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F1 Canadian GP - What is the Wall of Champions?

F1 Canadian GP - What is the Wall of Champions?

F1 Canadian GP - What is the Wall of Champions?

F1 Canadian GP - What is the Wall of Champions?

The Canadian Grand Prix's final corner boasts a legendary wall - the Wall of Champions - that has claimed misfortune for F1 drivers.

Nestled on the man-made Notre Dame Island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, the track holds a special place in the hearts of fans and drivers for its unique layout and thrilling racing.

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Originally built for the 1967 World's Fair (Expo 67), the island's roads were repurposed into a circuit after the event concluded, hosting its first Grand Prix in 1978. That year, local hero Gilles Villeneuve took a memorable victory at his home track, a venue that would later be renamed in his honour.

One particular corner at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, however, has gained a reputation that's a bit more challenging for drivers. Turn 14, which leads onto the pit straight, features an unforgiving concrete wall on its exit.

The history of the Wall of Champions

The 1996 Canadian GP was like a cruel joke for some of the sport's biggest names. It witnessed a domino effect of misfortune, with four drivers succumbing to the unforgiving wall that was later nicknamed 'the Wall of Champions.'

The first to fall victim wasn't technically an F1 world champion, but motorsport royalty nonetheless - Ricardo Zonta, the reigning FIA GT champion at the time.

Shortly after, Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, lost control of his Jordan on lap 14 and made contact with the wall. The drama continued when pole-sitter Michael Schumacher misjudged the corner on lap 29 and slammed into the wall, dislodging both right-hand tyres from his Ferrari.

His frustration was palpable, famously responding with a cutting remark to a reporter who asked about the incident, "Have you a bit of respect for humans?"

The hat-trick of champion misfortune was completed by 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, son of Gilles, by understeering and clattering into the wall just five laps later.

Ironically, the advertising slogan adorning the corner's exit at the time, "Bienvenue au Québec" (Welcome to Quebec), offered a rather unwelcoming greeting for these drivers.

The race, which set a record for the most safety car deployments at the time, was won by McLaren's Mika Häkkinen, who eventually claimed the world title by a narrow margin of just two points over Ferrari's Eddie Irvine.

The Wall of Champions has continued to live up to its name in the years since. While it has claimed its fair share of non-champions - like Carlos Sainz in 2016 and most recently Kevin Magnussen in 2019 - it has also seen the likes of world champions Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel fall victim to its unforgiving nature in 2005 and 2011 respectively.

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