Is Canada the top F1 track for wheel to wheel racing? Here's what the stats say

We crunch the numbers to find out if Montreal is really as good as it seems

2y ago

The teams now move on to the seventh stop of the season: the Canadian Grand Prix. The race has been part of the Championship since 1967 (with three years not run) and is considered one of the season’s best by many fans.

Held at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve since 1978 the Canadian GP enjoys a picturesque setting on Notre Dame Island in Montreal and is also one of the best when it comes to racing and overtaking.

In stark contrast to last time out in Monaco the Canadian GP has good opportunities for wheel to wheel action and overtakes.

So is Canada the best track for overtaking?

Canada has always been good for passing, as Alain Prost in the Ferrari demonstrates here in 1990 (Pic: Sutton)

Canada has always been good for passing, as Alain Prost in the Ferrari demonstrates here in 1990 (Pic: Sutton)

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has a number of opportunities for overtaking with four braking zones defined as “hard” by brake supplier Brembo – it is the hardest circuit on brakes on the calendar.

Following the 2017 Regulation changes the circuit was one of the few to actually have more overtakes last year than in the 2016 race. The 2017 race had 33 overtakes (as defined by our criteria) which compared to an average of 22 over all tracks that year.

It’s hard to forget Jenson Button’s dramatic win in 2011 with McLaren. Having started seventh on the grid JB was last on lap 37 of 70 after his second crash of the race.

After a number of safety cars and a red flag (the race lasted a record 4+ hours) JB passed Seb Vettel for the lead on the last lap to take one of the all time great GP wins! Passing is definitely possible in Canada!

How does it compare to other tracks on the calendar?

Direct statistical comparisons can be difficult due to certain tracks only having a handful of races (like India and Korea, for example), so this graph shows the average number of overtakes at each track over the past 20 years, and only includes circuits that have hosted 10 or more races in that period.

As you can see, Montreal is in the upper half of the table with an average of 28 overtakes per race. That puts it above the likes of Monza, Suzuka, Silverstone and the Nurburgring, but not quite as good as Spa, Interlagos or Shanghai.


Well yes... and no! A good qualifying result is still important in Canada as 48% of winners have started from pole – slightly higher than the average of all tracks.

The difference to most tracks though is that 21% of winners in Canada have started from the third row or worse on the grid. Of the current tracks with more than three GP’s to date only Spa has a higher proportion (24%) of winners from fourth or lower on the grid.

Dan Ricciardo’s win in 2014 (the first of his career) after starting from sixth on the grid is a good example of the opportunity for drivers to advance on this fantastic circuit. Perhaps an even better example is Jenson Button’s win from seventh in 2011 – as we mentioned above that was an amazing race!

The lowest grid position to win in Canada was Jacques Laffite who started 10th in 1981 in his Ligier-Matra. That race was a wet one so with showers forecast for Sunday the weather could also play a part in mixing up the 2018 race result.


Straightforward for Hamilton, and an impressive fightback from Vettel

Straightforward for Hamilton, and an impressive fightback from Vettel

As you will see below Lewis Hamilton is the master of Canada and 2017 was no exception with the Briton starting on pole and leading the entire race for the win (and scoring the trifecta with the fastest lap as well!).

Not so straightforward was Seb Vettel’s race. As you can see from the Race Map above after starting second on the grid he sustained front wing damage and after pitting to replace it he was dead last.

Vettel stormed through the field on fresher tyres after Ferrari elected for an alternate two stop strategy and finished just behind Dan Ricciardo in fourth

Lance Stroll became the first Canadian since Jacques Villeneuve to score a point in a GP (Stroll’s first points). Lance had an impressive race starting 17th and bringing his Williams home in ninth place.

Who has form at Montreal?

There is no one better in Montreal than Lewis Hamilton (Pic: Sutton)

There is no one better in Montreal than Lewis Hamilton (Pic: Sutton)

Eight of the current drivers have finished on the podium in Canada though there is clearly one standout: Lewis Hamilton.

Of his 10 starts Lewis has won six times and finished third on one occasion. Give that man some maple syrup.

With a total of seven wins the great Michael Schumacher is the only driver to have had more Canadian GP victories than Lewis. The odds look to be with the Brit to equal Schumacher’s record in 2018.

Hamilton’s dominance is reflected in his race result track bias of finishing 2.3 places better than his overall career average. With an average finishing position of 1.3 after 10 starts Lewis will undoubtedly be the odds on favorite with bookies going into this weekend’s race.

Esteban Ocon also deserves a mention with his sixth place finish from his one and only start in Canada. This was 4.7 places better than his overall career average to date.

Romain Grosjean remains pointless in the Championship after six races – the longest dry spell in his career. With Kevin Magnussen leading the Frenchman 5:1 in their head to head this season RoGro will be desperate to make use of his slightly more favourable race result bias in Canada.


Both Mercedes drivers have excellent quali track biases in Canada while the Ferrari drivers have both found it harder here. Riccardo and Verstappen have also fared well in qualifying on this circuit historically.

The two stand out stats are Hamilton and Raikkonen. Lewis has been an exceptional qualifier in Canada, on average starting over two places higher up the grid than his career average. Valtteri Bottas has an even better quali bias than Lewis in Canada so the Mercs are going to take some beating to pole.

In contrast Kimi hasn’t performed well – qualifying over a full grid position worse on average in his 12 starts in Canada versus his career average.

Three of the current drivers have held pole at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso.

Fernando has traditionally preformed very well in qualifying, averaging two places higher on the grid here than his career average. Be that as it may there will likely need to be some extraordinary circumstances for the McLaren to challenge Lewis and Seb.

Lap records

As has been the case for every track visited so far this season the qualifying lap record was set in 2017 – this time by Lewis Hamilton who we shall see has been imperious in Canada.

Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello holds the race lap record in Canada. This is a break from the trend we’ve seen to date where lap records have generally been held by the Brazilian’s seven-times World Champion team mate Michael Schumacher from the same year.

What to look out for

Following his dominant weekend in Monaco Daniel Ricciardo will be keen to cement his current third place in the Championship standings.

This task will be made more difficult by the near certainty that he will be taking grid penalties in Canada.

As we’ve seen though, it’s certainly possible to climb back through the field here and Ricciardo is arguably the best overtaker in the business.

From winning in Monaco to a grid drop in Canada for Daniel Ricciardo (Pic: Sutton)

From winning in Monaco to a grid drop in Canada for Daniel Ricciardo (Pic: Sutton)

Can anyone stop Lewis Hamilton? With six wins to date at this circuit he is a master in Montreal. It will be hard to stop Lewis extending his 14 point lead in the Championship but as we’ve seen all season it’s very close at the top.

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Comments (5)

  • The caption of the first picture is wrong. It’s 1990

      2 years ago
  • Love Canada. Can't wait for this weekend's race. If anything, I would have thought it would have been higher on the overtaking list compared to other tracks

      2 years ago
    • Yep, we love it too Rob. Canada stacks up pretty well for overtakes though. Shanghai is a bit of an outlier and the stats are influenced by the 128 overtake record in 2016. But Canada is pretty close to the other circuits above it on the...

      Read more
        2 years ago
    • Just looks good on TV as well. Maybe it's something to do with the camera angles, but I love the look of it

        2 years ago
  • Hi congratulations - your post has been selected by DriveTribe F1 Ambassador for promotion on the DriveTribe homepage.

      2 years ago