Canadian GP: What is the Wall of Champions? How iconic section of Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve got its name

As the 2023 F1 grid prepares for the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend, all the drivers will hope to avoid hitting one of the most iconic barriers in the sport: the Wall of Champions. But where is this infamous Armco, and how did it get its name?

Based on Ile Notre Dame, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve first held an F1 Grand Prix all the way back in 1978. Since then, the track has seen some truly fantastic races and dramatic moments.

For instance, who can forget Jenson Button’s iconic win in the 2011 Canadian GP? Having dropped to last place, the 2009 World Champion overtook Sebastian Vettel on the last lap to claim an improbable victory.

Speaking of Sebastian Vettel, his iconic 2019 post-race antics in Canada are a hilarious memory for many F1 fans. The German famously switched the P1 and P2 position boards after being denied a win due to a penalty.

But even before these recent moments, the track gained notoriety for one particular section – the Wall of Champions.

Situated on the outside of the final chicane, this barrier is unforgiving of any error due to being right on the edge of the track. This circuit in Montreal has many fences up close, but arguably none as famous as this.

Why is it called the Wall of Champions, though?

How the Wall of Champions at the Canadian Grand Prix got its name

To find the origins of this moniker, we have to go all the way back to 1999. During this Canadian GP weekend, three former World Champions met their match at the exit of turn 14.

Firstly, 1996 champion Damon Hill was the first title winner to hit the barriers. Hill lost the back end of his Jordan, hitting the Wall with his right-rear tyre and then retiring. He did not have to wait too long for another WDC winner to join him, though.

The 1999 race also saw one of the sport’s greatest drivers finish his race at the Wall of Champions. Michael Schumacher, in a similar style to Hill, wrecked his Ferrari following a slide from the rear.

Sadly, the third retiree due to the dreaded Wall that weekend was a local hero. 1997 World Champ Jacques Villeneuve crashed out of the 1999 race, sending his BAR into the Wall after losing grip. Unlike the other two before him, though, the Canadian understeered into the concrete.

After claiming three World Champions as victims, this infamous section of the track earned its fitting nickname.

The Wall of Champions has since seen two more F1 champs crash there, too.

All the World Champions to crash at the iconic spot

Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher, and Damon Hill all felt the wrath of the Wall in 1999. However, it had to wait six years before luring another champion into its clutches.

The driver in question was Jenson Button. Whilst driving for BAR-Honda in 2005, the Brit retired from the Canadian Grand Prix at the well-known point of the circuit.

However, this actually preceded Button’s 2009 championship. He managed to avoid the Wall of Champions for the rest of his career.

Finally, the most recent victim of the barrier who was a world champion was Sebastian Vettel. In 2011 – after his first triumph in 2010 – the Red Bull ace added himself to this illustrious list. In contrast to other champs, though, Vettel crashed during practice rather than the race.

F1 currently has three World Champions on the grid in 2023. Will Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, or Fernando Alonso hit the Wall of Champions this year? We will have to wait and see.

Featured image credit: Getty