Canadian Grand Prix: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (ph-stop /

The Giles Villeneuve Circuit is one of the best tracks in the F1 Canada. Based out of Montreal, Canada, the circuit finds itself surround by St Lawrence river, which provides for a stunning backdrop. It almost feels like the circuit is floating on water, given the close proximity to the water and the track.

The conditions of the track can be a little mixed at the Canadian Grand Prix. We’ve seen weather that’s had huge effect with massive rain storms and also other days where the weather can be very pleasant indeed. This often ads a little spice to the unpredictably of the Grand Prix, albeit not massively related to how the track performs.


Swap Start/End

Circuit Info

Location Length Corners Capacity Year Opened
Montréal 4.361km 14 100,000 1978

Circuit Layout

Canadian Grand Prix Formula 1 Track Map

One of the biggest design aspects of the track is that there are very few run off areas and with are a series of close walls that run along the track. The walls are often one of the toughest parts of the circuit for drivers to navigate, often pushing cars to the limit, they run within just a few inches and a tiny mistake can signal the end of the race. 

In fact, there is one wall in particular that has caused the demise of several drivers of the years. The wall that is situated of the final chicane before the start/finish line has landed a number of former World Champions, such as Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, to name a few. As a result, the wall has since be renamed the “wall of champions”. 

Another aspect of the track that many drivers comment on is the size of the curbs. They are often much higher than most Grand Prix meetings, with several drivers stating that they are more like speed bumps, prompting them to avoid at all costs. 

A number of famous corners now line the track as well. The most well-known is that of the Senna ‘S’ turns, which run between turn 1 and turn 2. The corners actually have very little to do with Senna but instead, are named as a mark of respect to a great former champion. The turns are actually very subtle and often catch drivers that aren’t all that familiar with the track out. 

Casino corner is situated on turn 8 and is one of the fastest of the race. Drivers go under the bridge before hitting turn 9, which is a good spot for overtaking. The hairpin turn at turn 10 is another good passing points as you almost have to do a 180 degree turn at low speeds. Overtaking here can happen here under breaking on the entry, but also on the exit depending on what kind of line is taken. 

One thing that is worth mentioning about the track is that when racing isn’t taking place, it is open to visitors to walk around and even cycle through if they wish. The noise between race weekends and when races aren’t taking place is quite staggering. The scene of the track is actually very tranquil, especially being surrounded by water. But, obviously on race weekends it’s one of the noisiest places in Montreal, with a real carnival atmosphere on show. 

Since the Gran Prix circuit has changed quite a lot in terms of length throughout the years. The original design saw the track at 4.41km, whereas these days it’s measuring 4.361km. The longest it’s been was in 1994-95, where it measured 4.450km  

Recent Winners

YearDriverCarFastest Lap
2017 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.14.551
2016 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.15.981
2015 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.17.472
2014 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.18.640
2013 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.16.561

Other Racing

The Start/Finish Line
The Start/Finish Line (Jbitte /

Over the years, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has seen several differnt motorsports all take centre stage. These include the likes of the Champ Car world series, FIA World Sports Car Championship, NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series and the Atlantic Championship. 


Hairpin Corner
Hairpin Corner (NAME / WEBSITE.COM)

The circuit was finally built and finished in 1978, where it was originally known as the Île Notre-Dame Circuit. It’s been a focal point of Montreal ever since and the use that if offers year-round for the public has been a huge hit in the success of the track. We mention this as many inner-city tracks are often ill-thought of these days, with residents claiming they drain resources that could be sued elsewhere.

Naming of the Track

Gilles Villeneuve
Gilles Villeneuve (ideogibs /

The track’s rename came about in 1982, just a few weeks after the death of legendary Formula 1 driver, Gilles Villeneuve, who is the father of Jacques, a successful F1 driver in his own right. 

Whilst the island that the track sits on is actually manmade, it fits in really well with the city. The St Lawrence River is the focal part of the circuit and is known as Notre Dame Island. The island was built up in 1967 and was named after the then mayor, Jean Drapeau.

The first time that Montreal were able to host a Grand Prix was back in 1979, where rather fittingly, Giles Villeneuve was in the winning car. The circuit is a very important addition for Formula 1 as whilst tracks in Detroit, Phoenix and Mexico City had all relinquished licenses with F1, the Canadian GP was still going strong, flying the flag for North American motorsports for many years. 

Groundhog Problem

One of the more comical facts about the track is that it’s often partial to the odd unwanted visitor, namely that of the groundhog or even gofers. There have been several instances over the years where cars have collided with the animals as they break out on track. The protocol these days is that they try and catch as many as possible prior to race weekend to relocate them to another local park for both their safety and that of the drivers.