Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

F1 news: No more Wall of Champions in Montreal?

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo from Australia passes his crew as he arrives in pit lane after winning the Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Sunday, June 8, 2014 in Montreal.


On tap this week:

  • Is the Wall of champions doomed?
  • Newey back with Red Bull
  • Fuelling up in F1 isn't easy
  • Small teams in budget trouble
  • Quote of the Week: When you know you have a shot
  • Villeneuve gets into wine

The new deal to keep Formula One in Montreal may spell the end of the infamous Wall of Champions.

The 10-year extension announced Saturday to keep the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve stipulates upgrades to the facility, including a larger paddock area for the teams to do their work, and that may require removing notorious wall from the equation.

Story continues below advertisement

Pushing the pitlane and track north is the only way to expand. The two new corners created may be a modification to the chicane at the end of the long run from the hairpin.

Unfortunately, any change there could potentially eliminate the "Wall of Champions" – the concrete barrier at the exit of the final chicane which got its name when Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve ended the 1999 Canadian Grand Prix there in a shower of carbon fibre.

In addition to the those three F1 world champions, reigning four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel added his name to the list in 2011, while McLaren's Jenson Button hit it four years before he won his title in 2009.

The most plausible solution to the paddock space issue would require filling in part of an artificial lake and beach area to make room to shift the grandstands lining the start-finish straight several metres north. That would also mean lengthening the final chicane, making it less treacherous.

Luckily for fans, there may be one solution that would keep the Wall in play: Building a multi-storey garage with additional floors for teams to use as storage. For that to work, the posh Paddock Club Suite situated above the garages on race weekend would have to be at least three storeys up, instead of two they are now.

The sardine tin paddock on the Île Notre-Dame track has been a sore spot with the F1 teams since they began racing in Montreal in 1978.

Random Thoughts: With surprise Canadian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo hogging all of the Red Bull Racing spotlight on Sunday, the team's re-signing of technical genius Adrian Newey was almost lost in the shuffle.

Story continues below advertisement

Red Bull announced the deal a couple of hours before Ricciardo took the outfit's first win of 2014, pushing the all-powerful Mercedes off the top step of the podium for the first time in seven F1 races so far this year.

Newey became Red Bull's chief technical officer in 2006 after designing world championship winning cars with both McLaren and Williams. He added a constructor's title with a third team in 2010, when Red Bull swept the drivers' and constructors' championships. In all he has designed cars that won 10 drivers' and 10 constructors' titles since 1992 and remains the only person to have done it with three different teams.

The deal also includes working on "Red Bull Technology projects," although the details of those undertakings were not released.

Before the signing there was rampant speculation in the paddock that Ferrari was trying to lure Newey away from Red Bull with an offer to come to Maranello to run the Scuderia's technical program and perhaps help in the design of its road cars.

Technically Speaking: The arms race in Formula One isn't limited to its teams and engine manufacturers. Ferrari fuel supplier Shell has been working to find the right blend of octane and energy in the gasoline they supply the outfit so the team can get the most out of the new turbocharged 1.6-litre V6s.

The fuel used in the old high-revving, normally-aspirated V8s simply doesn't offer the same performance in the new smaller V6s and their energy recovery systems and a new formula needed to be developed.

Story continues below advertisement

In the run up to the season opener in Australia, Shell brought 45 different fuel concoctions to Ferrari's Maranello headquarters before deciding on the one to use in Melbourne, according to its F1 trackside and logistics manager Ian Albiston.

"What quickly became clear when we started looking at the combustion characteristics of the V6 was that there were two things it liked: Octane and the caloritic value of the fuel, so energy," he said.

"The complication in that is that you have to come back to the real world and it's very difficult to get both. Yes, we could throw octane boost into it, but typical octane boost has low caloritic value so you lose energy within the fuel."

Bumping up the octane may offer a bit more horsepower on the combustion side, but it doesn't really help maximize the heat needed on the energy recovery side. The rub is finding the right mix that not only gets the most horsepower from the internal combustion side through the octane but also has more caloritic value to make the engine run hotter and boost heat recovery.

It's not an easy fix. In addition to the 45 fuel formulas Shell tested before the 2014 season, it has put another 35 different through the grand prix ringer since Melbourne in March and the start of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on Sunday.

By the Numbers: Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile president Jean Todt has already been to several races in 2014 after attending only a couple last year. The reason is money, specifically the budget cap that the sport is trying to put in place.

Todt has made it a priority because several smaller teams remain in dire financial straits as they try to keep up with the runaway costs in Formula One.

One-third of the way into the season, it is thought that the Caterham and Marussia squads are in the toughest position with the Sauber outfit also struggling to make ends meet.

It was rumoured that Marussia may not make it to the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago, but it showed up and even scored an incredibly valuable two constructors points. The teams' cut of the television pie is determined by points.

Caterham is next on the endangered list, with many paddock insiders feeling that it may not make it to the end of the season. Not far behind is the Swiss-based Sauber outfit, which has struggled to keep afloat for the past few seasons.Lotus may also be on shaky financial ground.

The problem for F1 is that the commercial contracts for races stipulate that they must have a minimum of 10 teams and 20 cars. With only 11 teams and 22 cars on the grid in Montreal, keeping them viable is a huge conce – rn. Should two of the four troubled teams not be able to continue, the contracts with race promoters become void and the series is in big trouble.

Quote of the Week: "Obviously, we realized the Mercedes cars both started to go slowly – we didn't really know what the cause of that was – but at that point they were an awful long way ahead and we had several cars ahead of us to deal with. It wasn't really until around when we were starting to put pressure on [Force India's Sergio] Pérez [for second place] and I guess we thought that maybe we had a chance if we got past him to catch [race leader Nico] Rosberg because he wasn't far ahead either. I didn't really realize we would get past [Pérez] as easily as we did obviously they had problems because they weren't that fast in the straight, but it was only after we passed Pérez [with five laps to go] that it became clear that we would have a pretty decent shot at it."

Gavin Ward, of Toronto, who is the performance engineer for Canadian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo talking about the point where the team felt a victory was within its grasp.

The Last Word: Jacques Villeneuve has become the latest former driver to get into the wine business.

The 1997 world champion held an event on Canadian Grand Prix weekend to introduce his new vino, a Tuscan red called La Febbre ("the fever" in Italian), in all Quebec Costco and Couche-Tard locations. The name is homage to his father, who it was said infected his fans with "la febbre Villeneuve."

"Through the years, I have become very passionate about wine," said Villeneuve, who said he doesn't drink daily but enjoys a bottle when he have a nice meal with friends.

"There are so many different flavours and history – it's alive. This is not to put a stamp on something but actually work to create a wine. I wanted something that would be me."

The wine is produced in partnership with Julia Wines and is produced in Italy but bottled in Quebec. Other former drivers in the wine business include Mario Andretti, Scott Pruett, Jarno Trulli, and Jimmy Vasser.

Villeneuve's plan includes adding a chardonnay to the line in July. Villeneuve is concentrating on learning more about the wine making process and so far the neophyte vintner is simply enjoying the fruits of the labour.

"It's good," he said. "I am super happy – it's better than expected."

Report an error
About the Author
Motorsports columnist

There's an old saying about timing being everything in racing and Jeff Pappone's career as a motorsport correspondent shows that it also applies to journalists covering the sport too. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨