Before I get started I would just like to send my condolences to the family and friends of Track Marshall Mark Robinson, who, tragically passed away on Sunday 09/06/13 after an incident that happened whilst he was helping move a car back to pit lane. Without Marshalls we really could not have the sport we have today. Thank you all for your service.
The Grand Prix started for me on the Tuesday before the race, The Tuesday? Yes the Tuesday. There is a reason, I am from the UK which meant travelling.
Your probably wondering, why on earth would you go to the Canadian GP when Silverstone would have been closer. Well your right for wondering, for me, Silverstone is logistically a lot closer, but just after the 2012 Canadian GP I received an invitation to join a friend and his friends at the 2013 race weekend. Granted, I had to pay for my airfare and the tickets to the track but the invitation stood. This being potentially the first ever live experience of a F1 weekend, l had to say yes.
So Tuesday meant flying the eight and a half hours to Ottawa airport and meeting up with one of my companions for the race weekend. Side note, We first met online, almost 2 years ago, but hey, isn't that how everyone meets each other these days? Immigration had trouble believing so.
The actual GP weekend started with a massive game of Tetris, Thursday night meant packing the car, which totally felt like a massive game of Tetris. Literally blocks of beer! Not all mine I assure you, I realised whilst packing that I was going to the GP with seasoned veterans of the Canadian F1 experience, These guys had everything from, cushions for the stainless steel bleachers to the Canadian delicacy of 'Garlic', this was clearly not their first GP.
So, more travel ensued, we drove the 2 hours to Montreal and a parking lot right next to the track. We were staying in an RV that had a lean-too outside, Which meant BBQ every night. What a result! I had visions of a cramped caravan, but this was like a portable hotel. I found a place to hit the sack and got my head down, Friday was coming up and that meant, weather permitting, soaking in my first every experience of an F1 car on track before my very eyes. To say I was excited, would have been an understatement.
So, as you probably figured Friday was a wet one.
Yeah, it was. Thanks to some of these guys though, I was prepared for whatever the weather could throw at me, I am the guy who flew to Canada without so much as a coat, let alone a poncho.
Friday was a very special day for me. As I have eluded to, this was a weekend of firsts for me and in my companions eyes I probably could not have been more greener. Unfortunately much of the day, is a bit of a blur and I don't mean that because of the beer. I mean it because of the build up to Free Practice 1.
That first walk to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is hard to put into words. Summoning the words to describe what it felt like to step on to the grounds of the circuit is impossible. Although there had been no running so far that day, its was almost as if I could already smell tyres and petrol. I could not have, but I swear it was my brain welcoming me to what would become one of the greatest weekends of my life.
So, we found our seats and literally soaked in the weather and the view
So, It had come down to this, I was nervous, I was biting my nails and I had a ball in my stomach so tight, I actually felt a little sick. The wait for the lights on the end of the pit lane to turn green was unbearable. Then as I could take the wait no longer the lights finally turned green for Free Practice 1 and if you asked me who came out first I still would not be able to tell you, With the crowd cheering and clapping the sight of the first F1 car of the weekend I started shallow breathing and my heart was pounding, I was overcome with emotion, I had actually started welling up, much to the enjoyment of my companions.
That first session, whilst wet, was incredible. You can watch it on TV, you can talk about it all you want, you can listen to another person share their first experience of seeing and hearing their first Formula 1 car live, nothing prepares you for it. Not only do you see and hear the cars going past, you actually feel it within every fibre of your being, your hair stands up on end and your bones literally shake.
I saw most of the days action from the lofty heights of my perch at turn 2, including the support series' such as CCTC and the Ferrari Challenge, a field of 458 Italia's, incidentally a car I have had the pleasure of driving.
The track though having dried up a lot since the morning made FP2 a lot more interesting, in terms of track and lap time. That is something I would have noticed had I been watching the session on the TV, However I was not, meaning, another bout of nerves, build up and euphoria at the sights and sounds. It took at least half the session to get myself to a point where I actually started taking photo's again. A group of us made a decision to take a step back, get off the stand and head to the side of the track just on the outside of the exit of Turn 2 to feel the power of an F1 car coming past at 130 – 150 MPH within 15 feet of us. To explain the feeling of this take what I said earlier about feeling the car coming past and magnify that 150%, wow, just wow.
I went back to the RV that night, happy, wet and slightly deaf. I could not have been happier.
Saturday started out very similar, waking at the crack of dawn, opening the door to the RV, taking a deep breath of Canadian air and strolling to the circuit for Quali day. We really made the most of Saturday, taking a stroll around the support pits, although when I was told we were going to the pits, I thought it was the actual pit lane.
We got to spend a solid hour walking around the support pits, taking in the sights of engineers race readying their cars, There was plenty to see, Porsches, Ferrari's and even a CCTC race prepared Honda Jazz, although its called something else in Canada.
I took in Q1 and Q2 from my spot in the stands, but with the terrible long sighted eyesight I have, this made reading the information on the large screen very difficult, (note to self, get glasses) I went down to the outside of turn 2, where I could actually see the timing and take some more awesome photos
Quali was a bit of a blow to the, what felt like, one hundred thousand strong Ferrari fans, with Massa going out in Q1 and Alonso's sub par performance, you could sense the disappointment in the air, the continued rain didn't help the mood in the stand either.
So, it had come to this, Sunday, race day.
Sunday was a tale of two halves for me, I was disappointed that this was the last day of going to the track, but I was also buzzing at the thought of taking in my first ever F1 GP. The walk to our seats, although I knew where I was going seemed to take a lot longer than the previous two days, whether this was the anticipation, I do not know.
The stand at turn 2 was packed from around 10am local time, not a spare seat in the house and completely full of colour, there was plenty of build up to the F1 race with the supporting cast doing their final races of the weekend. From Midday though it all changed. This was the formal start to the F1 race, the 2 hour preparation started with the grid girls walking all the way, in heels, from the exit of turn 2 right up to the starting grid.
Major props to them doing that in heels! I don't know many ladies that would be able to do that walk and then stand on the grid for two hours.
We then got the drivers parade, in order of worst qualifying position to best, each driver came around on their own individual chauffeured cars. Then it was time to get the show on the road.
As usual a half hour before the race start the pit lane opened. I tried to keep my emotions in check and much to my amazement I managed to. I was surprised to see several drivers take their car through the pit lane several times prior to forming up on the grid. This, as someone who has only ever watched F1 on television before, was a surprise, I was anticipating the cars going straight to the grid, not doing several practice laps prior to the race itself.
Then as everyone was milling around on the starting grid, in my mind was silence. Not a sound, It had come down to this moment, this starting grid, this circuit. The cars left the grid for the warm up lap.
In what felt like a flash, Vettel was back on the starting grid waiting for everyone to form up behind him, again silence from the crowd.
5 lights went out and 22, 2.4-litre V8 engines were let loose before my eyes. The noise was colossal, unmatched by anything I had ever heard before. That feeling in my bones returned once again as every car came out of turn 2 for the first time.
To say I was ecstatic, would have been an understatement of the highest order. The entrance fee was worth experiencing the start alone.
I am not going to go into the detail of the race, because if you are reading this then you know the result. The only thing I will mention is Vettel's dominance. This was not boring, as I have seen reported elsewhere, this was a man on a mission that no one was going to stop him completing. His performance all weekend merited that result and I was happy to see him achieve it. You should also know that, I am a fan of the sport in general, not of any particular driver or team.
So we all know the result, Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag and his twenty ninth race win in Montreal. Immediately after the race some of us decided to attempt to get to the podium to see the top three receive the adulation they deserve. We made it, just as Eddie Jordan was conducting the driver interviews. At the time, I have to admit I really did not hear anybody booing Sebastian, even though I was on the Start/Finish in the middle of the crowd that had appeared for the podium ceremony. As Eddie finished up, the only thing I had in my mind was, The team photo, finding the optimum position for it would be difficult as, I knew it would happen, I just didn't know where.
I made a run for the pit lane opening for the timing board, opposite Sebastian's garage. After a little argy bargy, I was there. There I stayed for the next 45mins soaking in the DJ Squire anthems being played over the Red Bull garage tannoy and the atmosphere in general. Whilst I didn't get into the pitlane, It really was amazing to see how choreographed, the BBC and SKY were around not just each other, but also in getting the maximum from the opportunity in the pit lane itself, in terms of interviews and geeing up the crowd.
Unfortunately, Red Bull decided on having the team photo just beneath the podium itself.
We moved away from the pit wall and made our way up the starting grid towards the wall of champions, stopping along the way to take the opportunity of photos.
You know the type. The I was there photo's. So we walked the Start / Finish and most of the back straight, actually seeing the distance in real live really puts it all into perspective for you, I mean, I did not realise that the back straight was that long.
We retired back to the RV to pack up and reflect on the weekend. And what a weekend it was, as I said to my wife during a telephone call on the Friday night. As an experience, it was up there with being born, and getting married. What a weekend.
I would also like to extend a massive thank you to Eric Hébert for the invitation.