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, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 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, Lewis Hamilton (7)|
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 20th 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 1 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 Mont-Tremblant 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 Canadian Grand Prix has been at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve almost 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.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 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 to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 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.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 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 1 in over a decade.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is very much like a street circuit, with ever-present walls which can easily catch a driver out. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 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.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve’s often cramped pit area has undergone major renovations in recent years, with the pit buildings getting a sleek new look. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve signed a contract in 2017 to host the Canadian Grand Prix until 2029. The Canadian Grand Prix was postponed in April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite hopes to run the race later in the year, the event was ultimately cancelled in July 2020. The 2021 race was also called off. Formula 1 finally returned to Montreal in 2022. As a result of the cancelled 2020 and 2021 races, the Canadian Grand Prix’s contract with Formula 1 now runs to 2031.
DID YOU KNOW
There’s a lot of wildlife around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. 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.
LEARN MORE ABOUT CIRCUIT GILLES VILLENEUVE
CIRCUIT GILLES VILLENEUVE: 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 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is the Montreal Biosphere, which is one of the only remaining buildings from Expo 67.
- 60% of a lap at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is spent at full throttle.
- In 2005, the Canadian Grand Prix was the third most-watched sporting event in the world.
- Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 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.
- Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has hosted the fifth-most Grands Prix in F1 history.
2022 CANADIAN GRAND PRIX RECAP
Following a chaotic wet qualifying session, Verstappen took pole position and won the race in the dry on Sunday – despite coming under immense pressure from Sainz in the closing stages.
Following two dry practice sessions on Friday, the heavens opened on Saturday meaning both Free Practice 3 and qualifying were run in wet conditions. The conditions proved to be tricky for some, with Alex Albon and Sergio Perez making contact with the barriers in Q2, the latter incident bringing out the red flags. It was Perez’s team-mate Max Verstappen who secured pole position. Fernando Alonso set the fastest time in final practice and impressed again in qualifying, lining up on the front row of the grid.
Verstappen was unchallenged at the start of the race, while Alonso came under pressure from third-starting Carlos Sainz. Perez’s bad weekend continued as his engine cut out just eight laps into the race, bringing out a Virtual Safety Car. His team-mate took advantage of the caution period to make a pit stop, as did Lewis Hamilton.
Mick Schumacher came to a halt on Lap 21 at the same spot as Perez had done 13 laps earlier. Hamilton’s fresher tyres aided him to scythe through the field to third place, while Verstappen made a second stop and came out alongside the Mercedes. Hamilton briefly ran second, but was soon overtaken by the Red Bull.
Yuki Tsunoda embarrassingly crashed just after exiting the pit lane on cold tyres, prompting a Safety Car period. The timing of the Safety Car worked in Sainz’s favour, who was yet to pit for fresh tyres. He emerged from the pit lane behind Verstappen but had fresher tyres to attack in the closing stages.
The green flag flew on Lap 55 of 70, as Sainz set about chasing Verstappen. On the other side of the Ferrari garage, Charles Leclerc started from the back of the field following a power unit penalty but a string of overtakes throughout the race saw him eventually finish in the top five. Ahead of him, Sainz was unable to overtake Verstappen, finishing under a second behind the Red Bull. Hamilton completed the podium places.
2019 CANADIAN GRAND PRIX RECAP
Controversy reigned in Canada in 2019 as Sebastian Vettel crossed the line first but the win was awarded to Lewis Hamilton following a time penalty for the Ferrari driver.
A crash at the end of Q2 for Kevin Magnussen compromised the Haas team’s afternoon, as Romain Grosjean was unable to complete his final lap. The red flag also led to Max Verstappen being eliminated in Q2. Sebastian Vettel took his first pole position of the season by lapping two tenths faster than Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel stayed ahead in a relatively drama-free opening lap, aside from for Alex Albon, who lost his front wing following contact with an Alfa Romeo. Lando Norris became the first retirement with a rear brake issue, leading to a suspension failure.
The Renault drivers had a strong race, with Daniel Ricciardo defending hard from Valtteri Bottas for fifth place.
Vettel came under increasing pressure from Hamilton as the midpoint of the race passed. On Lap 48, he ran wide and re-joined the track right in front of the Mercedes. His contentious re-entry on to the track led to him receiving a five second penalty. Meanwhile, further back, Guenther Steiner was unimpressed with Magnussen labelling his day as “the worst experience I’ve ever had in any race car ever”.
Vettel crossed the line first, but the win was given to Hamilton. Charles Leclerc finished on the final step of the podium. Vettel failed to return his car to parc-ferme, instead swapping the number boards and placing the number one in the empty space where his car should have been. Ferrari appealed the penalty, but the result stood following the team’s lack of new evidence.
2018 CANADIAN GRAND PRIX 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 as it 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.
Vettel’s 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.
CIRCUIT GILLES VILLENEUVE WINNERS AND POLESITTERS
|Year||Polesitter||Team On Pole||Winner||Winning Team|
|1978||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Lotus||Gilles Villeneuve||Ferrari|
|1979||Alan Jones||Williams||Alan Jones||Williams|
|1980||Nelson Piquet||Brabham||Alan Jones||Williams|
|1981||Nelson Piquet||Brabham||Jacques Laffite||Ligier|
|1982||Didier Pironi||Ferrari||Nelson Piquet||Brabham|
|1983||René Arnoux||Ferrari||René Arnoux||Ferrari|
|1984||Nelson Piquet||Brabham||Nelson Piquet||Brabham|
|1985||Elio de Angelis||Lotus||Michele Alboreto||Ferrari|
|1986||Nigel Mansell||Williams||Nigel Mansell||Williams|
|1988||Ayrton Senna||McLaren||Ayrton Senna||McLaren|
|1989||Alain Prost||McLaren||Thierry Boutsen||Williams|
|1990||Ayrton Senna||McLaren||Ayrton Senna||McLaren|
|1991||Riccardo Patrese||Williams||Nelson Piquet||Benetton|
|1992||Ayrton Senna||McLaren||Gerhard Berger||McLaren|
|1993||Alain Prost||Williams||Alain Prost||Williams|
|1994||Michael Schumacher||Benetton||Michael Schumacher||Benetton|
|1995||Michael Schumacher||Benetton||Jean Alesi||Ferrari|
|1996||Damon Hill||Williams||Damon Hill||Williams|
|1997||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari|
|1998||David Coulthard||McLaren||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari|
|1999||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Mika Häkkinen||McLaren|
|2000||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari|
|2001||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||Ralf Schumacher||Williams|
|2002||Juan Pablo Montoya||Williams||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari|
|2003||Ralf Schumacher||Williams||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari|
|2004||Ralf Schumacher||Williams||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari|
|2005||Jenson Button||BAR||Kimi Räikkönen||McLaren|
|2006||Fernando Alonso||Renault||Fernando Alonso||Renault|
|2007||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren|
|2008||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber|
|2010||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||Jenson Button||McLaren|
|2012||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren|
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull|
|2014||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|2015||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes|
|2016||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes|
|2017||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes|
|2018||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari|
|2019||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes|
|2022||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||Max Verstappen||Red Bull|
|2023||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||Max Verstappen||Red Bull|