The 2011 Canadian GP – Sunday

Sunday 12th June 2011

If I could sum up today in one word it would be wet!

Used to the British GP held in British summertime we went well prepared (or so we thought) with waterproofs, hats, an umbrella and a poncho …yet somehow we still got soaked to the skin!

The morning was drizzly and the support vehicles getting stuck in the mud kept the crowd entertained. We covered up well and we remained dry, albeit cold as the rain stopped. It was really strange listening to conversations around us – there were some big F1 fans but also some that didn’t have a clue about the sport – all they knew was that F1 is cars that have four wheels racing around a track. I don’t know if it was the rain but the atmosphere wasn’t as good as at Silverstone – I guess there are home drivers and teams when racing in Britain.

As for facilities, there were quite a few food stands by the back of our grandstand and we were lucky to have a proper toilet block (presumably built for the olympics as they were next to the lake) near us. There weren’t that many merchandise stands or displays at the track (or at least I didn’t see them), I guess that is due to lack of space! I didn’t realise quite how many lakes are in and around the circuit.

So the race itself. It started behind a safety car due to how wet it was and it was an eventful opening stint; sitting at the hairpin is brilliant as there is jostling going on lap after lap there. Hamilton & Button met on the same piece of tarmac on the start finish straight forcing Hamilton to retire, and Button got a penalty for going too fast behind one of the safety cars, putting him plum last. He started his charge as the rain started up again and was red flagged.

 

A lot of people got up from the grandstand and went and sheltered but we stayed where we were for the majority of the red flag, scouring the sky for any sign it was going to stop raining. Huddled up we kept relatively dry for a surprising amount of time, eventually getting damp around the edges. I thought I’d been at Silverstone in some rainstorms (2008 anyone? 1998 also stands out in my mind) but that was nothing like the amount of water that fell on Montreal. I honestly thought we’d gone all that way and we weren’t going to see a race as the sky was just black as far as the eye could see. When the rain eased off marshals and circuit officials gallantly tried to clear some of the water, but it was a loosing battle as once more the rain would start up again.

Finally the sky started to brighten up and there was hope of a restart. I had a spare jumper in my bag and as the rain eased off I changed into it – the t-shirt I had on under my waterproof jacket had got damp at the bottom which had soaked upwards! So although my waterproof hadn’t let water through, it had come up from the bottom soaking me anyway.

As you will have seen at the time, it was a great race. If I remember rightly (and I might not as its hard to keep up with the race when you’re there, so combined with my memory and who knows what I’ve remembered!) Button was back to last after tangling with Alonso and had an absolute stormer of a race to not only claw his way back up the grid, but to catch Vettel and capitalise on his mistake on the last lap to take the win. All through the race we were cheering Button on, along with the Force Indias and Lotus Renaults, but I didn’t actually think he would be able to win! It really made sitting out in the rain worthwhile.

After the race ended we all went on the track and we made our way down towards the pits. The straight between the hairpin and the final chicane at the pit entry didn’t feel that long, but that was probably because it was so exciting being on the track! A crowd was by the wall of champions but we still managed to get quite close which was surreal. As we were exploring the start finish straight, an even heavier downpour started, so it was lucky the race had ended, or it would have been red flagged all over again! Peering over the pitwall we could see the cars in parc ferme – if I ever get to attend a race with paddock/pit lane access I definitely want to wander down to see what is going on there! A few million pounds worth of cars, all parked waiting to go through scrutineering.

A row of security guards were soon coming down the start finish straight to get spectators out so we couldn’t spend very long watching the pack up process, or get any further down the track. We returned to the hotel wet and tired, intending to get a hot shower and go experience more of Montreal. In the end we couldn’t face going back out in the rain and ordered Dominos pizza to be delivered to our room (what did people do before the internet and online ordering of food?). It was a good job as I fell asleep mid pizza!

Montreal on qualifying day

Saturday 11th June 2011

After the free BBQ at the hostel on Friday night we were amazed to see breakfast was also included in the price of our room, and a lovely breakfast buffet was laid out in the dining area of the communal room of the hostel.

Fed and watered we headed to the track, expecting it to take ages but it was really quick. We walked a couple of minutes to the metro station, found the yellow line that the track is on and a few minutes later we were there! We followed the rest of the F1 fans from the metro station to the gates of the track. Room to track was less than half an hour, so anyone thinking of going to the Canadian GP make sure you stay at Montreal Centrale!

I’ve already written about the day at the track in my post The 2011 Canadian GP – Saturday, so I won’t go into that again – but as I keep banging on about the weather this sums up me & Jay:

Jay was cold

..while I got sunburnt!

In the evening we headed into Montreal to meet up with our friends. On our way we passed what quickly became one of my favourite streets in the whole wide world – a display from MINI! Jay eventually got me away from it and we met up with the rest of our group. We went to Crescent St and it was absolutely packed, I haven’t seen anything like it! There were several small stages set up with live music and all the pubs were jam packed, as was the street, all to do with the F1. We had a great night 🙂

MINI Countrymans

MINI Countryman

Crescent St, Montreal

Intrepid, World Trade Centre and Broadway

Thursday 9th June 2011

We weren’t about to make the same mistake two days running and so headed straight to the Intrepid Museum. It was absolutely fantastic and I’d recommend it to anyone (well anyone remotely interested in sea, air or space). The aircraft carrier was huge – I’ve never seen anything like it. I won’t bore you with all the photos but they are on my flickr if you want to have a look!

Intrepid

Intrepid Aircraft Carrier

Loads of planes were out on deck so it was definitely good that we didn’t get in the afternoon before – it was hot enough first thing! Seeing the planes up close was great, and it was brilliant to be able to go into the aircraft carrier and see what it was like on the bridge and in some of the sailor’s quarters.

Harrier

The Intrepid Bridge

Several planes as well as the other displays were in the hangar, inside Intrepid

Also at the museum is a Concorde and submarine – you had to pay extra to go on Concorde and being on a budget that meant we couldn’t do that. The ticket price included entry to the Growler submarine but the queues were huge but we’d already spent hours on the aircraft carrier so decided against it, but I would love to go back, especially as now I think they’ve got a space shuttle!

Concorde

After dragging ourselves away from Intrepid, we took the subway down to the Financial District to visit the World Trade Centre. I’m so glad we did, it was very strange to think about the awful events of September 11th, as Ground Zero could have been any other building site. Obviously it’s not and it was interesting and moving to visit the temporary museum around the corner. We watched the 10th anniversary programs on tv avidly a couple of months later, as it was all so fresh in our minds.

Ground Zero

What the World Trade Centre will look like rebuilt

Flag of Honor at the 9/11 Visitor Centre

This statue was on one of the anniversary programs we watched last September. She was left outside the fire station and became a focal point for tributes (if I remember rightly!)

We then decided to walk across the bottom of Manhattan to Brooklyn Bridge, this was like another world all together! The piers couldn’t be more removed from the swanky sky scrapers just across the road.

Pier 17

Pier 17

Pier 17

Not the best picture of Brooklyn Bridge!

We walked along the side of the river down to the park to look out to the Statue of Liberty; it was a bit too hazy to see her properly. Neither of us fancied a choppy, rammed boat trip out to Staten Island and Ellis Island but I think if I went back I would take the free ferry and plenty of sea sickness remedies!

Statue of Liberty (the little one in the distance ;))

As if we hadn’t walked far enough Jay convinced me to walk back to our hotel (at Times Square remember) via Broadway. I think he agreed to get on a subway when I couldn’t walk any further but somehow we made it all the way back. We stopped in a few parks on the way and I kept darting into air-conditioned doorways as we passed the shops. Thankfully it cooled down as a huge thunderstorm hit, which was just what I needed, finally I was at a comfortable temperature!

Walking up Broadway

I love free wifi in parks!

In another park, just as the thunderstorm rolled in. This is the natural colour of the photo, no editing required!

ahhh rain on Broadway

In the evening we walked to a few places to eat before settling on Famous Dave’s Bar-b-q, this was what I imagined when I thought of American eating establishments!

Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Q

Proper American diner style (or at least what it is in my head!)

It’s May on Tuesday?!

Looking at the calendar with the realisation that the fifth month of the year is upon us on Tuesday scared me a little – I have no idea how 2012 is zooming past so quickly but it is! I haven’t blogged much at all this year on here which is a shame but other stuff has got in the way! I do want to share some things I’ve been up to, originally I intended to proper blogs on them all but here’s the round-up…

This year I have started e-mentoring a couple of students through a project called Bright Links run by Brightside, an educational charity. Those two websites have some fantastic resources covering careers, student life, education, all sorts. I’ve found it quite nerve-wracking being a mentor, I don’t want to say the wrong thing but at the same time I don’t want to say too little, it’s hard finding the right balance. Hopefully the students find it useful and get something out of the project. Please feel free to share in the comments any mentoring resources you have come across that I might find useful!

In March I took part in two other STEM events; I acted as a career networker at The Big Bang Fair and battled it out in I’m an Engineer Get Me Out Of Here. Both were fabulous experiences; I really enjoyed getting to speak to students, hopefully giving them an insight into engineering and answering their questions.I was lucky to have enough time to get to have a look around the Big Bang Fair, it’s such a great event I’d recommend it to any family for a day out, there is something for everyone. I managed to come second in I’m an Engineer, which involved live chats with students and answering other questions they’d submitted through the site. I blogged about it for the engineering blog I’m involved in – developingengineers.com.

The main reason I’ve been so quiet is work has been crazy hectic, and when it hasn’t been I have been ill. All exercise plans have gone out the window and I haven’t been able to marshal as work was more than I could manage for a month! I might have mentioned before I suffer from ulcerative colitis and had a bad flare up just before easter. Thankfully only one afternoon was spent hooked up to an IV at the JR hospital whilst blood tests and an ultrasound were done. The result was steroids and the promise of more tests to try to determine if actually I suffer from crohn’s disease, which seems to essentially be the same illness, just attacking a slightly different part of me. The afternoon in the hospital came at the end of a week where my families lives could have been turned upside down but thankfully we got away with it – my sister’s boyfriend was knocked off his bike by a car and only saved by his helmet, my Grandma suffered a heart attack (both have since recovered) and my sister was offered a dream PhD in Sydney, Australia! And I thought all the drama was kept to Jay’s family!

Whilst I’m here I can’t not mention the Cotswolds Wildlife Park – we visited earlier this year for the first time & what a place! I’d love a season’s pass and go every weekend, there must always be something to see. I’ll leave you with my favourite photo – Jay and a lemur in the Madagascar enclosure.

Madagascar Walk Through Exhibit at Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Kimi Raikkonen at LRGP!!!!

Oh. My. God. Kimi Raikkonen will be an LRGP driver in 2012!!!

Photo Credit: Lotus Renault GP

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!

Where to start? After the paddock rumours in Brazil that the deal for Raikkonen to drive at Williams in 2012 was off, I was totally gutted. What had been a certainty and just a matter of time for the announcement turned into yet another disappointment. There was more substance to these rumours than any come back rumours since Kimi left F1 at the end of 2009 and so I’d stupidly got carried away and was looking forward to seeing him line up on the grid in the very team that my F1 journey had begun with.

Bouiller made noises about the harem of drivers that were possibilities at LRGP, including Kimi, but it seemed like he had only been mentioned in passing. A friend last week commented that it either meant a deal had been done or there really was no chance; at the time I felt like it meant there really was no chance.

Then on Monday morning it all began to resurface – Peter Windsor tweeting that he’d heard Kimi had signed a deal to drive for LRGP. I laughed it off after discussing it with people at work, I wasn’t going to get my hopes up this time. A text came from a journalist friend telling me of the same rumour, not 100% confirmed but looking pretty likely. A bit more giggling, this time starting to get to me but no, I wasn’t going to be drawn into the hope and disappointment all over again. After all it looked like Bouiller had burnt that bridge.

Then yesterday evening the rumours were getting louder and louder, with more and more journalists reporting a deal was due to be announced.  I was convinced it was either a LRGP deal confirming Senna and Petrov for 2012 or Raikkonen announcing a third year in WRC. Still no harm in refreshing twitter, facebook, autosport and my work email every 5 minutes….

By about 11pm I’d given up, it was all a silly Twitter hoax with people getting misinformation. I remembered an offer for 30% off photobooks so set about doing one for my Mum for Christmas. I’d soon got fed up of faffing with the photobook website and it was looking like I wasn’t going to meet the midnight deadline, so decided it was bedtime. Once last refresh of email before going to sleep….

And there it was. Confirmation of Kimi Raikkonen coming back to F1 and driving for LRGP. I screamed, shouted a bit and then promptly burst into tears. How grateful I am that the email came whilst I was at home! I hadn’t dared hope that there was going to be a comeback 12 hours earlier, let alone that he would be driving for LRGP. And there it was in black and white.

To be honest I’m still in shock now, 22 hours later. It hasn’t sunk in. A sleepless night followed reading that email, I text a few work colleagues but wasn’t going to say anything to anyone else until I knew it was public knowledge. I marked the occasion on facebook & twitter with a smiley crying its eyes out & a link to Take That’s ‘Greatest Day’ and spent a restless night refreshing Autosport to see if there was any more information! I think I managed about 3 hours sleep in the end.

Finally this morning the announcement was made and within seconds my phone was vibrating like there was no tomorrow. Friends, family, strangers all knew how much that one announcement would mean to me were sending tweets, facebook comments, emails and texts. Unsurprisingly my productivity at work this morning wasn’t as high as it could have been as the messages kept flooding in. Thanks to everyone who thought of me today, I can’t describe how much it meant!

There is so much uncertainty about next year – I’ve referred to the team as LRGP throughout this post but that’s likely to change given the team now has sole rights to the Lotus name. Raikkonen’s team mate is unknown and from the noises in the press from Petrov’s manager that’s at least 10 days away. Raikkonen’s race craft, his ability to drive 2012 spec cars with KERS, DRS and Pirelli tyres, his motivation, his ability, will all be called into question over the next few weeks, months and perhaps years. People will debate if someone who has had their chance, won their races and championship and left F1 deserves a highly sought after seat.  But I don’t care. Signing a world championship winning driver shows that Genii mean business and that they are serious about turning the fortunes of LRGP around. I know Kimi can deliver; just like he did when Mosley didn’t want to give him a super licence after only 23 single seater races. And then went and scored points on his debut race for Sauber a couple of months later. Just like when he almost won a championship in a two year old McLaren. Just like he did when won his championship in his debut year for Ferrari. And when he hauled a rubbish 2009 Ferrari to his final win at Spa. I know Kimi can perform, I know he can be great for the team, and hopefully he’ll stay motivated and push the team onto bigger things.

Now what have I been saying about looking forward to the relative calm of the winter? Screw that, come on Melbourne, hurry up and start the 2012 season already!

The 2011 Canadian GP – Saturday

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.

Vitaly Petrov flag

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.

Our view at the hairpin for FP3

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.

Cigarette advertising maybe a problem but alcohol advertising isn’t!

Our friends joined us for qualifying back at our seats. Not quite the atmosphere of Silverstone for qualifying but a great session nonetheless.

A Toro Rosso gets it wrong in qualifying

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.

In the pits

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.

Start/ Finish Straight & the Pits

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!)

An evening with Tony Iveson in aid of Bomber Command Heritage

Bomber Command Heritage is an organisation that is trying to maintain the history of Bomber Command for future generations. They are in the process of trying to persuade the MOD to sell RAF Bicester to them so that they can form an educational centre and museum to help with this vision.

A fundraising evening was held in October at the fabulous new John Paul II Community Centre in Bicester, with a guest speaker – World War II pilot Tony Iveson.

Apparently around 200 people bought a ticket for the evening as well as taking part in the raffle, silent auction and other fundraising efforts on the night, so fingers crossed a good amount was raised for BCH. On their website it says a couple of thousand pounds were raised which is excellent news.

It was interesting to hear from BCH about their plans for the future and what they would do with RAF Bicester if they do get the opportunity to take over the site. They have such a great vision I really hope that they can get the funding and support to persuade the MOD to sell the airfield to them. It will be a great addition to the area and a really interesting attraction to visit.

The star attraction of the evening was Tony Iveson. Tony was a pilot in WWII, and spent the evening telling us stories of his life as a pilot and what went on in the war. He spoke of the many different aircraft he flew, and different missions he was involved in. His first hand accounts of the Battle of Britain and attacks on Tirpitz (a battleship in Norway) were extraordinary and it was sobering to hear the impact the war had on personnel involved.

What was all the more inspiring is that Tony Iveson is now in his 90s and recalled the events as if they were only a short while ago. After his speech there was an extensive Q&A session, where people asked all kinds of questions which led to more interesting stories.

Many thanks to Tony Iveson for doing the talk and all at Bomber Command Heritage for organising the evening. Also to D who took me as a birthday present 🙂