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!)

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!