In the 1960’s the rivalry between French and English speaking Canada meant that the country’s Grand Prix alternated between Mosport Park one year and Mont-Tremblant the next. By 1970, however, Mont-Tremblant was deemed too dangerous and the race was moved full time to Mosport Park.
In 1977 the French Canadians, motivated by the incredible success of Gilles Villeneuve, decided to take the Ile Notre-Dame and connected all the island’s roads and made a circuit. The island had been the home of the 1967 World Fair (Expo’67) and was full of futuristic looking buildings.
The first F1 race was held there in October 1978. Gilles Villeneuve, in his first season with Ferrari, was yet to win an F1 race, but at his home Grand Prix he took a memorable debut victory. Following his death in 1982, the track was renamed in his honor.
With the time differential, the Canadian GP telecast will be seen at 1 a.m. Thai time. This does mean that you either watch at home with live streaming, or catch it the next day, as Jameson’s will not be open so late. Sorry.
The winners at this Canadian F1 track include Michael Schumacher who holds the record of having won seven times in Canada. It is also the scene of Jean Alesi’s single Grand Prix victory in 1995, driving the number 27 Ferrari, the same car number which was carried by Gilles Villeneuve.
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) 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, then GP2 Champion Nico Rosberg, CART Champion Juan Pablo Montoya and Jenson Button have all fallen victim to the wall. In 2011 Friday practice the wall claimed the then reigning F1 Champion Sebastian Vettel.
Before the wall was named it also claimed 1992 World Sportscar Champion and long-time F1 driver Derek Warwick who spectacularly crashed his Arrows-Megatron during qualifying for the 1988 Canadian Grand Prix.
Unfortunately, the telecast is beamed here at 1 a.m., past bedtime for Kim Fletcher and me. The next GP is the European Grand Prix June 25, 2017 and is in Baku Azerbaijan. I will refrain from commenting on this venue till later.