Track: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
No. of Laps: 70 Length: 4.361km
Distance: 305.270km
Lap Record: 1:13.622 – R Barrichello (2004)
2011 Winner: Jenson Button

The Canadian Grand Prix (known in French as the Grand Prix du Canada), abbreviated as gpc, is an annual auto race held in Canada starting in 1961. It has been part of the Formula One World Championship since 1967. It was first staged at Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario as a sports car event before it alternated between Mosport and Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Quebec after Formula One took over the event. After 1971 safety concerns led to the Grand Prix moving permanently to Mosport. In 1978 the Canadian Grand Prix moved to its current home on Île Notre-Dame in Montreal.

In 2005, the Canadian Grand Prix was the most watched Formula One GP in the world. The race was also the third most watched sporting event worldwide, behind the first place Super Bowl XXXIX and the UEFA Champions League Final.

The Canadian Grand Prix was not included in the 2009 Formula 1 calendar. On 27 November 2009 it was reported the race could return in 2010 and the 2010 edition then took place on June 13.


The Circuit Du Gilles Villeneuve is located in Montreal, the largest city in French-speaking Quebec. The track snakes around a man-made island in the middle of the St Lawrence River and is joined to the metropolitan district by bridge. The French influence in Quebec is so strong that the province held a referendum to seek independence from Canada as recently as 1995. Montreal became a major party city about 100 years ago when prohibition was applicable in the USA and the Americans had to jump over the border in search for clubs. The party vibe has stuck around and to this day Montreal has one of the best nightlife’s in the world. There are many universities in the area that keep the population youthful and the city has one of the lowest crime rates in North America.


The circuit is made up entirely of long straights and tight corners making the track a very stop-start affair. This makes aerodynamics relatively unimportant because the main emphasis is on traction and braking. Due to it being a street circuit, the barriers are very close and the slightest mistake is often punished with a broken car. This is not helped by the low-grip surface which is a result of the roads being rarely used for racing. Champ Cars have also run at the track and have been, on average, six seconds per lap slower than their F1 counterparts. The close barriers convey the true speed of a Formula One car very well, both at the track and on TV.


The early Canadian Grand Prix was one of the premier events of the new Canadian Sports Car Championship, a series which had been created alongside the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport in 1961. Several international sports car as well as Formula One drivers participated in the event. For the first five years, the event would be won by drivers with either prior Formula One experience, or would enter the championship after winning the Canadian Grand Prix. In 1966 the Canadian-American Challenge Cup ran the event, with American Mark Donohue winning. Formula One took over the following year, although the CSCC and Can-Am series continued to compete at Mosport in their own events.

The first winner in Montreal was Quebec native Gilles Villeneuve who died in 1982 on the final qualifying lap for the Belgian Grand Prix. A few weeks after his death, the race course in Montreal was named Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after him. Gilles Villeneuve was one of the first inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, and the only Canadian winner at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The 1982 Canadian Grand Prix, in the shadow of the death of Villeneuve a month earlier, saw another accident when Villeneuve’s teammate Didier Pironi stalled on the grid. Raul Boesel struck the stationary vehicle, and Riccardo Paletti then struck the rear of Pironi’s Ferrari. Pironi and F1 doctor Sid Watkins came to Paletti’s aid to try to extract him from his car, which briefly caught fire. After a half hour, Paletti was extracted and flown to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

In 1987, the race was not held due to sponsorship dispute between two local breweries, Labatt and Molson. During the break the track was modified, and starting line moved to its current position.

Ferrari’s Jean Alesi won the 1995 edition, which occurred on his 31st birthday and which would be the only win of his career. Alesi had inherited the lead when Michael Schumacher pitted with electrical problems and Damon Hill’s hydraulics failed. the victory was a popular one for Alesi, particularly after several unrewarded drives the year before, namely in Italy. Alesi’s win at Montreal was voted the most popular race victory of the season by many, as it was the number 27 Ferrari—once belonging to the famous Gilles Villeneuve at his much loved home Grand Prix. Schumacher gave Alesi a lift back to the pits after Alesi’s car ran out of fuel just before the Pits Hairpin.

The 1997 Canadian Grand Prix was stopped early due to a crash involving Olivier Panis. He was sidelined for nine races and some see it as a turning point in the career of the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix winner.

In 2001, there was the first sibling 1–2 finish in the history of Formula 1, as Ralf and Michael Schumacher topped the podium. The Schumacher brothers would finish 1–2 in the 2003 edition as well. 2001 was also noted for Jean Alesi achieving Prost’s best finish of the season; he celebrated his fifth place by doing several donuts in his vehicle, and throwing his helmet into the crowd.

The 2007 race was the site of rookie Lewis Hamilton’s first win. On lap 67, Takuma Sato overtook McLaren-Mercedes’s Fernando Alonso, to cheers around the circuit, just after overtaking Ralf Schumacher and having overtaken Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen earlier in the race. The race saw Sato move from the middle of the grid to the back of the pack and to a high of fifth before a pit-stop error caused him to move back to eleventh. Sato fought up 5 places in the field in the last 15 laps to finish sixth. Sato was voted “Driver of the Day” on the ITV website over Lewis Hamilton’s first win. The race also saw a horrific incident involving Robert Kubica (who went on to win the race the following season).

In the weeks leading up the Grand Prix, city officials trap as many groundhogs as they can in and around the race course, and transport the animals to nearby Ile Ste-Helene. Nonetheless, in 2007, a groundhog disrupted the practice session of Ralf Schumacher. On race day itself, Anthony Davidson had been running in third until he struck a groundhog, initially thought to be a beaver, which forced him to pit and repair the damage to his front wing. In 2008, a groundhog crossed the track at the hairpin in the 2nd practice session but luckily did not disrupt the session.

Wall of Champions

The final corner of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve became well-known for crashes involving former World Champions. In 1999, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve all crashed into the same wall which had the slogan Bienvenue au Québec (Welcome to Quebec in English) on it. The wall became ironically known as the “Wall of Champions”. The wall also was involved in a crash with Ricardo Zonta, who was, at the time, the reigning FIA GT sports car champion. In recent years, GP2 Champion Nico Rosberg and CART Champion Juan Pablo Montoya have also fallen victim to the wall. In 2011 Friday practice, the wall claimed reigning F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, although arguably this was avoidable, whilst the rumble strip claimed the pride of a Race Marshall who was running to the scene of the accident.

  • Damon Hill, 1996 F1 World Champion, in 1999
  • Michael Schumacher, 7 time F1 World Champion, in 1999
  • Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 F1 World Champion, in 1997 & 1999
  • Ricardo Zonta, FIA GT sports car Champion
  • Nico Rosberg, GP2 Champion
  • Nick Heidfeld, International Formula 3000 Champion
  • Juan Pablo Montoya, CART Champion
  • Jenson Button, 2009 F1 World Champion, in 2005
  • Kamui Kobayashi, 2008-09 GP2 Asia Series Champion, in 2010
  • Sebastian Vettel, 2010 F1 World Champion, in 2011

Recent Developments

On October 7, 2008, the Canadian Grand Prix was dropped from the 2009 Formula One calendar, which left the Montreal race off the list for the first time since 1987. In the provisional 2009 schedule released in June 2008, the Canadian Grand Prix was to have been held on June 7, a date taken by the 2009 Turkish Grand Prix in the revised schedule.

Since the US Grand Prix was dropped after 2007, this means that in 2009 no Formula One race was held in North America for the first time since 1958. (The American Indianapolis 500 formed part of the FIA World Drivers’ Championship from 1950 to 1960, but was not run to Formula One regulations and only very rarely entered by regular championship competitors.)

During the Australian Grand Prix, reports surfaced that the Canadian Grand Prix could return during the 2009 season in the event that the race circuit in Abu Dhabi was not ready in time. On April 26, 2009, Speed reported Bernie Ecclestone as saying the FIA was negotiating a return of the Canadian Grand Prix for the 2010 season, provided upgrades to the circuit are completed.

On August 29, 2009, the BBC reported the provisional schedule for the 2010 season, which had both the Canadian and British Grand Prix marked down as “provisional”. The Canadian GP was scheduled for June 6. The 2010 Canadian Grand Prix was eventually run in Montreal on June 13, 2010.

On November 27, 2009, Quebec’s officials and Canadian Grand Prix organizers announced they have reached a settlement with Formula One Administration and signed a new five-year contract spanning the 2010-2014 seasons. Under the five-year agreement, the governments will pay 15 million Canadian dollars a year to host the race, much less than the 35 million a year Ecclestone initially asked for.

Memorable Moments

1981 : Gilles Villeneuve finished third on his home circuit, in torrential rain, with his front wing missing for the whole race. The crumpled front of his Ferrari even blocked his view for part of the Grand Prix, making his podium finish all the more incredible. No wonder they named the place after him!
1991: Nigel Mansell had the race victory all sewn up when he started waving to the crowd on the final lap. Embarrassingly, Mansell was so busy with his hands out of the cockpit that his engine stalled and handed the win to Piquet. No other driver has dared celebrate early since.
1995: Jean Alesi took his only Grand Prix victory in 1995, and did so on his birthday driving the number 27 Ferrari that Gilles Villeneuve had made famous. Alesi said that he had difficulty finishing the final laps because he could not see clearly through the tears in his eyes.
1998: Alexander Wurz clipped the side of Jean Alesi at the first corner and launched into a series of barrel rolls that took four other cars out off the track. The Austrian emerged unscathed and later went on to finish fourth in the restarted race.
2007: Robert Kubica had a serious crash approaching the hairpin on lap 27, in which his car made contact with Jarno Trulli’s Toyota, and hit a hump in the grass which lifted the car’s nose into the air and left him unable to brake or steer. The car then hit the concrete retaining wall and rolled as it came back across the track, striking the opposite wall on the outside of the hairpin and coming to rest on its side. The speed measured when his car clipped the barrier was 300.13 km/h (186.49 mph), at a 75-degree angle, subjecting Kubica to an average deceleration of 28 g. After data from the onboard accident data recorder had been analysed it was found that he had been subjected to a peak G-force of 75 G.

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  1. this post is quoted by Canada Race Guide « Grand Prix Survival says:

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