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The Canadian Grand Prix 2015: Understanding the track

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Qualifying for the Grand Prix will be held this evening at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Lewis Hamilton was the leader at the end of the second practice session.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada

The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit boasts of a rich history in Formula 1 and as well as being the first real high-speed test of 2015, is one of those unique circuits that is a combination of a street and permanent circuit. The Montreal weekend is certainly one of the most popular with the drivers and one of those cities on the calendar that just has plenty of buzz about it.

Over the years the Canadian Grand Prix has certainly cemented it’s spot in F1’s DNA and is similar to the Melbourne GP in many ways with its racing fans transforming the city around the sound of the roaring F1 engines.

Although it may not look like it to the naked eye, the circuit has a reputation of being incredibly hazardous with marginal run off areas for the drivers. Montreal always makes for an exciting race with plenty of overtaking and there’s a high chance of seeing the safety car too…Sometimes we saw too much of it, as in 2011, which saw the longest race in F1 history with the safety car leading 30 laps of the 4 hours & 45 min long race.

Montreal is a massive power circuit that’s hard on the cars as a whole and while there’s no shortage of long straights, it’s also very heavy on the brakes so energy recovery and stability under braking will be crucial. Mercedes will know all about this after problems with their brakes handed the “Honey Badger”, Ricciardo, his first win in Formula 1 last year.

Top speed in a straight line (with the cars breaking the 300 km/hr barrier on 3 occasions a lap), heavy braking and low-speed cornering are key elements that rule a lap time here. It might be touted as a street circuit just as Monte Carlo is, but, the focus shifts to engine performance and chassis stability, particularly under braking. It’s also going to be vital to get the best traction out of the low speed corners for maximum acceleration.

Long straights with tight corners also means we should see plenty of overtaking with the DRS being utilized especially on the long back straight into the final chicane that exits into the Wall of Champions. For those wondering if the circuit has its past winners’ engraved into the walls – sort of, but in a more embarrassing fashion for the drivers! The wall on the exit of the incredible final chicane has claimed many star victims over the years from local hero Jacques Villeneuve to Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel!

It’s a circuit that rewards precision and a driver who’s able to really get their lines right through the tricky chicanes.There’s always a clear visual difference at Montreal between the drivers that are sacrificing a few tenths and playing it safe and those that give the wall the slightest kiss on their way to an absolute flier. I expect Lewis to fall into the latter category given his last few races of this year.

McLaren are actually the most successful team at the Canadian Grad Prix with 13 wins overall. We won’t see them add to that this time but in a bid to inch closer to even getting a sniff at a podium, the British squad powered by Honda has decided to add more grunt and boost its horsepower by using part of their Formula 1 engine upgrade tokens for this weekend. Mercedes, along with most of the field will unleash new engines this weekend but it’s only Honda & Ferrari that have decided to bring in the extra 30bhp with their engine upgrades.

As I said at the top, it is the first time this year that the speed traps & sheer torque from the engines will have a big impact on the race and that can only mean one thing – trouble for the reliable but powerless Renault engines and teams like Red Bull! Lewis & Nico will resume battle out at the front, but the upgraded Ferrari engine will be no slouch and apart from Seb having a go at the top, I have a feeling we might see a surprise or two in the form of Sauber or even the Merc powered Lotus or Force India.

Lewis has had a string of podiums without much luck in the recent past at Montreal but he also has his maiden F1 race win here so if ever there was a circuit for him to shake off the misery of Monaco, it has to be the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. It’s one of the few race weekends both the fans & drivers can’t wait to be a part of and come Sunday, Lewis will hope to have his name engraved on the silverware for the 4th time and not on the Wall of Champions! 


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