Circuit to be partly resurfaced but will it be enough to save the Grand Prix?

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The Canadian Grand Prix organisers are hurriedly re-surfacing part of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve following the break-up that occured during today’s qualifying session.

But is this just a case of too little too late? And does the sensitive political climate in F1 increase the chance that the race might be cancelled?

The executive vice president of the Canadian Grand Prix, Francois Dumontier, has explained reasons why he thinks the break-up of the circuit’s surface has occured:

Aggressive adhesion of grooved tyres, removal of traction control systems and the actual physical configuration of the hairpin corner itself could all be probable causes for this situation.

Perhaps ‘failure to learn from past lessons’ should be on this list as well, because these problems have affected the last two Canadian Grands Prix. However the situation looks much worse this year, with the track coming apart early on in the weekend rather than during the F1 race itself.

F1 is sharing the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with IMSA GT3 Cup racers this weekend which will also be giving the track’s surface a pounding.

Many of the drivers have been vocal about the problems. Mark Webber has led the complaints saying:

I think we’ll need to use motocross bikes, as it’s not realistic in a Formula One car, you’ll need to drive on the grass or on the inside of the hairpin.

Kimi Raikkonen added:

The car has been good all weekend but this morning was even very good and going into qualifying is quite a joke with the circuit. The circuit breaks down and it is like you missed the corner because there is so much sand.

I lost so much time in Turn 10 I couldn’t turn around and went straight on. We will see how it is in the race but it will be a nightmare. We have a lot of laps and it broke up after two laps so it will be interesting.

Lewis Hamilton, however, seems nonplussed:

I am not fussed. It is not going to cause me any problems as I know how to drive around it now. For sure it is better if there isn’t a problem and if they can fix it, then great.

That’s got ‘setting yourself up for a fall’ written all over it…

But it’s easy to be critical of the circuit’s problems from a distance. But I imagine maintaining a Formula 1-standard racing circuit in that part of the world would brings with it greater problems than we have in Europe. The bitterly cold Montreal winters must wreak havoc with the tarmac.

However this presents F1 with the kind of problem it has not seen for several years (see the earlier post ‘When tracks go crask’ for more). Yes, in 2005 most of the cars were unable to race at Indianapolis, but that was principally a problem with their Michelin tyres and not the circuit itself.

And given the turbulent political climate at the moment the timing could not be more sensitive. Bernie Ecclestone has said he wants to take control of F1 away from Max Mosley and the FIA.

So what happens now if Mosley announces they have to cancel the race because the track isn’t safe enough? It’s not inconceivable: although FIA race director Charlie Whiting has given his blessing to the resurfacing, it’s only taing place at the Casino hairpin, and not further up the track where Mark Webber had his crash, for example.

If Ecclestone let the race go ahead and it degenerated into a wreck-strewn farce it would be a gigantic political coup for Mosley. But cancelling the race would be extremely expensive and frustrate the teams who support him. So what should he do?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on “Circuit to be partly resurfaced but will it be enough to save the Grand Prix?”

  1. theRoswellite
    8th June 2008, 1:09

    This track is very dangerous under “normal” conditions. Any decisions should be based on questions of safety.

    If the race is held for “commercial” reasons, and an accident occurs, the repercussions could reach beyond Ecclestone and the FIA, especially if non-combatants are involved.

    Question? If the main problem is only one corner, can they run the entire race with that area under a yellow flag?

  2. Scott Joslin
    8th June 2008, 1:34

    you don’t get this at silverstone or Magny Course! yet still Montreal is allowed to get away with substandard basics!

  3. I think the we should really hope for a wet race. If the surface is wet, the tires won’t have the grip they need to actually peel up bits of asphalt.

  4. It would be great to see some pictures of the broken tarmac. This has been an ongoing issue there and really can’t be allowed to continue, but in tomorrows race it will really test the skill of all drivers. That may have been a boast on Hamilton’s part, but then again, he may be right: he may be the best at adapting to a changing situation.

  5. “So what happens now if Mosley announces they have to cancel the race because the track isn’t safe enough?”

    Will this even happen? If Canada supported Mosley in Paris, Mosley will support them today.

  6. This Lewis is awesome… seems he is the only man in the world who knows how to pass the hairpin, even gaining time…

    all the other ¿drivers? seems like a bunch of donkeys… Nice to have him to give us a lesson. If Senna could raise his head he could take good notes about it too..

  7. The Canadian Automobile Association was a signatory to the letter from the 24 groups calling Mosley to step down. But the CAA doesn’t have anything to do with the race.

  8. Why is it always North American tracks that need renovation?

  9. As Keith pointed out, the problem at Indianapolis was a tire issue, but Max refused the compromise. I would guess that Montreal’s problem is climatic. A few years ago the track was being examined closely on a Friday because it had rained on a hot day and Charlie Whiting had ordered a resurface with quick-drying cement. That part of Canada gets very hot and humid in the summer months and a maybe 4 months where it is frozen. Also, it isn’t really used the rest of the year, and all of a sudden there’s is the GP and support races pounding away at an unstable surface. My guess is the only way to fix it is a complete resurfacing.

  10. Spot on Scott! Every year we hear about the imminent demise of the British and French GP’s – with especially Silverstone copping a whack from Bernie for having “sub-standard” facilities. But here we are again at the crumbling Montreal circuit, and not a word from Mr E. Tut, tut….

    Keith, I think the area where Webber and Trulli spun is also crumbling. Turns 6 and 7, I think. Add the marble problems and this race is going to be chaotic!

    I bet the other drivers are scratching their heads at Hamilton’s ability to deal with that hairpin. He was the only guy not over-revving, spinning wheels and getting out of shape on the exit. Raikkonen was even 2-tenths up after the second sector on his final run, then ended up over a second slower than Hamilton! Reminds me of MS’ final sectors at Hockenheim 2005(?) – Waaaay faster.

  11. Only hope for me to see the cars were Canada, now I hope I can do it tomorrow since I’ve spent quite a bit of money now.

  12. Could someone explain to me: “Aggressive adhesion of grooved tyres… could all be probable causes for this situation”

    Wouldn’t the grooves make them less adhesive/less damaging? As opposed to slicks? I just don’t understand why the term “grooved” even needed to be brought in to the explanation.

  13. I think the idea is that the grooved tires have been made more adhesive over their smaller area in an attempt to give similar total grip to the slicks. This damages the track more, because the surface cares about force/area, not total force.

  14. I believe that because of the reduction in grip due to the grooves the tire compounds have gotten softer to become grippier. So they provide a great deal of grip during their optimal window of performance, but degrade quicker. Tires with more grip will pull harder on the surface they are pushed into.

  15. Bernie cannot afford to lose the only remaining States side GP. Apart from Brazil this is the only GP in the Western Hemisphere, so they are more forgiving.

  16. Robert McKay
    8th June 2008, 10:07

    If I know Formula 1, I fully expect the re-resurfaced piece of tarmac to break up even worse, and cause even more problems than having not resurfaced it in the first place.

    I don’t think we’re going to see a wreck-fest, I just think we’re going to be embarrassed by the worlds bst drivers and most advanced racing cars being completely flummoxed and completely undriveable at that corner.

  17. Lady Snowcat
    8th June 2008, 10:38

    The key will be that it will be impossible to overtake at all…

    It may even be dangerous for back markers to go onto the marbles to let themselves get lapped…

    That’s an extreme but it may only be possible at certain points…

    I wonder if the support races will take place… they have to be in doubt…

    Lewis was only actually fastest all weekend in that final sector with any consistency, and Heikki was second in that sector in qualy despite an anonymous session overall, so it’s something to do with Lewis’s aggressive style and Macca characteristics that work well there…. it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep it up for a race without ruining his tyres… but lots of safety car running will help….

  18. As I mentioned yesterday during the live commentary here on the blog, Hamilton seems to be able to find anywhere from 0.3-1.0sec around the hairpin.

    I re-watched the qualifying session and you can see even early from Q1 he brakes a lot later and takes a different line to the other drivers. He also makes a much smoother exit and gets on the gas early. The Ferrari’s looked really cautious going into the hairpin, and the BMW’s were really slow on the way out.

    Qualifying yesterday was simply a reflection of the drivers who managed to find a line around there (Hamilton, Webber). But the race may yet be interesting as I am sure the other teams are studying onboard video and whatever else they can get too see what the best approach is for that corner. The McLarens also seem just a lot more suited, being able to ride the curb and getting the power down on the way out.

  19. A race where the track surface is breaking up is going to be dangerous. If it gets really bad, they might have to red-flag the race early – but don’t be surprised if the authorities wait for a big accident beforehand. I can only hope that whatever they did last night works out, or if it doesn’t, that nobody gets injured in the inevitable crashes.

    Canada’s climate does not exactly help matters because of all the expansions and contractions it has to do. But we really could do with a solution that at least lasts for one weekend…

  20. The other thing about Lewis is that he’s putting all four tyres on the kerb for the penultimate corner. So if the run-up to the Wall of Champions breaks up, he probably won’t notice, but other people will be much slower and/or crash…

  21. What amazes me is that why the other teams never copped onto what Lewis was doing, especially Ferrari surely they must have scratched their heads at why Lewis was faster than them by a huge margin in the last sector.

    As for the race who cares if it breaks up, those drivers are supposed to be the best in the world! After many years of watching boring processional races I welcome the prospect of having a crazy race happening – it happened in Melbourne and we all loved it.

  22. Lady Snowcat
    8th June 2008, 12:15

    The Ferrari just can’t launch over the curbs like the Macca does…

    They are better on curbs than last year but can’t go extreme…

  23. I think it would be Bernie who would cancel the race, not Max, and I wonder how much pressure it would take from the drivers and teams to make him do it, considering his ‘non-reaction’ at Indy in 2005, even though Michelin told him what the solution to the problem was (sorry, had to get that in!).
    One of the problems is the lack of races on the circuit, which to me is Max’s problem because he should be encouraging the Canadians to host more races there, either under the FIA banner or a North American one. Then the track would be kept in better condition for longer in the year. Is it only British tracks that see action every weekend during the season?
    Hammys comments are interesting, if he was the only one to see the way to cope with the situation during qualifying and others didnt. But I am sure that race engineers an drivers will be studying the video to see just what he did.
    Are we liable to see the Canadians fined if there is carnage during the race, I wonder?

  24. apparently they are only allowed to have 2 events held in Montreal per year if I remember correctly…that’s why the champcar race got cancelled because Nascar’s Busch series held a race there.

    The people probably complain about the noise I’m assuming……?!?

  25. William Wilgus
    8th June 2008, 15:53

    Unfortunately, tarmac (or whatever you wish to call it) takes 3 days to completely `cure’. I don’t look for the resurfacing to hold up.

  26. And the IMSA sports cars have already been out there racing today which will not have done the surface any good either.

  27. theRoswellite
    9th June 2008, 1:26

    Gosh….a simple mistake.

    The red exit lights are there for a very good reason.

    Penalties are appropriate for LH and NR.

    Fairly obvious from their speed that LH or KR (fast lap)would win…barring any other untoward event.

    LH seems to have more trouble with car control in the pits than on the track.

    Remember these lost points when the final race comes around.

    Fantastic day for BMW…they have been a solid participant in F1 for many years, for the most part avoiding the politics and constant verbal fisticuffs that seem to plague certain teams and drivers. Very nice to see RK finally rewarded for his always professional efforts. I couldn’t have wished for a better podium….a bit of the old & the new.

  28. Apart from Brazil this is the only GP in the Western Hemisphere, so they are more forgiving.

  29. most part avoiding the politics and constant verbal fisticuffs that seem to plague certain teams and drivers. Very nice to see RK finally rewarded for his always professional efforts.

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