Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2015

2016 Canadian Grand Prix track preview

2016 Canadian Grand Prix

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Squeezed into the confines of the Isle Notre Dame, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has changed little over the years mainly due to the lack of available space to alter its layout.

Track data: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

Lap length4.361km (2.71 miles)
Grand prix distance305.27km (189.686 miles)
Lap record (race)1’13.622 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)
Fastest lap (any session)1’12.275 (Ralf Schumacher, 2004, qualifying two)
Tyre compoundsSee drivers’ choices
2015 Rate the Race5.54 out of 10
2015 Driver of the WeekendSebastian Vettel

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve track data in full

This has undoubtedly been to its benefit. Though it was considered a ‘Mickey Mouse’ layout by the standards of other tracks when it made its first appearance on the calendar in 1978, today it is one of the quickest and most punishing venues visited by F1.

“It might look like a very simple circuit because you have the same kind of corners all the time,” explains Carlos Sainz Jnr, “but each of these chicanes has different tricks and you need to take each one of them in a diverse way.”

The long straights are more of a pain for the engines than the drivers. The cars will exceed 330kph at the end of the lap, the highest top speed seen so far this year. Small wonder most teams have timed significant engine updates to coincide with this round.

Although the track features severe braking zones there aren’t enough of them for the maximum permitted amount of energy to be recovered. This makes what is already a challenging circuit for fuel consumption even more difficult.

An early Safety Car period would therefore be welcome for many of the teams. And with so much of the track hemmed in closely by barriers, it’s far from unlikely. But for many drivers that adds to the appeal of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

A lap of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2015
Barriers leave little room for mistakes
The curved approach to turn one and the low-grip track surface makes the first braking zone on the lap tricky. This funnels directly into the Senna hairpin where the leading driver can easily fend off any attackers, as Nico Rosberg ruthlessly demonstrated against his own team mate at the start of the 2014 race.

The drivers then have to negotiate the first of several fast chicanes. “At turns three and four there’s the first wall of the track, which you try and get as close as possible to,” says Sainz. “Doing this gives you lap time and the closer you get to the wall, the more confidence you show.”

“At every chicane, especially at turn six and seven, kerb riding and positioning the car well in order to get a good line is also key. Doing this means you are then also quick on the straights following these corners.”

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The drivers have another short blast towards the next chicane at turns eight and nine. “You come from the right-hand side corner flat out,” says Romain Grosjean, “and then there’s a long throttle application with a lot of G-force. Then you brake for turns eight and nine. Under the bridge, it’s very bumpy. It’s not so easy to get the grip of the car there.”

Roberto Merhi, Manor, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2015
The slow hairpin, formerly the final turn
The second hairpin at the opposite end of the island to the first is one of the slowest corners in Formula One. “Very big braking there,” says Grosjean.

“You try to carry some minimum speed and not lose too much time. You then need a good throttle application.”

The lap ends with a chicane which has become the signature turn at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve: The wall of Champions. It hasn’t claimed as many victims of late, but for Sainz it remains the highlight of the lap.

“It’s a very tight chicane where you need to ride the kerbs again,” he says. “And if you touch one of them in the wrong way, it sends you directly into the wall, so that’s why it’s so important to get this right.”

2016 Canadian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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28 comments on “2016 Canadian Grand Prix track preview”

  1. Place your bets gentelmen, who will win? Anyone gas money on Lewis Hamilton, heart on Riciardo, mind on Nico Rosberg?

    1. This. Gut says Hami, mind Ros, heart Ric.

      Well, heart actually screams Alonso, but mind always silences her the last 3 years…

    2. Lewis, when he didn’t win he didn’t finish except 3rd one time iirc. So that’s a pretty solid record, he loves the track, first pole and first win of career here too.

    3. Lewis to win it.

  2. One thing seems sure…it’s going to feel more like fall than early summer. So far the forecast shows a high of 16c for Sunday, with a bit of a chance of rain, but mainly sunny.

    1. Yeah, I checked the Montreal weather forecast for this weekend as well, and yes, it’s a little weird it shows only 15/16C for Sunday considering it’s June.

      1. As a Canadian that is normal

  3. Smart money is on Lewis Hamilton. he loves the track and I think after the last race, it will be difficult to keep him off the top step.

  4. Hamilton. Easily. Weather-chaos premitting. (But then again he’s the best in the rain as well, so…)

  5. Fudge Ahmed (@)
    8th June 2016, 14:03

    If no gremlins in qualifying or the race, Hamilton with a grand chelem.

    “If no gremlins” seems to be a big ask of car 44 this year though.

  6. Evil Homer (@)
    8th June 2016, 14:12

    @atticus-2

    Hamilton easy?? Never an easy race for an F1 driver but I had heard Bieber is doing FP1 & FP2 for him!
    If he gets top 20 hard for PM (Pastor) for get a gig next year as the Beaves has more money! :)

    1. @evilhomer Are you serious ? if not man up mate.

      1. Evil Homer (@)
        9th June 2016, 0:30

        @abdelilah

        No mate I was being silly, saying Bieber will drive for Lewis in practice then pay for a drive next year- HAM will be strong this weekend, always is In Canada, it will be interersting to see how Rosberg bounces back from a dissapointing race in Monaco.

        1. @evilhomer I read it might rain race day, I hope so.

  7. Wall of Champions, and Rosberg wasn’t too keen to get close to it before, was he?

    1. With the amount of tire management going on I don’t think the drivers push hard enough to run the risk of hitting the wall of champions.

      1. @velocityboy, a number of drivers have come close to hitting that wall in recent years, but I think that you’re actually more likely to see a driver collide with the barriers on the exit of Turn 4.

        I don’t think it is a case of tyre management because the abrasiveness of the tarmac of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, not to mention that the cornering loads are relatively low – those factors combine to a relatively low wear rate. If anything does limit the teams, normally it tends to be brake wear and fuel consumption (especially the latter, given that the drivers tend to have to spend much of the lap accelerating the car back up to speed) rather than tyre wear.

        Rather, I think it is because the circuit owners decided to install higher kerbs on the entry into the chicane in recent years. When the kerbs were flatter, the drivers were able to cut across the kerbs more aggressively and maintain a higher apex speed through the corner. However, if they misjudged the line across the kerbs, what tended to happen was that the floor would hit the ground and cause a loss of control over the car, with the momentum of the car tending to carry it towards the wall.

        Now, because the kerbs are much higher, the drivers can’t maintain the same entry speed into the corners, slightly reducing the risk of making an error. Because they cannot cut across the kerbs, it seems to have made it less likely that the cars will “ground out” – furthermore, the removal of the barrier on the inside of the corner means that, if a driver does get out of shape on the entry to the corner, they are much more likely to bail out and cut across the run off area rather than trying to continue through the chicane.

        1. Yeah, exactly why someone will crash there for sure.

  8. Kind of feel like Ricciardo will hit the Wall of Champions this race. I can’t remember a time in any race where he has gone out where he wasn’t hit by someone else. (Can someone prove me wrong?) He’s been around a long time and no big crashes yet.
    I hope that he doesn’t crash and he takes the race to the Mercs, but I kind of think his time has come for a decent crash. Everyone has to crash sooner or later and the pressure is on to deliver more than ever. We saw what pressure did to Max last race weekend.

      1. Also Singapore one year I believe

  9. Montreal is one if the highlights of the F1 season or me – refreshingly old-school, organic, historic, fast and hasn’t had every single corner designed to ‘perfection’ on a computer. Love it.

  10. With quicker cars this year I expect quali lap time to be 1.12s

  11. If you compare this circuit to Baku, it makes you wonder why we are bothering with the European round this year.

  12. @keithcollantine It was actually modified quite a lot – taking out the right-left-right sweepers on the pit straight, taking out a similar sequence on the longest straight, tightening the current last chicane, widening Turn 1, modifying Turns 6 and 7 and squeezing the hairpin. It’s rather its character that remained unchanged – or got more unique by taking out the high-speed sweepers, to be precise – rather than its layout.

    1. A very enjoyable Youtube video shows an onboard with Depailler from 1978 – many more corners in the original layout (and the pits were near the tight hairpin) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xDMvKHoAyU

      1. Wow, haven’t seen that part of that onboard series (I seem to remember the intro arrangement). Thanks.

        (Look at all that standing water! Nowadays it would be VSC without a thought.)

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