The Formula One circus's annual visit to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix is a highlight of the season for teams, drivers and fans alike.
Not only is it typically an exciting – and frequently surprising – race, the ambience of the city and associated celebrations are equally as legendary. Montreal has been described as having a "strange but wonderful Euro/North American hybrid attitude that allows for both great service as well as a laissez faire attitude to just about everything else."
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, located almost in the heart of one of city, has been the site of the Grand Prix for more than 30 years (with the exceptions of 1987 and 2009).
The Circuit is situated in the Parc Jean Drapeau on Île Notre Dame – originally the site of Expo 67. As such it is readily accessible to downtown Montreal by bicycle or Metro (subway) – though less so by car.
Off-track action associated with the event encompasses the whole city with F1-themed parties running for the duration of the event. But it centres on Crescent Street, an avenue crammed with bars and restaurants, which becomes a pedestrian thoroughfare for the weekend.
The entire city, however, is replete with restaurants, bars and clubs with their own unique charms as well as great shopping.
As for the race, Montreal is all about power and brakes, with a series of long, fast (almost) straights leading into low-speed corners. Typically the cars are trimmed out with medium-or low-downforce packages to maximize speed on the straights, while trying to maintain enough downforce for the slow corners. It's a real balancing act.
With speeds varying from 300 km/h to as low as 60-70 km/h every lap, brakes take an enormous beating so the cars will be fitted with their most extreme brake ducts to achieve effective cooling.
This year's new hybrid power units are likely to be heavily stressed as well. Both because power is needed in long bursts and because the MGU-K (kinetic energy recovery system) will be extremely busy under heavy braking.
In addition the straights will work the MGU-H (heat energy recovery system) hard as the turbocharger will be on tap for most of the lap. Add in a hot sunny day forecasted and it's bound to be real challenge for the cars, and drivers.
So far this year, the Mercedes team and its drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, have been indomitable and Friday practice suggests more of the same – but Montreal has a history of breaking patterns. It promises to be an exciting weekend, on and off the track.