The first Canadian Grand Prix was held at Mosport Park in August 1967. The reigning world champion at the time, the late Jack Brabham, won the race. He remains the only driver in the history of the sport to win the title racing for a team bearing his own name.
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Ten things you need to know about the Canadian GP
There have been 44 Canadian GPs: eight at Mosport, two at Mont-Tremblant, and 34 in Montreal. The race has been held in the city since 1978, and is run on the man-made island of Ile Notre-Dame in the St Lawrence River. Following his death during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix, the circuit was renamed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in honour of the local hero and flamboyant Ferrari driver. Villeneuve won the Canadian GP in 1978, during his debut season in F1. He was sideways for much of the race.
Villeneuve, more even than Bryan Adams, Pamela Anderson or Molson Dry, is the best thing ever to come out of Canada. He made his F1 debut in a McLaren M23 at the 1977 British GP, where he deliberately span the car on every corner so he could work out where the limit was. It certainly got him noticed, and when McLaren team boss Teddy Mayer inexplicably passed on him, none other than Enzo Ferrari stepped in. ‘I immediately recognised in him the physique of Nuvolari [Ferrari’s favourite driver] and said to myself, “let’s give him a try”. There were those who considered him nutty, but he was the champion warrior and he gave Ferrari a great deal of fame,’ Il Commendatore notes in his book Pilote, Che Gente (Drivers, What Characters).
Along with Monaco, Spa and Suzuka, Montreal is one of the drivers’ favourite venues. Its blend of long, fast straights and slow corners also means that it’s a brake-killer, but achieving the optimum set-up is the biggest challenge of all. Trimming the amount of rear wing improves straight-line speed, but can compromise stability under braking. So it’s an engineer’s track as much as a driver’s. This year’s extra-complicated new brake-by-wire system, which many of the drivers are still grappling with, is an additional headache.
In an era of frozen technical regulations, Pirelli’s showbiz tyres and their propensity to fall apart was the talking point of 2013. Tyre degradation has been less of an issue this year, but Montreal always presents a challenge. Here’s the official word from Pirelli: ‘Montreal is a circuit with higher average speeds, frequently changeable weather conditions, and a low-grip surface that often catches out even the most experienced drivers. One of the biggest challenges for the tyres is the fact that the asphalt is extremely inconsistent, made up of a number of different surfaces that offer variable levels of grip. The increased torque and diminished downforce of the 2014 cars makes the track even harder to master.’
With a duration of 4h 4mins and 39secs, the 2011 Canadian GP is the longest F1 race ever run. Heavy rain meant that it started behind the safety car, which pitted on lap five. The race was suspended on lap 26, and was eventually restarted more than two hours later. Despite colliding with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, picking up a drive-through penalty for speeding behind the safety car, triggering a third safety car after clipping Alonso’s Ferrari, and winding up in last place after suffering a puncture after the last restart, Jenson Button somehow managed to overhaul the entire field to score his 10th F1 victory. ‘One of the best wins in the history of F1, let alone his,’ McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh noted afterwards.
In complete contrast, 1997’s Canadian GP only lasted 1hr 17mins. It was red-flagged on lap 54 when Prost driver Olivier Panis lost the back end of the car on the exit of turn three, hit a concrete wall, then buried the Prost deep into the tyre barrier. The Frenchman - who remains the last French winner of a Grand Prix (at Monaco in 1996) - broke both his legs, and his career never fully recovered.
Because it’s a street circuit, an old-school driver’s favourite that hasn’t been neutered by the new breed’s galactically long run-off areas, and features the infamous ‘wall of champions’, Montreal is no stranger to the safety car. Of the last 13 races, seven have seen the silver AMG Mercedes at least once. ‘Recent races that stick in my mind include the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix,’ safety car driver Bernd Maylander told TG. ‘I couldn’t really see anything for a lot of the time, I didn’t know what was going on behind me, so I was focused like I was doing my own race. Seeing the aftermath of Robert Kubica’s crash during the 2007 Canadian GP was pretty bad, too. There was so much debris on the track, and an accident like that is something you never want to see…’
Unlike many circuits, it is possible to overtake around Montreal. Nor is securing pole position as surefire a guarantee of victory as it is in other venues - of the 34 races that have been run there, only 15 have been won from pole.
McLaren is the ‘winningest’ constructor at the Canadian GP, with 13 victories, to Ferrari’s 11, Williams’s seven, and Brabham’s four.