The Canadian Grand Prix organisers are hurriedly re-surfacing part of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve following the break-up that occured during today’s qualifying session.
But is this just a case of too little too late? And does the sensitive political climate in F1 increase the chance that the race might be cancelled?
The executive vice president of the Canadian Grand Prix, Francois Dumontier, has explained reasons why he thinks the break-up of the circuit’s surface has occured:
Aggressive adhesion of grooved tyres, removal of traction control systems and the actual physical configuration of the hairpin corner itself could all be probable causes for this situation.
Perhaps ‘failure to learn from past lessons’ should be on this list as well, because these problems have affected the last two Canadian Grands Prix. However the situation looks much worse this year, with the track coming apart early on in the weekend rather than during the F1 race itself.
F1 is sharing the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with IMSA GT3 Cup racers this weekend which will also be giving the track’s surface a pounding.
Many of the drivers have been vocal about the problems. Mark Webber has led the complaints saying:
I think we’ll need to use motocross bikes, as it’s not realistic in a Formula One car, you’ll need to drive on the grass or on the inside of the hairpin.
Kimi Raikkonen added:
The car has been good all weekend but this morning was even very good and going into qualifying is quite a joke with the circuit. The circuit breaks down and it is like you missed the corner because there is so much sand.
I lost so much time in Turn 10 I couldn’t turn around and went straight on. We will see how it is in the race but it will be a nightmare. We have a lot of laps and it broke up after two laps so it will be interesting.
Lewis Hamilton, however, seems nonplussed:
I am not fussed. It is not going to cause me any problems as I know how to drive around it now. For sure it is better if there isn’t a problem and if they can fix it, then great.
That’s got ‘setting yourself up for a fall’ written all over it…
But it’s easy to be critical of the circuit’s problems from a distance. But I imagine maintaining a Formula 1-standard racing circuit in that part of the world would brings with it greater problems than we have in Europe. The bitterly cold Montreal winters must wreak havoc with the tarmac.
However this presents F1 with the kind of problem it has not seen for several years (see the earlier post ‘When tracks go crask’ for more). Yes, in 2005 most of the cars were unable to race at Indianapolis, but that was principally a problem with their Michelin tyres and not the circuit itself.
And given the turbulent political climate at the moment the timing could not be more sensitive. Bernie Ecclestone has said he wants to take control of F1 away from Max Mosley and the FIA.
So what happens now if Mosley announces they have to cancel the race because the track isn’t safe enough? It’s not inconceivable: although FIA race director Charlie Whiting has given his blessing to the resurfacing, it’s only taing place at the Casino hairpin, and not further up the track where Mark Webber had his crash, for example.
If Ecclestone let the race go ahead and it degenerated into a wreck-strewn farce it would be a gigantic political coup for Mosley. But cancelling the race would be extremely expensive and frustrate the teams who support him. So what should he do?