Groundhog days

As is traditional in F1, the transition from May to June sees the sport trade the sun-dappled waters of Monaco’s Port Hercule and its indigenous population of global glitterati for Montreal’s slightly more blue collar St Lawrence Seaway, and the Île Notre-Dame’s rather more earthy but no less photogenic population of groundhogs.

Or are they marmots? Or woodchucks? Who knows, but over the years, the little critters have frequently played a starring role in the remodelling of a number of front wings and nose cones across the Canadian Grand Prix weekend – just ask Haas’ Romain Grosjean, who had the misfortune to messily meet one at high speed during FP2 last year.

OK, we admit it; the tendencies of the local wildlife were obviously a less than cunning device that allowed us to crowbar a Groundhog Day reference into our headline, but their unique presence as a racing obstacle is just one of a great number of reasons why we love F1’s race in Canada. 

Need us to elaborate? Well, it’s our first North American trip of the season, it’s a race with awesome heritage (this year marks the 50th edition of the Canadian GP and it’s the longest serving non-European race on the calendar), the circuit is all about long, fast straights, heavy braking zones, and close walls, and the city embraces F1 with a fervour generally reserved for places such as Melbourne, Monza or Mexico City. 

Put all those elements together, mix in a woodland rodent or two, and you’ve got the recipe for one of the season’s standout races, as Max and Pierre explain (though with less marmot than you’re probably now expecting)…

Max Verstappen

With small run-off areas, walls and some pretty high speeds, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve always looks pretty daunting on TV. What’s it like in the cockpit? 

The track is actually pretty challenging, even though it looks like there are quite a lot of straights. The chicanes and how you ride the kerbs is important as it can compromise you a lot if you make a mistake. It’s all connected, left to right or right to left, if you make a mistake on one of them, then your whole sequence is destroyed. 

You’ve got a good record there – always top five on the grid since joining the Team and on the podium last year. Do you think you can match that this time?

It’s a fun track, at least you can overtake if needed and I always enjoy going there. I expect Ferrari to be more competitive in Canada, so for us it may be a bit more difficult, but as always we will try and maximise the result.

Pierre Gasly

We’re heading to Quebec and the second of three Francophone races in a row. That’s got to be a plus point for you?

Canada is a great place and yeah, the fact people speak French there also makes life a bit easier for me! It’s a good track with a lot of history and it usually produces some decent racing with its long straight. 

It’s your first visit to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with the team. What are you expectations? 

Yes, I’ve only been to Canada once before so I don’t know much about Montreal but I’m happy to be going back and it’s a track that’s usually good for the Team. Max finished third there last year and Daniel got his first win with the Team in Montreal so it’s always been pretty successful for Red Bull. I think you always relate a track with your previous performance there and I was P11 in 2018 so it was OK, but this year I will be aiming for much better.