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

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 Passion

For today’s blog post I decided to follow the prompt on the NaBloPoMo site:

What is your secret (or not-so-secret) passion?

Wow this is a surprisingly difficult one. The guys at work often take the mickey out of me for getting so excited over all sorts of things (Smurfs, pens, post-it notes, Neighbours…) that it’s hard to narrow it down!

I think I have to pick my top 3 passions, and in no particular order:

Take That

It won’t surprise too many people reading this blog that I love Take That! They have been a massive part of my life for so long – my earliest memory is related to Take That and despite splitting up their music has been a constant in my life. I still listen to their early stuff & last week inflicted the ‘Do What U Like’ video on work colleagues! I was absolutely over the moon when they announced an album & tour as a 5 piece again and had a brilliant time at one of their Wembley gigs this year 😀

Please be warned people of nervous dispositions may not want to click play!

Mini

I love minis. Mini, MINI, Cooper S, estate, convertible, any way shape or form, I just love minis. My 18th birthday present was my very own 1985 Mini Mayfair that my Dad is restoring. A real labour of love that has been going on 8 years now (well it’s been in its current, near finished form for probably 4 of those years at least). I have numerous model minis at home, I have socks, t-shirts, pens, notepads…. a girl can never have too many minis!


F1

This is the most obvious. I live, breathe and sleep F1. Well I often dream about Kimi Raikkonen at least 😉 Jostling for space amongst the minis I have several model F1 cars – all of mine are either Hakkinen or Raikkonen. Most of the books I read are F1 related (apart from the Take That & mini books…are you seeing a pattern?!)  and I liked my passion that much that I went and got a job in it.

Life At The Limit by Professor Sid Watkins

This book has been on my ‘to read’ list for as long as I can remember. I borrowed if off @SRT40 ages ago and it’s been sat, waiting for me to pick it up. I am so glad that I finally got around to doing so!

The book was written in 1995 so although a little dated, it includes lots of anecdotes and stories from Professor Sid Watkins’ experiences as the F1 medical expert. No matter when you started to follow F1, I think this book is a great read as all the names and some of the incidents are familar, even to me who only started to watch in 1996. Also some things never change and the sentiments that the Professor shares with the reader are quite poignant after the recent deaths of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simonchelli.

The very first chapter starts with the tragic weekend in May in 1994. It is clear throughout the book that Watkins’ held Senna very dear and frequently links to the accident so it was a good idea to tell the story of that weekend from the beginning. I haven’t seen the recent film about Senna yet, and have only seen a small amount of footage from that weekend as I can’t really bear to watch it, so I found the account interesting with some details that I didn’t realise.

From then on the book covers the story of F1 from Watkins’ point of view from the 70s until the 90s. He gives his account of the incidents he has attended over the years, and describes how circuits and their medical facilities have improved. It really is quite shocking when you compare the facilities to what we currently have in motor racing, and the vast changes are a testament to the hard work put in by the people in this book.

I love the sections about all the different drivers, Professor Watkins gives his honest opinon, along with amusing stories. I would love to read an updated version to find out exactly what he thinks of the drivers I know and love!

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in F1 as its very interesting, easy to read and you gain an invaluable insight behind the scenes of an aspect to the sport that wouldn’t normally be revealed.

British GP 2011 – Saturday

I decided ages before the race that I wouldn’t go to Silverstone for the British GP, but two weeks before the event I found myself scouring eBay for bargain tickets. I couldn’t find any good deals for race tickets but a twitter friend found a general admission ticket for qualifying for £60 including parking so I decided to go ahead and get it. When the ticket arrived I was slightly dubious about the authenticity of the ticket as it stated general admission with central admission and corporate hospitality. I was amazed to see that you get general and central admission on the same ticket! There was a dress code printed on the ticket, which presented a dilemma. I’m used to packing as many layers as possible all to be topped with a Kimi t-shirt & cap, so compromised with putting comfy trainers and a cap in my bag for whenever I wasn’t in the suite!

A few days later I found myself driving around the perimeter road on the Saturday morning of the grand prix. I still thought the ticket might be a fake but at least I didn’t have to walk far back to the car as the parking was just behind the old pit straight! I needed have worried as the ticket was real and got me straight through into the circuit and under Copse tunnel towards the centre.

The next hurdle was getting into Brooklands hospitality, so I decided to go straight there to see if I would be let in or not. And low and behold, I got straight in without the security giving me a second thought! Result 🙂 As it turned out I was the first person into the hospitality suite and was the only person until quite a bit later.  The suite was lovely, with a goody bag including radio and programme for every guest. A tv on the wall showed the action as well as interviews by the commentators, and there was a table with loads of food & drinks. I had a lovely breakfast before going out onto the balcony to see what kind of view the suite had.

Well the view turned out to be one of the best round the circuit, I’m sure of it! The suite was a couple of floors up so no fences were in the way, and the angle of the building meant that people on the surrounding balconies did not block the view either. To the left, cars could be seen thundering down the Wellington Straight and to the right a great view of the complex from Brooklands, through Luffield and Woodcote.

I stayed in the suite watching the support practices/qualifying and the third F1 free practice, before going for a wander down to the little bit of general admission between Becketts & Aintree. I watched the Porsche’s from here which was actually quite a good place as you saw them so often at one side or the other. Unfortunately I don’t find the Porsche’s particularly exciting and I was right by the road going to the new paddock so I did a bit of celebrity spotting. I was amused by the Stagecoach buses taking people to the paddock, but there was also a fleet of Audi’s taking VIPs up and down. I even saw a Range Rover with JYS on the number plate so I’m taking that as I saw Jackie Stewart 😉

I headed back to the suite for the F1 qualifying, by which time the other guests had arrived. Dinner had been served so I sat down with a plate of gorgeous food, to chat with the other guests. The food was really nice, there was even caviar (I didn’t like that though!), so I would have hated to pay the full price for one of these tickets. The other guests didn’t really have a clue about F1 so I told them a bit about what happens in qualifying and who drives which car. I tried not to sound condescending, but I really couldn’t believe that some of the best seats in the house were being taken up by people not really interested! I imagine the Paddock Club is quite similar, and it’s just a shame that the real fans don’t get to enjoy the finer side of the sport that they love.

Qualifying was amazing, the sound of the cars was so loud and it was great to see the cars going into Brooklands. I only wish I had more than iPhone with me at the time to take some good photos. Next year I will!

The day didn’t end with that chequered flag, as after qualifying I went to meet up with the lovely @Kazb711, who I have spoken to a lot on twitter but had never been able to meet in person before. She was with her friend Korin and we all met up with Dom (who used to post his adventures here occasionally before setting up his own blog)  before having a good look around the merchandise stands. We also bumped into Heikki Kovalainen!

To finish the day off I watched some of the GP3 from Luffield before heading home. The only negative of the whole day was the lack of signs in the car park to the exit and I ended up going the wrong way out of the circuit, compared to where I wanted to be. I should have gone back the way I came in but I thought signed exits would be the better way to go. I know for next time!