Ferrari was simply wrong-footed in Monaco and Williams was the team that had it all hooked up.

However, Ferrari should be strong in Canada, although Williams expects its strong performance to carry through. Championship leader Kimi Raikkonen resigned himself to second in Monaco, with little option on the street circuit, but Montreal has chances for overtaking that the Finn will no doubt take given the opportunity.

Renault's lack of engine power could be a problem in Canada with the long straights but Williams should benefit, as should Jaguar and Toyota. Jacques Villeneuve has not claimed a home win and with his appalling luck so far this year it's highly doubtful he will do it this time around. But BAR is looking more competitive as the season goes on; surely Villeneuve or Button will make the podium at some point given the right circumstances.

Ferrari, McLaren and Williams remain the ones to beat, with Renault not too far behind and capable of interfering. In the midfield it's Jaguar and BAR that seem to be on the up -- despite reliability issues -- while Sauber and Jordan are floundering. Toyota is no doubt eager to make amends for its generally poor Monaco weekend and Minardi will probably just be happy to be there.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Michael Schumacher , Jean Alesi , David Coulthard , Kimi Raikkonen , Ayrton Senna , Gilles Villeneuve , Nelson Piquet , Jack Brabham , Eric Gilbert
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan