Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to Attend The Canadian Grand Prix

It may seem like a lifetime away now, but only a few short months ago the Formula 1 circus made its way to Montreal, home of the Canadian Grand Prix, and I was there to welcome it.

First of all let me just say that Montreal is one of the most beautiful cities in the world during the summer months. I know that I’m probably a little bit biased seeing as it is my hometown, but members of Formula 1’s inner circle and tourists alike all rate Montreal as one of their favourite destinations on the calendar.

So what is it about Montreal that makes it special and how can you maximise your time in the city and at the same time have an amazing Grand Prix experience? The following are some of my tips on how to attend the Canadian Grand Prix:
1. Take The Metro Everywhere: In Montreal, the only way to travel if you haven’t rented a luxury sports car for the weekend is by Metro. It is fast, affordable and will get you to virtually anywhere you want to go. Taking the metro to the circuit is the easiest way to get there, but when leaving the island after the race, I recommend waiting a few hours as it can take a while to get out and your time will be better spent exploring the track.
2. Go to Pit Lane Open Day: Pit lane open day is a Montreal tradition. On the Thursday before the Grand Prix weekend begins the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve opens its doors to members of the public and fans can get up close and personal with the teams and even some drivers. I have fond memories of sitting on the unfinished Ferrari pit wall as a child and in 2010, I met Bruno Senna and chatted to the Red Bull mechanics. Unfortunately this year pit lane open day was cancelled due to interference from protesters, I hope that it will be reinstated next year.
3. Head to Peel and Crescent: During Grand Prix weekend in Montreal, the place to be when not at the circuit is on Peel or Crescent. Every year the two streets host a variety of events. From pit stop challenges to live entertainment on stage, there is something for everyone. If you want you can even eat at Newtown, which was once owned by Jacques Villeneuve. This year I was able to meet the legendary Emerson Fittipaldi. Along with posing for several photographs, he also signed a massive wad of pictures that my friend Rex, who is possibly Emerson’s biggest fan, had brought along with him. I thought that Rex was going to pass out, he was so excited.

4. Visit Mount Royal: For the most spectacular view in the city, go for a hike, cycle ride or drive up Mount Royal. The hill hosts some of the city’s most beautiful mansions and at night the entire city lights up, creating a fantastic photo op.
5. Eat in Westmount: Westmount may not be on every tourist’s radar but it is well worth a visit, especially if you are a fan of former Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. The outspoken Canadian owns a house in the area, as do famous hockey players, celebrities and even former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. I grew up there and still enjoy strolling through the lovely Westmount Park, revisiting memories of my youth whenever I visit. Aside from celebrity watching and some picturesque parks, Westmount also boasts several lovely restaurants. My current favourite restaurant in Westmount is a little Italian restaurant called 11 Scalini. Whenever my family goes there we get amazing service and the carbonara is to die for. Ask for Sergio if you love Ferrari, he is a massive tifoso and adores chatting about the red cars! **
6. Sit Anywhere: Having been just about everywhere around the circuit Gilles Villeneuve, I have to say that it is impossible to go wrong when it comes to seat selection. If money is no option, then you can’t beat the first corner, Senna S for drama and action, but even the most affordable tickets offer extremely good value for money. This year I sat in the modestly-priced grandstand 33 and thoroughly enjoyed my view and overall experience.
7. Buy a plastic poncho: In recent years, a plastic poncho has been the must-have accessory at a Canadian Grand Prix weekend. Fans who attended the 2011 race will remember it as a monsoon-like affair that went down in the history books as the longest ever Grand Prix and this year after Friday’s second practice session there was a similar downpour that caught many fans unaware. I have never been more thankful for a glorified plastic bag in my entire life!
8. Invade The Track: The end of the Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon is usually such a sad moment, but in Montreal the end of the race is when a lot of the fun that you can have as a spectator begins. The track marshals open the circuit at various points and if you are prepared to climb, crawl and get dirty, then you won’t be disappointed. Fans are allowed to walk all the way around the circuit, hang around outside the pit lane for several hours and even take photos next to the now famous “Salut Gilles” message at the start/finish line. Those who are sitting along the start/finish straight also have the opportunity to celebrate just beneath the podium and many drivers and teams who have performed well in the race will happily greet their supporters after the champagne. This year I caught up with an overjoyed Sergio Perez who was singing in Spanish with friend and fellow countryman, Esteban Gutierrez and was greeted by Heikki Kovalainen as he thanked his mechanics.

Although the above are just a few of the countless things to do in Montreal, I hope that my suggestions have been helpful if you are planning a trip to the Canadian Grand Prix this year. If you have a question about the event, please feel free to ask me about it and I will do my best to provide you with the information.
** If you decide to take the Metro to Westmount, get off at Vendome.

AFL Grand Final Week in Melbourne

Spring has finally sprung and I am really looking forward to some warmer weather after my few months of winter! As you have probably already guessed from the photos in my previous blog post, I am in Melbourne, Australia; land of kangaroos, Crocodile Dundee and these awkward looking pick-up truck mutations known as yutes.

I said goodbye to Italy in June after experiencing an amazing year living in Lodi and taking every opportunity to travel around the country. I will miss the home of Ferrari so very dearly and I have to thank the people who I came into contact with while I was there a great deal for showing me how to truly live with passion and helping me to understand the team that I have loved my entire life more than ever before. In the past year I have gotten closer to Ferrari than I ever dreamt was possible, I have made some amazing memories and I have been reminded that anything can be achieved if you believe in it and single-mindedly pursue that goal. I know that I will be back to Maranello someday soon and I am looking forward to that day with all of my heart.

It’s been tough moving to Australia and I would be lying if I said that there weren’t obstacles but who ever said that following your heart was easy? Thankfully I can now say that I feel settled in Melbourne and have begun to look forward to the fantastic amount of events that the city has to offer and also learn more about some of the things that are uniquely Australian.

At the top of my list of fascinations has to be what the locals here simply call “football” but the rest of the world refers to as “Aussie Rules”. The most confusing thing about “football” has to be the name since apparently only people in Victoria call it football, the rest of Australia calls rugby “football”. Lost yet?

If you can get past the name and the ridiculously short shorts that all of the players seem to wear, try understanding the rules. Am I the only one who wonders how a team can still score points even if they don’t get the ball in between the designated posts and what’s with the referee throwing the ball in backwards sometimes and then other times simply smashing it into the ground like a mouldy watermelon?! Why are there so many birds in “football” and why is one of the teams known only as the cats? Not the wildcats, not the tiger cats, not even the slightly agitated cats…just the cats. I could go on, but before I begin dissecting the random words that commentators use to describe various plays (for example: “Ooooh he soccerd it!” What does that even mean?!) let me just say that I am absolutely in love with this game!

I found out recently that Aussie Rules is in my blood and even though it was only a distant cousin of mine who once played for Collingwood, I definitely feel as though the revelation warrants me learning a little bit more about the sport and perhaps even trying it out for myself. Who knows, maybe someday soon you’ll see me violently thrashing my hands around like a lunatic in the stands of the MCG or maybe even prancing about on the Brownlow Medal red carpet. Stranger things have happened.


The Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final takes place this Saturday and all throughout the city, locals will be proudly sporting their colours of allegiance. There is even a parade on Friday and the tourist information centre boasts a large banner that features the AFL trophy on it. I can’t wait to see who emerges victorious this weekend, whether it’s the hawks or the swans. I’m putting my money on the swans simply because I reckon that in the wild a swan could absolutely take a hawk, I’ve been chased by one before and those things are bloody vicious.

Put some shrimp on your barbie, it’s going to be a cracker! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)