Happy 20th birthday “Wall of Champions”!
Unlike the Berlin one, it has not split F1 drivers into two categories: only a few people have survived the “Bienvenue au Quebec” kiss. Here there are their stories
The most infamous and feared hard barrier of the entire championship is coming close to the 2019 grid drivers: how many slow-motions captured for the bravest camera on the closest point where you could touch the wing of the cars we have seen?
They are going to be the tenth pack of drivers to severe the first test of bravery on the calendar; yet the young street circuit can compete with the Eau Rouge-Raidillon section, the Variante Ascari sequence and the Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex coming to high levels of courage need.
It all began in 1999 during one of the more chaotic Canadian GPs ever seen: after 18 years from the dramatic unsighted drive from local hero and circuit dedicated driver Gilles Villeneuve, sparks start at the 15th lap; Damon Hill lost the rear and, despite a desperate ultimate recover, clinches the wall, putting the end of his race: luckily he’s able to park the yellow “wasp-nosed” Jordan on the grass, not calling a SC entrance.
Just fifteen laps later, Michael Schumacher hit with too much confidence the left hander kerb, jumping the Ferrari and to being able to finish the 30th lap on the lead: it’ll be one of the downsizes of its fourth season at the Cavallino Rampante garage.
But the thrill is far from being ended: right on the mid-race lap, the 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, stops his zipper BAR with severe damages at the front right suspension: he will climb the wall and limping behind the fence.
Once the set was ready, other WCs sought the visa of turn 13; Jenson Button anticipated his 2009 title with an innocent hit during the 2005 race. Seb Vettel during the uncontested 2011 march, took the liberty of stopping RB7 “Kinky Kylie” on the tyre-barrier.
On the other hand, the list of the illustrious drivers who passed closer for entire weekends is full of big names: Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Mika Hakkinen and, of course, Ayrton Senna, never aborted sessions or GPs at turn 13.
If the last chicane can be a trap for drivers, the Pace Car entry could be a nightmare for strategists: as Montreal can be considered one of the street circuits on the calendar, Bernd Maylander could make one or more appearances: remembering the 2011 edition (the longest F1 race with a record of four hours!) and considering the unstable weather forecasted for the week, it’s easy to bet some drivers to return in the paddock through the roots of the Parc Jean-Drapeau.
The sun will almost certainly shine through all the three days in Quebec’s capital, but the last showers in the days before may have clean the surface, eliminating all the parameters set the previous years from the teams: starting the weekend with zero data can put a lot of extra pressure to drivers and to the engineers’ board.
Because in Monaco you drive between barriers. In Montreal between walls.
Max Verstappen: Monaco race and rumors about the future.