Why is the “Wall of Champions” in Canada called that?

On the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit in Montreal, there is a place that all drivers fear at every lap: the “Wall of Champions”, at the exit of the last turn. A wall that has built its reputation over the years... and accidents.

Published on 05/06/2024 à 13:45

Dorian Grangier

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Why is the “Wall of Champions” in Canada called that?

Sebastian Vettel is the last world champion to be trapped at the Wall of Champions, in 2011 © DPPI

When we talk about Canada in F1, we instantly think of the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit, on Notre-Dame Island in Montreal. And when we talk about the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit, there is generally one place that comes to mind: the Wall of Champions. In appearance, it is a simple concrete wall, which was at the time covered by a row of tires (which is no longer the case today), at the exit of the last chicane. Nevertheless, this very special place is formidable and feared by all pilots in Formula 1.

First of all, why this name, the “Wall of Champions”? The answer can be found in 1999, during the then Canadian Grand Prix. In a single race, three world champions were trapped at the exit of the chicane: Damon Hill on the 15th lap then Michael Schumacher on the 30th lap and finally Jacques Villeneuve on the 35th lap. Three champions on the mat, all in the same place and in the space of around twenty laps: it didn't take that much for the turn 14 wall to gain a reputation.

Since then, this wall has become the emblematic place of the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit. Very tricky due to its proximity to the trajectory, the barrier punishes any driving error in the last chicane. The height of Quebec irony is that the fence just above the wall was for a long time adorned with a “Welcome to Quebec” sign. Enough to make fans smile and mark a great publicity stunt for local tourism.

© DPPI

After the 1999 edition, several drivers went to kiss, often a little too hard, the Wall of Champions. In 2005, it was the Briton Jenson Button, then a driver for the BAR-Honda team, who was the victim of the wall. In 2011, the then reigning champion Sebastian Vettel had hit the row of tires with his Red Bull during the tests.

Latest victim to date: Kevin Magnussen, trapped during Q2 in 2019. The Dane had touched the barrier with his Haas and had broken his right rear suspension, sending him into a spin. So, will we see the list of victims of the Wall of Champions grow again this season?

ALSO READ >  Gilles Villeneuve, the man from Quebec

Dorian Grangier

A young journalist nostalgic for the motorsport of yesteryear. Raised on the exploits of Sébastien Loeb and Fernando Alonso.

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Yves-Henri RANDIER

05/06/2024 at 04:24 a.m.

Welcome to Quebec, a country with a lot of humor!!

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