Salut Montréal! F1 crosses the Atlantic

The Formula 1 circus this weekend finds itself in North America for the first of two races due to be held in the continent this season.

But this Grand Prix takes on a typically French flavour for the second race in succession, being held in the French-speaking Province of Québec. 

Montréal has hosted the Canadian Grand Prix for several decades now on its high-speed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve — built on the man-made Île Notre-Dame, which is quite literally the insides of the city’s underground metro system.

The street-circuit is characterised by high speed straights intercepted by sharp chicanes and a hairpin, and is perennially the scene of exciting races. The last two races held on the circuit have in fact been hailed as classics by F1’s legion of fans.

In 2010, the softer compound tyres struggled on the harsh surface, prompting an unusual amount of pit stops, with overtaking a consequential by-product. The race’s popularity with fans was in fact one of the defining factors in Pirelli’s decision to introduce extra soft and deliberately fragile rubber when they took over as the sport’s sole tyre supplier in 2011. Of course, the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix was a wet race won (or lost, depending on how you look at it) on the final lap.

But that’s enough of a history lesson for today. Let’s concentrate on what lies ahead and take a look at what’s making news this weekend.

The headlines during the run up to the Canadian Grand Prix have been dominated by hole-in-the-floor-gate (that’s what we’re calling it, anyway). But with Red Bull having been cleared in previous rounds, many were left confused when the FIA eventually deemed it to be illegal.

Although the car that won the Bahrain and Monaco Grands Prix was in fact illegal, it was declared legal before — and in the case of Bahrain, after — the race. It would be unfair (and messy) to go back and change the results of previous races, as Red Bull were told they were doing nothing wrong at the time.

But that’s not the only controversy casting a shadow over the weekend, and the event itself has had its fair share of media attention too. Protesters have threatened to block access to the track on Sunday by jamming the metro system, unhappy with levy hikes. Students are campaigning for lower fees to help them continue with education, and a certain former F1 driver hasn’t minced his words when asked what he thought of it all…

But yeah, whatever, it’s all pretty boring, don’t you think?

In more light-hearted news, Monaco winner Mark Webber has been indoor sky diving. Wait, how does that work? Over to you, Red Bull Racing:

But they’ve not been the only ones testing out gravity. The Toro Rosso drivers have been spotted with the Cirque du Soleil athletes where they’ve done a touch of hanging out (quite literally!) while the Ferrari boys have run an experiment called “what-do-we-look-like-in-each-other’s-caps?” This of course was Tweeted by Felipe.

And thankfully, the brilliant sketches of the drivers’ faces have made a return once again this year. Felipe was particularly proud of his.

There’s probably a reason Fernando hasn’t been showing off the sketch above his garage quite like Felipe…

So what about the on-track stuff? We’ve already had six winner this year, with the likes of Hamilton, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Massa and Schumacher yet to stand on top of the podium in cars capable of bringing home 25 points. You’d be brave to bet against one of them (or perhaps a surprise victor!) making it seven from seven, but Red Bull and Ferrari seem to have found form.

Will the lack of holes ruin Red Bull’s chances of winning again? Have Ferrari really sorted their problems? Do McLaren still have any of that early season advantage left over? There are countless thousands of questions one can ask, but there’s no definitive answers to be given until the flag falls on Sunday afternoon.

Are you ready?

Image courtesy of Felipe Massa.

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