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!

Advertisements

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

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!)

What was the greatest motorsport performance in 2011 and why?

Tweeting your answer to this question could win you two tickets to the Autosport Awards courtesy of Castrol.

I’ve never seen tickets up for grabs for the awards show so as soon as I saw this competition being retweeted I had to have a go.

My answer (in its full properly written English form) was:

Jenson Button’s Montreal win. A brilliant drive in an inferior car put Sebastian Vettel under pressure and got JB the win Worth the trip from the UK and getting so wet!

There could be many more moments for me along with Button’s win. The Indy Car drivers performing the tribute to Dan Wheldon just after he was killed stands out in my mind. The fantastic achievements of the WRC MINI team at Prodrive. Vettel dominating F1. Newey dominating F1 for that matter. Loeb winning his 8th championship. Club racing at Silverstone whilst I’ve been marshalling. Webber and Alonso battling up Eau Rouge.  Grosjean showing what he can do and dominating GP2.

So many great moments this year, and there will be more that I can’t remember off the top of my head or in series that I don’t watch. I’m already looking forward to 2012 and this year hasn’t even finished yet! The final F1 race of the season at Interlagos in Brazil is this weekend and then it really will be all over for another year. Lets hope its a good race to finish the year off in style 🙂

My #NaBloPoMo Brick Wall & Kimi Raikkonen

Apparently this week is the hardest for National Blog Posting Month. I haven’t found it that hard so far until today, but I think that is more to do with leaving it until 11pm to try and decide what to write about. I’m exhausted after swimming a mile tonight and just want to go to sleep! Instead I went onto the Blogher site for inspiration to write something at least and not give in on day 23. The prompts of the past few days didn’t grab me, but one of the tips on this article about pushing through did – a photo counts as a blog post. I was going to post a lovely photo that I took for today’s photo of the day, but instead I thought I’d share one of my favourite youtube videos.

Kimi Raikkonen is in the F1 press at the moment for sending the rumour mill into over drive about a possible comeback for 2012.  I am extremely excited as you can imagine and slightly disappointed with the latest rumours that it’s all off. We’ve been here over and over again since he was booted out of Ferrari, so I won’t believe it until I see him on the grid next March.

Anyway, the video.  For all Kimi fans – enjoy. And cross your fingers we get the iceman back next year 🙂

My Top 6 Prediction for the Brazilian GP

So its the final race of the season – hasn’t it come around quickly! Half of me is very relieved as my workload eases off a bit but half of me is wondering what will I do on the weekend? I miss F1 over winter!!

Here is my top 6 prediction for the race:

1. Button

2. Hamilton

3. Vettel

4. Alonso

5. Massa

6. Alguersuari

Unsurprisingly my over riding memory of Brazil is the 2007 race. I watched from the Students Union bar with a group of friends, with Finnish flags painted on my face! I didn’t expect to see my driver crowned champion as he was so far behind, but somehow the unthinkable happened. His amazing form at the end of that season as the two squabbling McLaren drivers tripped up and Kimi Raikkonen was finally crowned the World Drivers Champion. I had hoped for him to achieve this whilst at McLaren but it was not meant to be.

A couple of my favourite photos below, there are plenty more I have saved on my computer but I don’t have a clue who took them so I don’t want to publish them uncredited.

Photo Credit: XPB/LAT

Photo Credit: Reuters

The most emotional finale that I haven’t had an interest in the championship outcome is easily 2008. Massa’s family reacting to the news he was world champion as he crossed the line to win the race will stay with me for a long time, as will the despair as Hamilton passed Glock in the last corner to score enough points to snatch the crown. Massa reacted with huge dignity on the podium that day; if only he could do that again this year after all the bickering and argy bargy between him and Hamilton.

Photo Credit: XPB