While every race course offers its own challenges, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, on Ile Notre-Dame in Montreal, is particularly challenging to both race engineers and drivers, because of its combination of long, high-speed straights and slow, tight corners – not to mention the big wall that lines the exit to the last chicane, which leads onto the pit straight.
The Lotus/Renault team, whose cars are driven by former World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen and rookie, Romain Grosjean, provided the following analysis of the course and its challenges.
The long straights of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve require a low downforce package; however, the tight hairpin and chicane that bookend the lap demand stability under braking. As such the race car must combine good top end power with effective engine braking and pick up on the entry and exits to the corners.
Wind direction can have a strong influence on 7th gear selection. Due to the circuit’s location in the middle of the St Lawrence Seaway, the conditions are notoriously changeable so there is a greater element of risk involved in choosing the right ratios. Get the selection wrong and you will be at a deficit on the straights.
The start/finish straight leads into a smooth left hander that turns into a spoon-profiled corner. The engine has to be very smooth through this section without any peaks as engine revs will be at approximately 11,000rpm for five seconds, the longest consistently low setting of the lap.
Sector two is relatively start-stop, with the chicane of turns six and seven and the flick of eight and nine. Drivers will try to clip the cerbs in this section to shorten the length so the engine needs to be extremely responsive under braking and on the apexes – this is the longest sector in turns of time.
The hairpin sees cars brake down to a little under 60 km/h before accelerating onto the long 1,046-metre straight to turn 13 and the infamous ‘Wall of Champions.’ Drivers will reach speeds of over 320km/h with DRS open in qualifying and over 300 km/h in the race, so engine maps will be calibrated to give the driver good pickup from the exit but reach maximum velocity near the end of the straight.
The heavy braking zones of the hairpin and chicane may require effective engine braking but are also the opportunity to keep the KERS system fully charged. This can then potentially be discharged twice on the straight as the energy counter resets. The high power sensitivity of this track also increases the KERS benefit over the non-KERS equipped cars.
McLaren driver, Lewis Hamilton, a former Canadian Grand Prix winner and World Champion, provides his thoughts on the track and the race via video. Click here to watch.