Canadian Grand Prix Preview

Ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix, Sudha Sundararaj takes a look at the venue for the seventh race of the 2017 Formula 1 Season.

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The seventh round of the Formula 1 World Championship will take place this weekend at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada. The Canadian Grand Prix, the first flyaway race in North America, provides exciting races because of the layout of this street circuit and the mixed weather conditions.

Canadian Grand Prix Preview

The History

The Canadian Grand Prix started in 1967 and moved in 1978 to the current circuit in Montreal, first called the Ile Notre-Dame circuit. Since 1978 the race has been held 37 times at this circuit and attracts a large TV audience worldwide, especially in North America.

Gilles Villeneuve, a native of Quebec, recorded his maiden F1 victory at the first ever Grand Prix hosted at this circuit. The Canadian has acquired legendary status because of his bold and fast driving-style that bordered on recklessness. Villeneuve has been immortalized in F1 history, after his tragic death in 1982 driving for the Ferrari team at the Belgian Grand Prix. A few weeks after the tragic death of Villeneuve, the circuit was renamed after the iconic Canadian as “the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve” and the Canadian GP will forever be associated with him.

The inaugural Canadian GP was held in 1967 at Mosport Park and was won by the Australian Jack Brabham. After that venue was deemed dangerous, the Grand Prix was moved to the current venue. The first race was won by Villeneuve at his home venue for Ferrari.

The Teams and Drivers

Ferrari has won ten times at this circuit, but not since seven-time winner Michael Schumacher’s 2004 win. McLaren has won nine times at this venue, followed by Williams as the third-most successful constructor with seven wins. Red Bull Racing and Mercedes have won two races apiece in the last four races here.

Michael Schumacher made this race his own by winning seven times. Lewis Hamilton (2007, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016) has five wins and has won the last two races here. Nelson Piquet gets an honorable mention as a three-time winner. Red Bull notched their first win in 2013 with Sebastian Vettel recording his first win at this circuit. Daniel Ricciardo recorded his maiden Grand Prix win in 2014, making the most of Mercedes reliability issues. The other past winners on the grid are Fernando Alonso (2006) and Kimi Raikkonen (2005). Jenson Button who drove for McLaren for the one race in Monaco in place of the Indy500-bound Alonso won a dramatic rain-soaked four hour race on the last lap. The young teenage driver Lance Stroll (Williams) is a Canadian driver on the grid after a long time.

The Circuit

The 4.361 kilometers road circuit built on a man-made island has fourteen slow and medium-speed corners connecting the straights. The track surface is very smooth and offers very low grip, though the track rubbers down after every session during the weekend. It is a medium down-force circuit with medium fuel consumption, but very heavy brake wear. The narrow circuit is enclosed and hemmed in by walls all around which does not forgive any driver errors.

The straights are connected by chicanes and a hairpin which creates high speed zones followed by heavy braking zones that cause extreme wear on the brakes. High G-forces of upto 5G is experienced by the drivers. Getting pole position is not so important on this track with the most overtaking opportunities of any current F1 track.

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 5) starts with a slight kink before Turn 1 followed by a slow right-hander at Turn 2 (Virage Senna). Turns 3 and 4 are a right-left chicane followed by a flat out right-hand corner at Turn 5.

Sector 2 (Turn 6 to Turn 9) consists of two chicanes and two straights. A left-right chicane at Turn 6 and 7 leading to a straight and a right-left chicane Turn 8 and 9 (a right-left chicane) leading to another straight.

Sector 3 (Turn 10 to Turn 14) starts with a hairpin at Turn 10 (L’Epingle ). This is followed by the longest straight (Casino Straight) leading to the chicane at Turn 13 and 14 which is the most famous part of the circuit. The drivers are forced to take a racing line here which is very close to the wall at the exit and has seen champions like Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve crash into the wall. The wall has been nicknamed the “Wall of Champions” and most recently saw Vettel crash here during a practice session in 2011.

There are two DRS zones with a single detection point after Turn 9 in the leadup to the hairpin at Turn 10.  First DRS Activation Zone is before Turn 12 (Casino Straight) and the second DRS Activation Zone is after Turn 14 (Start-Finish Straight). On a circuit with many overtaking opportunities, the two DRS zones will make the race interesting.

Tyre Strategies

Pirelli tyre choices for this race are the yellow-striped soft tyres, red-striped supersoft tyres and the purple-striped ultrasoft tyres. The drivers have chosen seven or more sets of ultrasoft tyres of the thirteen sets allocated to them. The race is likely to see mixed strategies from the teams with a one-stop or a two-stop race. The teams, especially Mercedes, have struggled to bring the ultrasoft tyres into the right temperature window to extract maximum performance.

https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/headlines/2017/5/ultrasoft-tyres-the-preferred-choice-for-canada.html

Current Form

Ferrari has moved into the top spot in the constructors’ title race with a dominant race that saw them clinch a 1-2 at the previous race in Monaco. Ferrari (196 pts) leads Mercedes (179 pts) now, followed by Red Bull Racing (97 pts) at a distant third. Force India (53 pts) has retained its fourth place, followed by Toro Rosso (29 pts). McLaren is the only team yet to score a point.

Sebastian Vettel (129 pts) leads the drivers’ title race by a comfortable 25 points now. Lewis Hamilton (104 pts), Valtteri Bottas (75 pts), Kimi Raikkonen (67 pts) and Daniel Ricciardo (52 pts) complete the top five in the drivers’ championship.

Vettel has been the most consistent performer of the season, with three wins and three second places in the six races so far. Hamilton had a poor race in Monaco blighted by setup issues again and struggled to a seventh place finish. Raikkonen who started from pole position after the first set of pit stops had to settle for second place behind his teammate. Red Bull racing are showing signs of improving and catching up with the leaders after a poor start to the season. Though Ricciardo finished third in Monaco, the Milton Keynes-based team has a long way to go.

Bottas kept the struggling Mercedes team’s flag flying with a fourth place. But the Mercedes team for the first time in four seasons has stiff competition from Ferrari and might be the second best team on the grid now. After his miserable outing in Monaco, Hamilton has fallen significantly behind Vettel and has a lot to prove at one of his favourite tracks.
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