Canadian Grand Prix circuit may change for 2009 but will it be necessary?

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Before the Canadian Grand Prix when I asked if F1 had become too fast for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Cooperman nailed the problem on the head:

A bigger issue at Canada has to be why the tarmac reacts in such a way that only the racing line is anywhere near grippy. Why, when a driver has to deviate from the best route, are they immediately in the wall?

We saw the track begin to disintegrate in qualifying and only the expertise of the track owners in remedying the problem made the surface race-worthy. Now they’re talking about changing some of the corners on the track for 2009. But will the changes to F1 cars next year make that unnecessary?

After qualifying on Saturday Canadian Grand Prix executive vice president Francois Dumontier said the causes of the track breaking up were:

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.

Only one of those comes under Dumontier’s control and after the race he admitted he was considering changing parts of the track:

The problem seems to be in the curves. We’ll look at the hairpin, and the configuration of the hairpin. We’ll look seriously at it with the FIA.

During the races turns two (Senna hairpin), six/seven, and ten (Casino hairpin) were the bends drivers were struggling with the most. If each of those are going to be changed the Montreal circuit could end up looking quite different, although as it’s an island circuit whatever changes are made would presumably have to be quite subtle.

But will the changes to F1’s aerodynamic and tyres regulations next year make it irrelevant?

In 2009 F1 cars will have to run with greatly reduced wing angles, and the grooved tyres Dumonier blames for part of the problem will be gone. This is expected to change the handling characteristics of F1 cars enormously and make ‘mechanical’ (i.e. ‘tyre’) grip far more important than ‘aerodynamic’ grip (i.e. downforce).

Could this alone be the solution to the Canadian track’s problems? Or could it make it even worse?

Have you been to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve? Share your experience of visiting the home of the Canadian Grand Prix here

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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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11 comments on “Canadian Grand Prix circuit may change for 2009 but will it be necessary?”

  1. I believe part of the problem also has to do with extreme temperatures experienced in Canada – resultant contraction and expansion has tendency to reduce adhesive properties of bitumen. It works fine there on normal roads , but F1 cars exert so much more fore and aft (loss of traction control would have increased that too) and lateral forces , hence the problem on the track. As you say above , it’s probable that with reduced downforce and re-intro. of slicks (forces will be spread across a wider area as opposed to grooved tires) , could be fine in 2009 . Perhaps they should have a test session there before changing the track ?

  2. The track crumbled on Sunday too but not as much as it did on Saturday. The repairs probably helped but the other thing that happened on Sunday was relatively constant (hot) weather for the whole day, that was until the heavy storm arrived about 2 hours after the race. On Friday and Saturday the weather has chaged several times. Rain, cold, the sunny hot, then overcast, then hot again. By Q2 the track was in shambles, the mess was visible to naked eye from the grandstands. I believe the wetaher had something to do with it. It might not have been the cause but it could have acted as an accelerator.

    Although the track is on the island, the island is spacious enough to provide for some alterations to the track. All the grandstands are temporary only so there are no permament structures standing in the way … So if they want they may be able to make significant changes to the track … Well, I hope they don’t. I hope they resurface the track in those sensitive parts but let the cars run in 2009 on the track as it is … Montreal track is great as it is, do not spoil it unless there is no other way !

  3. Why should the track change?
    It provides an extra element of challenge that seperates the best drivers that are able to drive around the issue and the worst drivers who can’t.

    If you may recall, Schumacher was able came on song in the latter stage of the 2006 Canadian GP when the track was breaking up – he was able to pass Raikkonen who got off line.

  4. There is no reason to change the layout of my home track. We just have to find the guy who paved Talladega, or Singapore or Circuit Mont-Tremblant some other “hot” track.

    Changing the hairpin would be like removing the (old-style) bus-stop from spa, a complete abomination. It’s an excellent passing location and re-profiling it would most certainly kill it. Unless, perhaps it is done like Adelaide at Magny-Cours, providing 2 possible racing lines. But if we want to see Adelaide, we should go to France.

    Furthermore, I would hate to have to say that the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is another Tilke designed track. (ugh!)

    I don’t know if it’s the City of Montreal that just puts whatever regular paving compound down or what. It’s obvious that a racing compound and construction are required. I don’t think the problem is the hot-cold seasonal cycling, as that typically results in cracking, swelling and eventually pot-holes. In this case it was clear that the surface was coming apart, as if the binding agent was not strong enough (or had not set long enough).

    It’s time that we treat the Circuit like a race circuit and not some urban park road that is used a couple of times a year. This road circuit is not generally used day-to-day, except by cyclists, roller-bladers, or the occasional person who gets lost. There is nowhere to “go” on the track.

  5. I also think weather was key there. I was there and it was hot beyond belief especially on the track itself I think it was somewhere around 95F on Saturday a bit cooler on Sunday but still in the 90’s. When the race was over and we went onto the track, it must of been 100+ on the track itself I felt the heat coming through my shoes it was so hot. And you could see that the track had little pit holes in it, kinda strange for an asphalt surface.

  6. Seems to me that it’s just poor engineering of the surface. The track is only a few hundred yards from the US, the home of drag racing. Yes F1 cars generate a lot of grip, and substantially more lateral grip than drag racers…. but nowhere near the forward grip of a drag race car.

    Top fuel dragsters generate almost 6G’s of acceleration – compare with the 3-4G’s that F1 cars peak at. (interesting fact – top fuel cars make almost 1000lbs of downforce at 0mph – simply due to the force of the exhaust gases leaving the headers).

    If the northern US states can make drag racing tracks which hold up to these loads, why can’t the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve? Why don’t they just lay concrete in those corners and be done with it?

  7. Bert – I don’t think the problem is just that it gets hot, it’s that it gets very cold as well, to something like -30C in winter I believe? That doesn’t happen in Singapore. And Talladega doesn’t have too many hairpins! I think this shows what we’re looking at here is a bit of a special case where several things have combined to create a very particular problem.

  8. Historically, I think a look at the NASCAR and ChampCar races at the circuit should be examined for similar issues, which at most is probably just the same old “marbles” problem you can get at any track. If next year’s rule changes are that drastic, the new cars will simply negotiate the track like a ChampCar would have, minus the ground effect.

  9. Keith, which is why I inclueded Mont-Tremblant, otherwise known as St-Jovite. It was the host of the Canadian G.P. in 1968 and 1970 (IIRC). It’s about 1.75 hours north of the city. A fabulous owned that was unfortunately thrown in to controversy by actions of its owner and having it’s summer races canceled. (Please Mr. Stroll, kiss and make up with the ASN. Please ASN, kiss and make up with Mr. Stroll)

    In 2000-ish it was bought and updated, paved etc. There are numerous events, including numerous lap-days, industry events, amateur racing (vintage races, local clubs, etc.) (my favourite), and professional races (Champ Cat, Canada Superbike. It hasn’t fallen apart. (at least physically!)

    All that to say that a proper race surface can be, and has been, constructed in our neck-of-the-woods.

  10. The track surface at Canada was far from ideal last weekend, but altering corners, I cannot see the logic in that. For me, Canada should be the benchmark for how other circuits are designed. By very definition, Canada is a challenge for any race driver.
    Regarding the track surface, it is inexplicable (to use a word nicked from Raikkonen) that the tarmac should break up like it did. However, sometimes situations like this, only add spice to a grands prix.
    Some of the circuits years ago had bumps on them that would dislocate a man’s jawbone, some that even sent the cars airborne (i.e the original Nurburgring).
    I know it is dead easy for me to say this . I am not the guy doing, not the guy racing and risking his life. But I can’t see Canada being too much of a problem.
    Resurface the track , and keep the corners.
    If someone suggested Eau Rouge was going to be butchered, Bernie would have full flung anarchy on his hands.

  11. Ben Goldberg
    14th June 2008, 8:31

    I like that the track was in bad condition, it provided for more overtaking. I understand why the drivers were complaining, but why would anyone else?

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