A bumpy surface, chicanes and the Wall of Champions
Good times, bad times. That's how my last two races in Canada have been. Last time in Montreal, I won but the year before, bam, I ended up in a wall. I know which finish I'd prefer this year!
It was disappointing Formula One didn't go to Canada last year, and I'm glad to be back this time. Going to a circuit where you have happy memories helps as a driver. My win - my only one in F1 so far - in 2008 was a bit of a lucky one, but you get good luck and bad luck in F1. I'm still grateful to Lewis Hamilton for driving into Kimi Raikkonen in the pits and not me, of course, as I probably wouldn't have won the race without it.
It's easy to remember winning the race. Standing on the podium was a wonderful feeling, and not just for me but the whole of my then team [BMW Sauber] for the work they'd put in. It was the perfect weekend as I won and my team-mate Nick Heidfeld was second, although Nick probably didn't think that was perfect. The race in 2007 was a very different experience. I was maybe halfway through the race when I brushed Jarno Trulli's car and lost control.
Once you start travelling in the air in an F1 car and there is a wall in front of you, you know it's no good. It actually goes slowly in a way and I just had to prepare myself for the impact, waiting, waiting, waiting. It was hard when I hit the wall and the crash looked really bad on television; well, it looked bad for me too. But I'm thankful that safety standards are so high in F1 as I came away with no problems at all really. OK, maybe a little shaken but otherwise good.
As the crash showed, Canada is one of the fastest circuits on the F1 calendar. I think there are four different times around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve that we travel over 300kph in an F1 car. It's not actually that difficult a circuit for a driver - races like Monaco and Spa, for example, are much tougher - although you have to get used to the bumpy surface and the chicanes, which are higher than at other circuits and difficult to get just right.
The toughest of the chicanes is actually at the end of the lap just before you come to the finishing line. It's known as the Wall of Champions as a lot of the guys like Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso have crashed here and ended their races. As you come out of that chicane, you have a lot of speed and you have to push as wide to that wall as you'll dare. It's a bit like Monaco as you want to use as much of the track as you can at the same time obviously not crashing. It sort of becomes instinct judging it just right.
That leads you to the end of the main straight and the start of the lap, which comes to a difficult first corner. There's not much room to move here and it gets a bit crazy at the start of the race as you approach it turning in just second gear. Next comes a slow hairpin round to the right which is a bit boring and you need to hit your speed fast coming out to fifth gear before a chicane, turn four, which is right then left in third gear.
Again you go fast and into the next corner you are nearly flat out in fifth gear along the Pont de la Concorde before another left-right chicane. It's again slow then fast here as you go out of it in second gear before another top speed straight in sixth. You break again for turns nine and 10, another chicane, another straight, which I remember well from 2007 - it was here where I had my take-off. It's not going to be a problem driving through there for me as crashes happen in F1 and I've driven lots of laps since the accident. For me, it's no problem.
That straight ends with a very slow hairpin, called L'Epingle, which takes you round to the longest straight of the circuit. It's very, very fast there before the chicane I mentioned before and another straight over the finish line.
Published: June 12, 2010 04:00 AM