Circuit Gilles Villeneuve: The Ultimate Track Guide

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve: The Ultimate Track Guide

The streets of the Ile Notre Dame island have seen plenty of chaos and surprises over the years. As one of the most well liked and well-attended Grands Prix of the season, the Canadian round of the championship always seems to deliver.


FIRST F1 RACE 1978
TRACK LENGTH 2.710 miles
NUMBER OF LAPS 70
NUMBER OF TURNS 14
MOST POLES Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton (6)
MOST WINS Michael Schumacher (7)

TRACK MAP


A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CIRCUIT GILLES VILLENEUVE

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is situated on the man-made island of Notre Dame, just a stone’s throw from Montreal. The island, on the St Lawrence River, was constructed to celebrate Canada’s centennial, and for Expo 67, widely regarded as the most successful World’s Fair of the twentieth century. The site continued to host exhibitions after, but declining attendance figures saw the area begin to struggle. In 1975, the area was transformed, ready to host the rowing and canoeing events for the 1976 Olympics, which were being held in Montreal.

Formula One was no newcomer to Canada when the cars first took to the Montreal track in 1978. The Canadian Grand Prix had been held at Mosport Park since 1967, with the Mont-Tremblant circuit in Quebec also hosting the event in 1968 and 1970. Fears had been growing over the safety of the Mosport Park track for a number of years and a crash for Ian Ashley in 1977, in which he suffered leg injuries, proved to be the final straw for F1’s running at the circuit. Instead, the sport found a new home at the Circuit Île Notre-Dame. The track was designed by Roger Peart and was built quickly in order to host the penultimate round of the 1978 season. Gilles Villeneuve won the first Grand Prix at the track and, following his fatal accident in 1982, the track was renamed in his honour.

The race has been held every year since 1978, with just two exceptions. In 1987, the race was cancelled due to a sponsorship dispute between beer manufacturers Molson and Labatt’s. For 2009, the race was featured on the provisional calendar, but was dropped by the time the final calendar emerged. The 2009 season was the first time there had been no Grands Prix in North America since 1958.

The track has evolved over the years. In the second running of the Grand Prix here, changes were made to make the track faster. As the track was forced into disuse for a year in 1987, organisers took advantage of the break to move the pits from near the hairpin to where they are today. More changes were made in 2002. The iconic hairpin was moved closer to the previous corners, and the pit exit was also moved. Minor changes, including amendments to the curbs at the final chicane, have been made since then.

The track has seen large accidents and tragedy over the years. In 1980, Jean-Pierre Jabouille suffered a career-ending crash as a result of broken suspension on his car. In 1982, just a month after local hero Villeneuve’s death, Riccardo Paletti died as a result of a start line crash. Olivier Panis crashed heavily in 1997, bringing an early end to the race. The French driver didn’t return to the cockpit until the latter stages of the season. Robert Kubica suffered an enormous accident at the hairpin ten years later. Luckily, he was relatively unscathed, and returned to take the only win of his career at this track twelve months later. In 2013, Mark Robinson, a marshal, was killed after the race. He was run over by a recovery vehicle while removing Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber from the track and later died as a result of injuries. This was the first track-side death in Formula One in over a decade.

The track is very much like a street circuit, with ever-present walls which can easily catch a driver out. The Ile Notre-Dame circuit is home to the infamous Wall of Champions. It was given the name after the 1999 season which saw World Champions Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve collide with the wall, situated at the tricky final chicane on the circuit. Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel are among the names to have fallen victim to the wall in recent years.

The circuit’s often cramped pit area has undergone major renovations over the past year, with the pit buildings getting a sleek new look. The circuit signed a contract in 2017 to host the Canadian Grand Prix until 2029.


🇨🇦 2018 RACE RECAP

It was a relatively dull affair in Montreal in 2018 as Sebastian Vettel took his third victory of the season.

Perhaps the most spectacular part of the qualifying hour came is at had just begun, when Romain Grosjean’s engine failed before he even had chance to get to the end of the pit-lane. Sebastian Vettel took pole, with Valtteri Bottas starting alongside him on the front row. The order stayed the same at the start, while Lance Stroll and Brendon Hartley collided on the first lap with the latter flying through the air. The race restarted after a Safety Car period, with the order still refusing to change – until Sergio Perez was forced out wide at the first turn by Carlos Sainz. A scrap between Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc ended prematurely as the McLaren driver pulled into the pits with car troubles. Daniel Ricciardo passed Lewis Hamilton for fourth as a result of his pit stop, while Vettel remained unchallenged at the front. His day was made easier by the chequered flag being accidentally waved a lap early. Bottas finished third, while Max Verstappen came home ahead of his team-mate in third.


🇨🇦 DID YOU KNOW?

There’s a lot of wildlife around the circuit. Groundhogs are regularly seen on track in Montreal. Officials of the city trap as many of the animals as they can in the weeks preceding the Grand Prix, and transport them to Saint Helen’s Island, which is nearby. Some escape the nets though, and in 2007 both Anthony Davidson and Ralf Schumacher had their running interrupted by stray groundhogs. Gophers are present here too, as Alessandro Nannini found out in 1990.


ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW




FAST FACTS

  • Rain is often a feature of the weekend here, as are safety cars. A culmination of the two meant that the epic 2011 Grand Prix was the longest ever F1 race, at over 4 hours long.
  • On his way to the 2011 victory, Button recorded an average speed of just 74.844km/hour, the slowest ever F1 victory speed.
  • The globe-like building often spotted in the background of TV images from the track is the Montreal Biosphere, which is one of the only remaining buildings from Expo 67.
  • 60% of the lap is spent at full throttle.
  • In 2005, the Canadian Grand Prix was the third most-watched sporting event in the world.
  • The track is harsh on brakes. Of the seven braking zones on the track, the entry to the final chicane is the hardest, and perhaps one of the hardest to master on the whole F1 calendar.
  • The track has hosted the sixth-most Grands Prix in F1 history.

🇨🇦 WHY WE LOVE MONTREAL

The Canadian Grand Prix proves why it’s one of the most loved tracks year after year. You know that 99% of the time, you’re going to get a good race in Montreal. It’s unpredictable and is a circuit which allows overtaking.


🇨🇦 MONTREAL WINNERS AND POLESITTERS

YearPolesitterTeam On PoleWinnerWinning Team
1978Jean-Pierre JarierLotusGilles VilleneuveFerrari
1979Alan JonesWilliamsAlan JonesWilliams
1980Nelson PiquetBrabhamAlan JonesWilliams
1981Nelson PiquetBrabhamJacques LaffiteLigier
1982Didier PironiFerrariNelson PiquetBrabham
1983René ArnouxFerrariRené ArnouxFerrari
1984Nelson PiquetBrabhamNelson PiquetBrabham
1985Elio de AngelisLotusMichele AlboretoFerrari
1986Nigel MansellWilliamsNigel MansellWilliams
1988Ayrton SennaMcLarenAyrton SennaMcLaren
1989Alain ProstMcLarenThierry BoutsenWilliams
1990Ayrton SennaMcLarenAyrton SennaMcLaren
1991Riccardo PatreseWilliamsNelson PiquetBenetton
1992Ayrton SennaMcLarenGerhard BergerMcLaren
1993Alain ProstWilliamsAlain ProstWilliams
1994Michael SchumacherBenettonMichael SchumacherBenetton
1995Michael SchumacherBenettonJean AlesiFerrari
1996Damon HillWilliamsDamon HillWilliams
1997Michael SchumacherFerrariMichael SchumacherFerrari
1998David CoulthardMcLarenMichael SchumacherFerrari
1999Michael SchumacherFerrariMika HäkkinenMcLaren
2000Michael SchumacherFerrariMichael SchumacherFerrari
2001Michael SchumacherFerrariRalf SchumacherWilliams
2002Juan Pablo MontoyaWilliamsMichael SchumacherFerrari
2003Ralf SchumacherWilliamsMichael SchumacherFerrari
2004Ralf SchumacherWilliamsMichael SchumacherFerrari
2005Jenson ButtonBARKimi RäikkönenMcLaren
2006Fernando AlonsoRenaultFernando AlonsoRenault
2007Lewis HamiltonMcLarenLewis HamiltonMcLaren
2008Lewis HamiltonMcLarenRobert KubicaBMW Sauber
2010Lewis HamiltonMcLarenLewis HamiltonMcLaren
2011Sebastian VettelRed BullJenson ButtonMcLaren
2012Sebastian VettelRed BullLewis HamiltonMcLaren
2013Sebastian VettelRed BullSebastian VettelRed Bull
2014Nico RosbergMercedesDaniel RicciardoRed Bull
2015Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2016Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2017Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2018Sebastian VettelFerrariSebastian VettelFerrari
2019