The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is located in a part of Montreal known as Parc Jean-Drapeau, the mayor of the city who was responsible for the organization of Expo 67.
Originally named the Ile Notre-Dame Circuit, it was renamed in honour of the legendary Canadian Formula One driver Gilles Villeneuve, father of Jacques Villeneuve, following his death in 1982.
The circuit lies on Ile Notre-Dame, a man-made island in the St. Lawrence River most of which was originally built up for Expo 67. The neighbouring island Ile Sainte-Hélène had been artificially enlarged for the fairgrounds and a prominent remnant of the fair, the Biosphere can be regularly seen during television coverage of the Grand Prix.
Almost half of the track – from the hairpin turn until after the pit area – runs alongside the Olympic Basin, a huge rectangular basin which was created for the rowing and canoeing events of Montreal's 1976 Summer Olympics.
Barriers run close to the circuit and many experienced drivers have been caught out by them. A particularly famous part of the circuit is the wall on the outside of the exit of the final chicane before the start/finish straight. In 1999 the wall, which used to bear the words Bienvenue au Quebec (Welcome to Quebec) giving it the nickname "Mur du Quebec" (Quebec Wall), ended the race of three Formula One World Champions, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve along with FIA GT champion Ricardo Zonta. Since then the wall has been nicknamed "The Wall of Champions".
In recent years 2009 world champion Jenson Button (2005) and 2010 World Champion Sebastian Vettel (2011) have also fallen victim to the wall.
Changes made in 2005 to the kerbs at the final chicane caused unrest amongst drivers in the run-up to the Grand Prix, the kerbs were made higher and more difficult for the drivers to see, making it even more challenging.
As the circuit has hosted different racing series, it is possible to directly compare the series' lap times. In 2002, F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya took pole position for the Grand Prix with a lap time of 1:12.836. Several weeks later, during the inaugural Champ Car Grand Prix of Montreal, Cristiano da Matta took pole with a time of 1:18.959.
In 2006, the last time Champ Car and F1 ran on the same track, Formula One was 5 to 7 seconds faster than Champ Car. The pole position in Formula One was set by Fernando Alonso with a time of 1:14.942, while Sebastien Bourdais took pole in 1:20.005 in a Champ Car. The fastest lap in the Formula One race was 1:15.841 by Kimi Raikkonen, while Sebastien Bourdais' fastest lap was 1:22.325 in the Champ Car race.
Braking from over 185 mph (300km/h) into the slow combination of Turns 1 and 2 has seen some great wheel to wheel action over the years. A crucial corner, especially on the opening lap.
Turns 3 & 4 consist of a fast right-left chicane, where the drivers need to ride the kerbs for the quickest line.
Another chicane at Turns 6 & 7, this time left-right and much lower speed than the first, with the drivers needing to ride the kerbs once again for the fastest route.
A 185 mph (300km/h) straight leads into a third chicane (Turn 8) – right-left once more – which requires quick direction change and good kerb riding capabilities from the car.
Famous for brave moves – in some cases too brave – the hairpin at Turn 10 provides another heavy braking area from in excess of 185 mph (300km/h) to around 62 mph (100km/h).
Turn 13, another chicane, comes at the end of the fastest section of the track, with maximum speeds of around 205 mph (330km/h) followed by heavy braking and a need to ride the kerbs heavily through the chicane. The exit of the second part of the chicane is bordered by the famous 'Wall of Champions' which has caught out many championship winning drivers over the years.