Your Canadian GP Pocket Guide: All you Need to Know About F1 in Canada

Aerial photo of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve home of the Canadian GP.

As the Canadian Grand Prix fast approaches this weekend, it’s an excellent opportunity to sit back and reflect on times gone by. From the circuit’s namesake Gilles Villeneuve to why the final chicane is nicknamed ‘The Wall of Champions’, here is your essential pocket guide to the Canadian GP to keep you informed throughout the weekend.

A Brief History of the Canadian GP

The Canadian Grand Prix became an official race on the F1 Calendar in 1967, with Jack Brabham taking the first win at Mosport Park. Since then, the Canadian GP has remained a consistent feature within the yearly F1 circus, with brief hiatuses in 1975, 1987, 2009, 2020 & 2021.

You may recognise the name of the racetrack we will be visiting this weekend – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Based in Montreal, the circuit, formerly the Île Notre-Dame Circuit, is named after Ferrari driver and six-time Grand Prix winner Gilles Villeneuve who unfortunately passed away in 1982. He even won his first Formula 1 race at the circuit in 1978, making him the only Canadian driver to win on home turf.

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Many of the greats in the sport have won the Canadian Grand Prix, with World Champions such as Sebastian Vettel, Ayrton Senna and Jackie Stewart winning the event twice. However, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton hold the joint record for the most wins around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with seven wins each to their name. 

Reigning world Champion Max Verstappen earnt his first win at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2022 and has a strong chance of making it into this illustrious group of multiple winners in Canada this weekend.

The Wall of Champions

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Situated outside the final chicane at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve lies an opponent that even the best drivers have struggled to defeat.

The Wall of Champions!

This legendary part of the circuit has become synonymous with the Canadian GP, with the three-foot wall of concrete undoubtedly sitting in the back of all the drivers’ minds when pushing hard in qualifying.

The term arose from the 1999 Canadian GP, where world champions Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher crashed into this unforgiving barrier, thus earning it the nickname The Wall of Champions!

Since then, recent champions such as Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel have also crashed here during the Canadian GP weekend. The Wall of Champions could be a source of potential drama this weekend, especially if we are in for a wet weekend in Canada!

Groundhog Day

If you’ve heard any onboard driver radio at the Canadian Grand Prix, you may have heard some complaints about the local wildlife. 

Aside from hosting the longest race in history, Gilles Villeneuve and the Wall of Champions, the Canadian GP is also renowned for its invasion of groundhogs.

Many a front wing has fallen victim to these buck teeth track invaders, depriving Anthony Davidson of a podium place in 2007. Romain Grosjean and Nicholas Latifi have also struck these poor animals, which we hope we won’t see a repeat of in 2023.

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Races to Remember 

The Canadian GP has provided fans with some races to remember throughout its history on the calendar. Whether it was Lewis Hamilton’s first-ever win in 2007 or Daniel Ricciardo’s in 2014, you will be entertained if you re-watch any previous Canadian races!

However, the most iconic is the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, maintaining the title of the longest race in the sport’s history. Encapsulating all the chaos a wet race can possibly bring, it saw the great and the good of that season make mistakes in unpredictable conditions.

The eventual winner, Jenson Button, was involved in two collisions at different points of the race with his then-teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso. After he clashed with the latter driver, he had a tally of four pit stops and had been awarded a drive-through penalty by Lap 37 of the race. As you can imagine, at the time, a race win seemed an unlikely outcome for Jenson Button.

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However, Button wasn’t the only one in trouble, with drivers colliding, running off and losing their front wings throughout the race. Yet all of this played into Button’s hands, who by lap 65 was close behind Michael Schumacher in 2nd place, managing to overtake the legend. Benefiting from leader Sebastian Vettel spinning on the last lap, Jenson Button took the victory at an insane Canadian GP.

Words cannot do this race justice, however! To fully understand the mayhem of the 2011 Canadian GP, you can watch the race highlights here.

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Will there be similar scenes at the Canadian Grand Prix this year with rain forecast? Or will Max Verstappen continue to extend his lead in the drivers’ championship and edge ever closer to his third world title, emulating legends of the sport such as Ayrton Senna and Jackie Stewart.

If you have any fond memories of the Canadian Grand Prix from the past, let us know in the comments below! 

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