The main talking point in the run-up to this year’s Canadian Grand Prix was the disintegrating track. Throughout qualifying the circuit was breaking up, leaving marbles and other debris off the racing line.
This isn’t the first time the Montreal surface has caused problems — but this year it came earlier. The organisers blamed this year’s problems on the evolution of the cars. But that is a poor excuse. Every year the track breaks up more and more, so the organisers should be prepared for this eventuality every year. If they can’t lay tarmac that can cope with what an F1 car will give it, they shouldn’t be holding an F1 Grand Prix.
Another point, as noted by Keith at F1Fanatic last week, is that F1 is beginning to look too fast for the tight confines of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Of course, Canada isn’t the only race to be held on a street circuit — Monaco being the obvious example.
However, the Circuit de Monaco is the slowest on the calendar so the likelihood of a Robert Kubica-style horror-smash is pretty low. Meanwhile, the Albert Park circuit has plenty of space for run-off areas, gravel traps and the like.
Canada has the close, punishing walls of Monaco with the dizzying speeds of Monza. So when a car leaves the track, it can spell disaster, just as it did with Robert Kubica last year.
Another problem with the Montreal circuit is the tight space requirements. The whole circuit is built on a man-made island. As such, there is little scope for altering the circuit or increasing the run-off areas. The best the organisers could do to mitigate against another Kubica-style crash in the run-up to the hairpin was to move the wall forward in an attempt to change the angle of impact. Is that enough for today’s safety-conscious F1 standards?
In part, it is these characteristics that make the Canadian Grand Prix such an exciting event year-in, year-out. There is so much history at the circuit as well. Not many circuits stay on the calendar for 30 years running. Today the Canadian Grand Prix is significant as the only F1 event in North America, and one of just two in the Americas as a whole.
But no-one likes to see a driver involved in a big accident. It could have been so much worse for Robert Kubica who escaped uninjured, but whose feet were sticking out of the monocoque by the time the wreck came to a stand-still.
If the circuit cannot improve its standards in terms of safety and tarmac break-up, it has to be concluded that F1 has now outgrown the narrow confines of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. If the Canadian Grand Prix had to be dropped, it would be the ideal time to bring back the United States Grand Prix — an event that is conspicuous by its absence from the F1 calendar.