Seven races down, thirteen to go – it’s time for the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix. It serves as an indication of things to come as Formula One moves into its midseason, but a quick look through the history books shows that certain lights shine brighter than others in Montreal. This is the weekend to watch.
The Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve
Although the F1 Canadian GP had been held since 1967, it was 1978’s fairy-tale race win by Canadian Gilles Villeneuve that cemented the memory to the annals of time. In front of the home crowd during the very first race at Montreal’s Ile Notre-Dame Circuit, Villeneuve in the Ferrari fought off Jody Scheckter’s Wolf WR5 and leapfrogged Jean-Pierre Jarier’s Lotus 79 to achieve his first Formula One win. To-this-day, Villeneuve remains the only Canadian to win at home in F1.
He went on to claim five more race wins for Ferrari, as well as a heroic third place at Montreal in 1981, before a tragic accident at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix cost him his life. The Ile Notre-Dame Circuit was renamed in his honor during the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix.
Schumacher vs. Schumacher in 2001
Racing your teammate is hard enough – imagine racing your younger brother. That’s what happened in spectacular fashion at the 2001 Canadian GP. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher and Williams’ Ralf Schumacher fought during the final laps to claim the top spot on the podium. Oddly enough, Ralf’s race strategy saw him leap Michael, and it was little-bro over big-bro that year, marking the first sibling one-two in F1 history.
The brothers fought on track once again in 2003, except this time Michael came away with the win. Michael Schumacher remains the overall top winner in Canada with seven grand prix victories to his name.
McLaren in Canada – Button 2011
When it comes to winning in Canada, McLaren is simply better than the rest. Of the total 44 Canadian Grand Prix races observed in Formula One – McLaren has won 13 of them, including three of the last four. And given the strength of the Red Bull program for the past four years – that’s really saying something.
Jenson Button displayed this steely performance in 2011 during an extraordinary accident-filled and rain-delayed Canadian GP. Button started from seventh place on the grid, clashed twice (once with teammate Lewis Hamilton, and once with Fernando Alonso), fell to the back of the grid, worked his way up to second, and eclipsed race-leader Sebastian Vettel on the final lap to claim his first victory of the season. The race holds the record as F1’s longest grand prix – four hours and four minutes.
Kubica’s Crash Gives Vettel Race Opportunity
Sebastian Vettel has been markedly absent from the top step of the podium this year, but that has certainly not been the case over his past four world championship seasons. However, Vettel’s F1 opportunity may not have materialized as early had it not been for a massive crash by BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica in Montreal 2007.
The Polish racing driver had attempted a move around Jarno Trulli’s Toyota in Turn 10, contact was made, and it saw Kubica impact the safety barrier at around 143mph. Thankfully Kubica was okay, however he sat out the next round and Vettel famously finished eighth at Indianapolis in his first F1 race appearance.
Wall of Champions
Chicanes in Formula 1 don’t offer as much excitement as sweeping off-kilter turns or long straightaways perfect for high-speed passes, but the final corner in Montreal has certainly made a name for itself. Known as the “Wall of Champions”, this quick kink has claimed some of the sport’s top drivers, including F1 champions Jacques Villeneuve (1997, 1999), Michael Schumacher (1999), Damon Hill (1999), Jenson Button (2005), and Sebastian Vettel (2011).
The Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve has seen five drivers record their first F1 wins, including Gilles Villeneuve in 1978, Thierry Boutsen in ’89, Jean Alesi in ’95, Lewis Hamilton in ’07, and Robert Kubica in ’08.
What to Expect for 2014
If anything that has been said is any indication – the Canadian Grand Prix is historically a tough race to win. Of the 34 races at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, the polesitter has won only 15 times. Given the overall strength of the Mercedes AMG chassis and the increasing competition between both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, it’s hard not to guarantee one of them a race win. However, considering the circuit’s propensity to trip up world champions, this might be the moment where front-runner Daniel Ricciardo finds his maiden race win in Formula One.