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.


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