It's a mammoth journey from the Caspian Sea to the heart of French Canada as Formula One heads to Montreal for the return of the Canadian Grand Prix. The race has been absent from the calendar for two years thanks to the pandemic, but the popular Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will finally see some action again this weekend.
The circuit represents a slight change from the Monaco and Azerbaijan street racing challenges in recent weeks, with the cars instead facing something of a hybrid track. A grass-lined perimeter features throughout with gravel traps to punish the drivers – but so do concrete walls that are always a foot or two away that can end a driver's race should they make a mistake. This rather unique combination is a perfect transition as F1 leaves the street circuit-heavy early season races and heads to the traditional European circuits for the summer.
The 4.361km circuit is fast and furious in its short layout. There is plenty of flat-out running, with three DRS zones to help keep chasing drivers close to their competitors. Additionally, heavy braking areas and tricky chicanes slow down the action to repeatedly concertina the cars during a lap, making corner exiting crucial for overtaking.
Although most overtaking will happen into and out of the Turn 10 hairpin, it's the final corner that's most famous after it caught out Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, and Damon Hill in separate incidents during the 1999 Grand Prix. Nicknamed 'The Wall of Champions' thanks to all three drivers being recent F1 title winners, the tyre barrier here has since added Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button to its driver champion victim list. Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, and Max Verstappen had better be on their best behaviour this weekend...
Pirelli is bringing the three softest tyre compounds for the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix, meaning the C3, C4, and C5 tyres are back in action for a third successive race. With Formula One being the primary series that competes at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a lot of track clean-up is necessary this weekend to lay rubber down for grip. Expect to see the track get faster the longer the cars run.
Even though the teams will be very familiar with the trio of Pirelli tyres available in Montreal, the data they have on the circuit will be from 2019, when F1 was racing with a very different car – and very different Pirelli tyres. Furthermore, even a June date for the Canadian Grand Prix doesn't protect the race from the weather. With a summer climate not too dissimilar to Britain – i.e., unpredictable – rain could feature at any time, but so could searing heat and blue skies.
Credit: Alfa Romeo
Red Bull might've scored a 1-2 finish in Baku, but Ferrari threw the win away with their double-DNF after Charles Leclerc took yet another 2022 pole position. Will the rapid turnaround give the Scuderia enough time to investigate their failures and those that affected the Ferrari-powered Haas and Alfa Romeo teams in Azerbaijan? If not, Red Bull and Max Verstappen could start running away with the championship in Canada...
However, a quirk to the Canadian Grand might have some fancying the somewhat under pressure Carlos Sainz to become the winner this weekend. The race has been the venue of multiple first-time victors over the years, with Lewis Hamilton in 2007, Robert Kubica in 2008, and Daniel Ricciardo in 2014 all breaking their F1 duck in Montreal.
Of the leading two teams in 2022, Sainz is the only driver without an F1 win to his name, though George Russell and Lando Norris may also fancy their chances. And, equally, should any driver from Red Bull or Ferrari win, they'll be taking their first victory on Canadian soil after Hamilton, Vettel, and Ricciardo have taken every winner's trophy here since 2012.
Credit: Alfa Romeo
Qualifying is on at 9PM on Saturday, and the Grand Prix begins at 7PM for some prime time viewing.
Qualifying – On air: 8PM, Session start: 9PM Saturday 18th June
Race – On air: 5:30PM, Session start: 7PM Sunday 18th June
Qualifying – 8:30AM Sunday 19th June – Note the highlights are on Sunday morning, not Saturday night.
Race – 11PM Sunday 19th June
Qualifying – A cool day with a 20% chance of rain could upset the starting grid should it fall during the Qualifying session. 19°C could be the highest the mercury reaches on Saturday.
Race – Similar weather to Saturday, but with even cooler air temperatures forecasting highs of 17°C. Rain is also possible, but again it's a low 20% chance – the intermediate Pirelli tyres could feature.