The FIA Formula One World Championship passes now from the slowest track on the calendar to the circuit with the quickest lap time of the year; the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, host to the Canadian Grand Prix. A lap of the 4.361km track takes just 75 seconds on average, the quickest single lap time of the season.
Renault has a rich heritage at the Canadian Grand Prix, having won the event at Montreal four times. In fact the first-ever Williams-Renault victory was recorded in Montreal in 1989 by Thierry Boutsen and was followed by a further two wins for the partnership in 1993 and 1996 by Alain Prost and Damon Hill respectively. Fernando Alonso then won in 2006 with the Renault F1 Team.
The long straights of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve require a low downforce package, however the tight hairpin and chicane that bookend the lap demand stability under braking. As such the RS27 must combine good top end power with effective engine braking and pick up on the entry and exits to the corners.
Wind direction can have a strong influence on 7th gear selection. Due to the circuit’s location in the middle of the St Lawrence Seaway, the conditions are notoriously changeable so there is a greater element of risk involved in choosing the right ratios. Get the selection wrong and you will be at a deficit on the straights.
The start/finish straight leads into a smooth left hander that turns into a spoon profiled corner. The engine has to be very smooth through this section without any peaks as engine revs will be at approximately 11,000rpm for five seconds, the longest consistently low setting of the lap.
Sector two is relatively start stop, with the chicane of turns six and seven and the flick of eight and nine. Drivers will try to clip the kerbs in this section to shorten the length so the engine needs to be extremely responsive under braking and on the apexes – this is the longest sector in turns of time.
The hairpin sees cars brake down to a little under 60kph before accelerating onto the long 1,046m straight to turn 13 and the infamous ‘Wall of Champions.’ Drivers will reach speeds of over 320kph with DRS open in qualifying and over 300kph in the race, so engine maps will be calibrated to give the driver good pick up from the exit but reach vMax near the end of the straight.
The heavy braking zones of the hairpin and chicane may require effective engine braking but are also the opportunity to keep the KERS system fully charged. This can then potentially be discharged twice on the straight as the energy counter resets. The high power sensitivity of this track also increases the KERS benefit over the non-KERS equipped cars.
Bruno Senna, Williams F1 Team
It goes without saying that good top end power is important for that long straight, but just as important is the torque response for the short bursts of acceleration, particularly from turn 3 to 9, which is quite stop-start. We need the engine to be extremely responsive – you can win or lose a lot of time if the power delivery is not completely on point. Engine braking is also important going into the chicane and the hairpin, especially as we will be entering the corners from very high speed. Canada is a really enjoyable track to drive but you need to be very precise through every corner as the walls are very close and there is a lot of dirt and rubber off line.
Rémi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations:
Monaco and Canada are vastly different tracks, with Montreal having one of the highest power factors of the season. It’s not as high on the percentage of wide open throttle time as Monza or Spa, but the circuit’s long straights demand good top end power for a large proportion of the lap.
Allied with the heavy braking zones of the hairpin and chicane, the RS27 also needs to deliver effective engine braking: this track is rightly called an ‘engine breaker’ as the engine doesn’t get any respite at all. The challenge is therefore to find the right balance between delivering maximum performance and maintaining 100% reliability, just like at Spa and Monza where the risks have to justify the gains.
Along with Australia, the race starting fuel load will be one of the highest of the season, although this will be governed to a certain extent by race strategy and the weather, which – as we know from last year – can be extremely changeable. Montreal may not be as unique as Monaco in terms of preparation but having the right settings can make the difference between starting towards the front and in the midfield, particularly with the field being so close this season.