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!

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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!)