This year we decided to combine a holiday with an F1 race and to celebrate Jay’s graduation and job. We were going to go on a beach holiday to Spain and go to the Valencia race as I am desperate to go there, but when we saw the price decided to go on one of Jay’s dream holidays to New York and combine it with a few days in Montreal for the F1 race. More about the rest of the holiday another time as I can’t decide what to say about it. For now I just want to talk about the experience of being at the 2011 Canadian GP.
Our F1 weekend started on a grey, cloudy Saturday. The track was a hop, skip and a jump on the metro from our hotel so we arrived quickly to walk across the bridge onto the island where the track is held. What a difference to the traffic of Silverstone and the trek via train, bus and walk to Monza! All circuits should be built nearer to cities if you ask me. The buzz walking across the bridge was great as the anticipation built up, and we had fun spotting the drivers on these flags.
We arrived at the circuit in time for free practice 3. Used to Silverstone’s roving grandstand tickets we tried to get into another grandstand for a slightly different view, but weren’t allowed, so we took our seats. Our tickets were for the grandstand at the exit of the hairpin, an absolutely fabulous view, so no real hardship there.
It was great to see this years cars up close and personal. The sound of the Renault was something else, like the screaming V10 Mercedes engine in the McLaren of years gone by, you could hear what car it was without looking at it.
Between free practice and qualifying we went for a walk around the circuit. I never realised how narrow the island is that the track is on! We only got half way around before turning back for quali but there was a surprising amount of lakes are around the track.
Our friends joined us for qualifying back at our seats. Not quite the atmosphere of Silverstone for qualifying but a great session nonetheless.
After qualifying we were really lucky to get into the Force India paddock and garage for 20 minutes in between other guests. The paddock was tiny and very narrow, its funny when F1 has to fit in with the existing infrastructure, rather than the track bending over to F1’s demands (like the new tracks do). We got a garage tour where I respectively kept my distance from any of the parts and the cars; I didn’t want to get accused of spying! The PR girl showing us round was really friendly and took a picture of us outside the garage.
Unfortunately our time was soon up and we were walked back to the paddock gates and had to hand our passes back, ready for the next guests. It was a very much appreciated visit though 🙂
For the rest of the afternoon we watched the support races from various viewpoints, ending the day in the grandstand opposite the pits for the final race. It’s interesting to watch what’s going on as well as all the other races. It’s a great chance to see something unusual racing and this time we saw some old retro F1 cars (I think that’s what they were!).
As soon as the final race finished we were kicked out of the grandstand by security and hurried out of the circuit. Totally different to the other events I’ve attended (I know only two but still), we were pretty much the only ones left (in the grandstand and around the circuit as we walked out) and most food stalls were already closed up. Thinking about it that might be a bit unfair as I’m not entirely sure I’ve stayed until the very end of the day on a Saturday, but the emptiness did strike a chord.
For the final surprise of the day, not only had it been overcast but quite chilly, but still I ended up sunburnt! Maybe the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve isn’t that different to Silverstone after all 😉
The rest of the photos are here on flickr (all taken on my phone so don’t expect too much!)