What makes for a great racing circuit? That may be too wide a question. The track that provides a thrilling spectacle with one set of car characteristics can be a little humdrum with another. One only had to watch the Formula Renault 2.0 races in Monaco last time out to see how thrilling a racing track that can be… for the right sort of car. Were you to ask what makes a great racing circuit from the current crop of Formula One cars, then there’s a list of criteria that need to be ticked off.
It needs to test the cars at high speed and low speed, through long corners and short; it needs to push the chassis to the limit with bumps and kerbs, but hit high enough speeds on the straights to prevent teams from piling on all the downforce they can. It needs a realistic overtaking spot – but not one that makes overtaking straightforward, and it should have big walls to ensure there’s a cost to pushing the limits and getting it wrong. Basically, what makes for a great F1 circuit is something that looks awfully similar to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The Canadian Grand Prix is always action-packed, and a great deal of that is generated by an old-school circuit layout that encourages the thrills and spills. While other circuits concentrates the action in one or two specific hotspots, in Montreal it can happen pretty much anywhere.
The first complex of corners are a little faster and longer than average for the track. They’re partially responsible for this being a medium downforce circuit rather than seeing teams go for an ultra-skinny Monza-spec car. While the pit-straight is relatively short, the cars arrive in Turn One carrying a lot of speed – particularly with DRS engaged and the drivers have a lot of work to do, braking down and hooking the line for the longer Turn Two. It doesn’t look particularly rapid until it goes wrong. Daniel Ricciardo gave the Red Bull RB10 its first victory at the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix – but he had the luxury of doing the last lap of the race under the Safety Car, after a late race collision between Felipe Massa and Sergio Pérez demonstrated just how perilous this corner can be. Viewed from above it looks vaguely ‘S’ shaped – but you have to want it.
While the Wall of Champions tends to garner the attention, there’s often more action in the first chicane at Turns 3-4. It’s a nasty classic. On exit, the difference between the racing line and the wall is measured in millimetres – but the reason that's particularly tricky is the kerb on the way in. Drivers will try to straight-line the corner as much as possible – but the more kerb you take, the bigger the risk of unsettling the car and sliding off into the wall.
Droit du Casino corner
The other fast corner in Canada is the Droit du Casino ‘quick kink’ on the approach to the hairpin. There are various ways of describing this – but the best one is generally to just say ‘Robert Kubica’ and leave it at that.