Debate: is F1 too fast for Montreal?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Montreal, 2007, 470150

Last year F1 fans held their breath as Robert Kubica’s BMW ricocheted off the retaining wall at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with sickening force.

Faced with the task of improving the safety provisions at that bend the organisers have decided the best thing they could do was to bring the wall closer to the track. Is this a sign that F1 has outgrown the Montreal circuit?

Accorsing to the track owners, moving the wall closer to the track reduces the chance of it being hit at as critical an angle as Kubica’s car did last year. The theory is if the car strikes the wall with only a glancing blow the energy will be dissipated more gradually, reducing risk to the driver.

However there’s little doubt that the ideal solution would be to have a run-off area there. But in the tight confines of the Isle Notre-Dame that simply isn’t possible. The Casino hairpin at the end of the straight where Kubica crashed has already been moved once to increase the run-off at the far end of the track.

There are plenty of other points around the circuit where barriers stand in places where tarmac run-off ight be preferable.

The circuit owners have also apparently lowered some of the more unforgiving kerbs this year, especially those at the chicane by the ‘Wall of Champions’. And a taller debris fence now stands at the site of Kubica’s crash to reduce the chance of a car clearing the wall and hitting traffic on the other side of the track.

I hope that Formula 1 can continue visiting the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve because it’s an excellent track that’s been on the F1 calendar for 30 years almost without interruption.

This year two new street circuits at Valencia and Singapore arrive on the F1 calendar. I wonder if this is a sign that, after years of Hermann Tilke building circuits with run-off so vast the spectactors can barely glimpse the cars, the F1 authorities have finally accepted that cars are always going to hit walls and the best thing to do is figure out how best to protect a driver in that eventuality?

Videos of Robert Kubica’s crash in last year’s Canadian Grand Prix

Have you been to the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve? Share your experiences with other F1 fans.