Here’s the latest installment from Montreal – if you’ve missed the previous Canadian GP Diaries – catch up with them all here.
Sunday’s journey to the circuit was the most busy, naturally. The walk from the metro station with the hundreds upon hundreds of other Formula One fans was one of my favourite parts of Sunday; the anticipation and excitement is palpable as you shuffle along the pavements past security personnel, ticket checkers, program sellers and merchandise stands. It’s particularly cool if you arrive at the circuit whilst cars are circulating, so as you get closer the noise gets louder!
The congestion meant I watched the drivers’ parade from my Kangaroo TV whilst walking around to tribune twelve, so not only was I able to see all the classic cars, I was also able to see Heikki Kovalainen’s terrible green and yellow sunglasses. Shortly after, once the drivers and F1 cars were on the grid, it was time for the Canadian national anthem, sung in both French and English.
During the English verse, the camera panned across the legend painted above the startline: Salut Gilles. Being there to see and hear it live was quite emotional.
As the start drew ever closer, the crowd watching at the fence in front of my grandstand increased – I even spotted a number of the Virgin Racing team waiting there, perhaps to see any first corner accidents firsthand. Speaking of first corner accidents, Felipe Massa certainly had a race to forget after tangling with Jenson Button and Tonio Liuzzi at the first corner, battling his way back through the field from dead last only to have it all be for nothing after a late incident with Michael Schumacher. During his battle through the field, however, Kangaroo TV really became invaluable; at home I would usually have my laptop open throughout the race, watching sector and laptimes and listening to BBC Radio 5 Live’s commentary, and with Kangaroo TV I was still able to do those things, particularly using it in this case to watch Felipe close the gap to slower cars in front of him.
Aside from the few moments of shouting at the screen in frustration, the Canadian Grand Prix was a blinder. Action throughout thanks to graining tyres and a wonderful track, and getting a seat at such an overtaking-friendly corner was a great decision. I got to see the first corner melee and Fernando Alonso outdrag Lewis Hamilton from the pitlane into the second corner, amongst other battles, and once the race was over I and countless others from my grandstand spilled down the steps and towards the fence, taking to the track to see the podium ceremony.
I got to watch the trophy presentation from outside the end of the pitlane, and spotted Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan interviewing Ron Dennis below the podium after the ceremony, soon followed by RTL’s Kai Ebel and Niki Lauda. May possibly have made it into RTL’s coverage when they filmed the crowd, but I’m not so sure!
Regardless of the race result, everyone seemed really happy, and I scooted through the crowd to photograph those evocative words painted at the startline.
Ferrari blasted out Queen songs at top volume and the crowd showed no sign of dispersing, big groups gathering against the pitwall to catch glimpses of the cars and personnel, cheering and chanting the names of the drivers – Robert Kubica’s fans being the noisiest – and after a while I clambered up through a hole in the side fence to return my Kangaroo TV and find somewhere quiet to take a phone call…
Settling down on a rock by the lake in the middle of the circuit, I spoke to Andy and Jason of TalkSPORT’s LG Grand Prix Show along with Eddie Irvine about my blogging exploits on Badger and how I’d found the Canadian Grand Prix. It was good fun, and if I was male and had a pilot’s licence, I might have a shot at being Eddie’s PA!
Afterwards I meandered along to the Budweiser Zone and, put off by their chosen music, ended up back on the track at the chicane of turns eight and nine. As the sun was slowly beginning to set I got some great photos of the rubber streaked, sun soaked kerbs before continuing along until I reached L’Epingle, the hairpin. For me it’s most memorable for Felipe Massa’s unexpected double overtake of Rubens Barrichello and Heikki Kovalainen there in 2008, so I had to get a few shots of the corner. The whole area had an air of winding down about it as people came by in pick up trucks and vans to disconnect and wrap up TV cables, the grandstands eerily empty but for small flocks of seagulls and the recycling crews. By then the route back towards the metro station was peaceful.
The Canadian Grand Prix weekend was absolutely wonderful. In terms of circuit atmosphere, I would honestly say it approaches that of the Italian Grand Prix – though the crowd is much less partisan! – and it’s plainly obvious just how happy the Canadian fans are to have Formula One back in its country. I sincerely hope it is not dropped from the calendar again.