A massive F1 fan by the name of Jade was over in Canada and is sharing her diaries with Badger – here’s the rest of Friday and Saturday
Read the rest of her diaries here: Canadian GP Diary
As the shadows grew longer on Friday evening and I walked back towards Virgin Racing’s corner of the paddock after my meeting with Felipe Massa – slightly unsteadily, I must say – had mentioned in passing to Geoff that I was due to attend Joe Saward’s Audience With in Old Montreal which, as it was past 7pm, had already started. We happened to be outside Virgin Racing’s motorhome just as Timo Glock, small suitcase in hand, was leaving the circuit…and Geoff asked him if he could give me a lift back to Montreal! The next thing I know, I’m bidding Geoff farewell, handing back my VIP pass and following Timo across the pontoon towards the drivers’ cars. We were even overtaken up the stairs by Lewis Hamilton! By far the most surreal moment of the day came when I was sat in the leather back seat of Timo’s rented Volvo watching him instinctively thump the centre of the steering wheel in an attempt to beep the horn at someone. On reaching central Montreal Timo pulled over to drop me off, so I praised his team, said I hoped his car would improve for him soon and thanked him for the ride. From my drop-off point, I hurried to find the nearest metro station and got to Pub St. Paul around an hour late – I hadn’t helped myself by initially turning the wrong way out of the metro! – for Joe’s Formula One evening.
Joe was a fantastic host, overcoming an occasionally dodgy microphone to regale us with tales from across the years, including Gerhard Berger’s irresponsibility and being beaten up by touring car star Yvan Muller’s sister, plus speaking a little bit on a topic that had been playing on my mind that day – exclusivity in Formula One. One remark which stood out to me was that F1 Paddock Club tickets are ludicrous prices for a reason – they’re not intended to be for fans, they’re intended to be for people who invariably have no interest in motorsport who are there to make “billion dollar deals over lunch”.
During the break for the buffet I changed out of my Sauber shirt and into my brand new, rare sponsor-less Virgin Racing shirt, given to me by the team that day, and was approached soon after by someone presuming that I worked for them, given how their merchandise is still unavailable! Later on we talked about the contrast between F1’s popularity in the UK and North America, and the fact that it is simply not as easy to attend motor races in North America due to the sheer size of the country and consequential wide spread of the major circuits.
Afterwards I was able to walk through Old Montreal towards the metro station at a leisurely pace, and it was very apparent how welcoming the city is to Formula One. It was warm and the night felt vibrant, with music playing in the streets and shops and boutiques still open, whose windows were often absolutely filled with F1 merchandise and memorabilia, and even those who didn’t at least referenced the sport in a positive way – I even passed a closed gallery displaying a large painting of an F1 car in its window.
On the journey back home I was able to reflect on a crazy day, quite beyond what I could have hoped for when I was booking my Grand Prix ticket in January. My Brazilian flag now sports four signatures, Lucas di Grassi and Luiz Razia adding to those of Bruno Senna and Rubens Barrichello. Virgin Racing’s other test driver Andy Soucek graced my autograph book, I wished Heikki Kovalainen luck, saw just how tall Adrian Sutil is, spoke to Lee McKenzie about blogging my experiences, saw countless familiar faces in the flesh for the first time…and even now I have to keep checking my flag and drawing, seeing the signatures to remind myself that it all happened. Amazing.
Saturday arrived far too quickly, and I was running on about five hours sleep going to the circuit. One thing I’ve learned since arriving in Montreal is to ignore the weather forecast – it stayed dry for the majority of ontrack activity, which was a blessing to those of us in uncovered grandstands! I was mostly happy with Massa’s performance in qualifying, given his speed during the previous sessions, expecting and seeing him land a top 8 grid position. After the quialifying sessions the grandstands stayed full for the Historic Grand Prix, which was great to see. The racing itself was admittedly a little lacklustre, though understandable considering the value of the cars racing, but regardless of that it was wonderful to be able to take out the earplugs and really hear the howls, roars and rattles of over a decade of Formula One history doing what they were built to do. The race was dominated by the 1974 Brabham BT-44 – no wonder former Brabham manager Herbie Blash looked happy! – and interestingly the third placed car, the Williams FW07, was the winner of the 1980 Canadian Grand Prix.
The Ferrari Challenge followed and by then I’d moved to find some shade, choosing to sit in front of tribune eleven, facing the exit of turn two and with a distant view of the start/finish line. The racing was entertaining, with action all the way down the field, which was also the case with the following Formula 1600 race. Their race start was more fraught, however – a startline incident led to a red flag, which meant the lengthy task of getting the almost forty-strong field lined up correctly for a second formation lap…and then two cars stalled on the grid! After the race finally got going I moved further past turn two up the slight hill to get some really close up shots of the Formula 1600 cars flying past.
The walk back towards Parc Jean Drapeau metro station was beautiful. The sun had stayed out and walking along the winding paths through the park didn’t seem as time-consuming as before, seeing the sunlight reflecting off the surface of the ponds and lakes, listening to birdsong feeling invigorated by the warmth and the beautiful views. Aside from a few patches of sunburn, it was a really enjoyable day. Raceday next!