F1, the Pinnacle of Motorsport has races spanning 5 Continents. The Canadian GP is one race that has been a regular feature on the Calendar. The teams make the journey trans-Atlantic post the glamorous Monaco GP to race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve situated close to the city of Montreal in the State of Quebec.
The circuit is named after Gilles Villeneuve a McLaren and then a Ferrari driver ( father of 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve ). He enjoyed a close relationship with the Ferrari Supremo Enzo Ferrari.There is also a Bronze Bust of him at Fiorani, Ferrari's test track in Maranello, Italy.
The circuit has produced some memorable races over the years, most notably the 2011 Canadian GP which was the longest race in the history of F1. Who can forget the horrific crash of Robert Kubica in 2007 only for the Polish Driver to return and have his maiden win at the same circuit a year later! Turns like the Senna S, the Hairpin Curve are well known but the most notorious of these is the Wall Of Champions.. just after the last turn which has ended races of so many racers ( champions included ).
Canada might be an ocean apart but its a must-visit for all F1 Fans.
The Circuit sees a lot of visitors over a race weekend coming from all over the world. I had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Canadian GP, well known for the controversy that unfolded after the Stewards handed Sebastian Vettel a time penalty of 5 seconds for dangerously rejoining the track ( while leading the race ) thereby gifting the win to Lewis Hamilton. This circuit has characteristics similar to those at Albert Park in Melbourne ( where the season opener is held ) but offers a lot of overtaking opportunities throughout a lap.
A new Paddock Club building was built in 2019 and its quite a sight to behold!
The Circuit is located on an Island on Saint Lawrence River, minutes away from Downtown Montreal. It can house up to 300000 spectators over a weekend and its proximity to a city ensures that there aren't too many challenges with regards to commuting ( more on that later ). Montreal itself becomes a big party destination with events happening all over the city, exotic supercars plying up and down the streets all night, fans socializing at roadside pubs and eateries..it can get quite crowded, even for pedestrians! The police and the local authorities ensure that law and order are maintained throughout and kudos to the locals for being ever so respectful to their visitors. There a few good eateries that tend to shut fairly early in the evening so one must plan for their dinner accordingly!
Closest Airports :
Pierre-Elliot Trudeau International Airport ( YUL ), is a major International Hub with airline connections to Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Airlines like Emirates, however, don't offer direct flights to Montreal but one can fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport ( YYZ ) and then take a domestic flight to Montreal. Flight Time from there is approximately 75 minutes. Some travellers opt for car hire or train service from Toronto and drive up to Montreal, the journey taking about 5 hours.
Montreal is also well connected to multiple cities in USA with airports in New York, Newark and Washington DC offering the shortest flight time of about 90 minutes. These cities are major hubs for Airlines from the Middle East, the Far East and Down Under. However, do note that Immigration formalities would have to be completed on either side if one opts to fly this route.
I flew Emirates to New York ( JFK ) and then later flew to Montreal ( YUL ) from Newark ( EWR ) on United Airlines.
The Emirates Flight Experience to New York JFK is shared here :
Most Airlines in the Americas charge for check-in bags, so its best to read up on Airline Baggage policies when booking connecting flights.
The shorter flights also have limited cabin space and most of us had to check in our carry-on bags while boarding ( which were returned to us at the aero-bridge while disembarking ), this meant removing laptops, power banks and any other Li-ion powered devices!
Where to Stay :
The proximity of the circuit to Montreal means that accommodation in the city isn't cheap. However, there are a lot of options from Hostels to Luxury Hotels. It is advisable to book well in advance and most are non-refundable rates. The city is well connected by taxis and public transport services so commuting isn't a challenge. It is not uncommon to see F1 Drivers on the streets, often riding bikes!
I chose to stay at Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville which has some good restaurants and cafes in its vicinity. McLaren F1 Team also stay here for the weekend! It is a 20 to 25-minute drive to the circuit from Centre-Ville.
Mount Royal, the name of the hill from where the city gets its name is worth the hike in the mornings. It offers some brilliant views of the city. The area also has some stay options with good places to wine and dine.
I don't think there is a camping facility at the circuit ( I might be wrong here ).
Circuit Access :
The circuit is situated on an island ( as mentioned earlier ) so has limited entry points by road. I had to collect my passes from near the Jean-Drapeau Metro Station on Friday and I hailed a Taxi. It dropped me close to the Biosphere Environmental Museum. There was a lot of traffic and I had to walk for a mile to save time. ( Do Not Use this Option! )
Post Collection of Tickets, there was a Circuit Shuttle to the Casino de Montreal, a Casino on the Island from where the Access to the Paddock Club is another walk. Different shuttles are plying to different parts of the Circuit and there are considerable lines at the stops.
If travelling by taxi, then it is best to ask the driver for a drop-off at Casino de Montreal which is like a hub and then one can walk to the stand or opt for a Shuttle ( if the grandstand is on the other side of the island ). It is one of the easiest places to queue for a cab on the return journey as well. If lucky, one can even bump into F1 reporters, ex drivers and other distinguished guests! For Paddock Club and VIP Guests its a short walk from Casino de Montreal, through an access gate, over the bridge and then into a Paddock Club Shuttle Boat to the Paddock / Paddock Club! It is quite a unique way to check-in at the circuit. Uber is also available in Montreal.
The easiest way to get to the circuit is by Metro, something that a couple of my friends used to get in and out of the Island. Jean-Drapeau Station is situated on the Yellow Line and commutes time can vary between 10 to 40 minutes. Regular Services run throughout the weekend and it can get quite crowded on a Sunday evening post-race, so wait out for a couple of hours at the circuit.
There are one day and multi-day rail passes on offer as well! Once at the Station, Entry Gates to the circuit can be accessed via 2 bridges, either by foot or one can take a shuttle bus that connects to the Casino. The Cosmos Bridge is closer to the stands near the Hairpin Curve, The Concorde Bridge offers access to the other Grand Stands of the circuit..its advisable to have comfortable walking shoes since its quite a trek.
F1 Village, Fan Zones :
This was one track where I couldn't find a designated zone big enough to be termed as an "F1 Village". Merchandising Outlets are scattered all over and the options on offer are limited. The long walks to those outlets can be deal-breakers. The story is pretty similar with regards to food trackside - limited options and exorbitant prices. Thankfully food stands are in the vicinity of the grandstands. I do hope the Organisers have a relook at this.
Fan Experiences :
Three Day Ticketholders are entitled to Track Walks and Pit Lane Walks on Thursday. There is also a Drivers' Autograph session held on Thursday. The Casino which is situated in the middle of the circuit is one of the largest in the world. Fans can spend their evenings there to unwind and wait for the crowds to leave immediately after a session. The Support Race Paddock which houses the Ferrari Challenge Cars and the Porsche Cup cars is a must-visit. It is close to the Hairpin Curve and the cars line up on the service road which runs parallel to the Back Straight. They make their way onto the track through one of the marshalling gates on the straight. It is a great way to capture some shots of these beauties!
F1 Experiences also offer upgrades on tickets with Guided Paddock Tours, Private Podium Visits, Guided Track Truck Tours, Guided Pit Lane Tours, Photo Op with the Race Winning Trophy and the exclusive but expensive Pirelli Hot Laps Experience!
The atmosphere in Montreal over the three days is electric! The streets are crowded with fans socialising late into the night and there is a great vibe to the place. Once the sun rises, the folk flock to the island for their share of racing! There are great sights to visit just outside Montreal as well ( places like Quebec City & Montmorency Falls which is higher than the Niagara Falls ).
There are certain things at the circuit that need re-working on - the merchandising and food options, better connectivity and frequency of the circuit shuttles and I hope the organisers strive to improve the experience for one and all.
I most definitely plan on visiting the circuit again..if not this year then definitely in 2021.
The Paddock Club Diaries for this weekend draws to a close with the experience on Sunday, the day that matters. Its Raceday! Win on Sunday and all else is forgiven. It was also the day when I got the opportunity of having a Paddock Pass for the whole day.
So how was the Overall Experience? Lets have a quick recap!
Enroute to the Circuit :
I got my Paddock Pass at the F1 Experiences Suite and wasted no time in getting downstairs.
Walking around the Paddock :
Some stills with the Samsung Note 9 :
Its pretty obvious that one would bump into some known faces in F1.
Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Manager Beat Zehnder!
Julien Simon-Chautemps, Kimi Raikkonen Race Engineer in Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :
Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :
Mr. Giorgio Piola, Journalist, Technical Artist and Watchmaker!
Fredric Vasseur, Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Principal :
I made my way back up, just in time to see the Ferrari Challenge Cars line up on the grid for their Race Start :
My friends at Ferrari informed me that Charles LeClerc would be visiting their Suite for a quick Interview!
He was soon followed by the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Principal Mattia Binotto :
It was then time for the final Pit Lane Walk of the Weekend!
Sportpesa Racing F1 Point Pit Stop Practice ( Video Link ) :
Slow Motion Edition :
Shots of the Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Garage :
The Teeam was busy practicing their pit stops :
Alfa Romeo Team Pit Stop Practice ( Video Link ) :
Slow Motion Edition :
I decided to pay the Paddock Area another visit and there was an atmosphere of tension, as is the case before the start of every race on Sunday :
Tom Stallard, Race Engineer for Carlos Sainz Jr. in McLaren Racing F1 Team :
Josef Leberer from Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :
A Quick bite before grabbing a vantage point for the Race Start :
Team Personnel venture out of the pits to make their way to the Grid :
Drivers roll out of their Garages for Sighting Laps :
Drivers going out for Sighting Laps ( Video Link ) :
The grid, a hub of activity :
Kimi & Co. getting ready for battle!
The Cars rolled out of their grid slots for the Formation Lap and the Pit Crew were scrambling back to the Pits. The Grid has to be clear of personnel for the Race Start :
Formation Lap and Race Start ( Video Link ) :
Shots from the Race :
The Stricken McLaren of Lando Norris with the Broken Rear Suspension :
Some more shots from the Race :
Video Links for Pit Stops during the Race :
Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :
Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :
Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :
Haas Racing F1 Team :
Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during the Race :
Lewis Hamilton won the Canadian Grand Prix after a controversial incident which saw Sebastian Vettel being penalised with a 5 second time penalty. Charles LeClerc finished 3rd. Antonio Giovinazzi & Kimi Raikkonen were P13 & P15 respectively, a disappointing result for Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team.
The Podium finishers on Parc Ferme :
Driver Interviews underway. Sebastian Vettel was nowhere to be seen. He attempted to see the Stewards regarding the incident. One of the Team Members had to restrain him from going to the Stewards before completing the Parc Ferme and Podium Formalities. The repurcussions of such a move would have been straight disqualification from the race!
Charles LeClerc being congratulated by the team :
Parc Ferme Video Link ( Part 1 ) :
Charles LeClerc with Martin Brundle giving a quick debrief of his race :
Parc Ferme Video Link ( Part 2 ) :
The Podium finishers :
Podium Presentation Video Link :
National Anthem time :
Trophy Presentation Video Link :
Trophy Presentation Time :
Time for some Champagne Shower :
Sebastian Vettel finally having a say about the result and the Stewards' verdict :
Video Link for Sebastian Vettel's Interview :
The Pit lane post the Podium celebrations :
I made my way back upstairs to say the final goodbyes to my friends at Ferrari and have a selfie with the GoPro Hero 7 Black :
The Crew at F1 Experiences. Thank you for a great weekend :
They were kind enough to let me keep the Paddock Pass! This allowed me to roam and meet so many more people!
Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 F1 World Champion and Sky Sports F1 Italia Presenter :
Sir Franz Tost, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team Principal :
Max Verstappen! Driver for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :
Antonio Giovinazzi! Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :
Kimi Raikkonen!! Yes Kimi Raikkonen!!! Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team!
Ruth Buscombe from Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :
2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button!
Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :
Teams packing up to head back to Europe!
And Thats a Wrap! I was disappointed about the result for the Alfa Romeos, nevertheless it was a wonderful weekend. Montreal is really a great track to visit. Highly recommend it! F1 Experiences ( Legends ) is a great experience by itself. As good as Team Hospitality? Probably not.
A Big Thank You to Edge Global Events for ensuring that I have a great weekend at the races. My next trip is to Belgium
Its an early start on Saturday for the teams with Pit Stop Practice followed by the final free practice of the weekend and Qualifying. Qualifying determines the starting order / grid for the race on Sunday. Alfa Romeo had a tough Friday. Did their fortunes improve on Saturday? Were Ferrari able to capitalize on their pace advantage and come out on top on Saturday?
The organisers had built a new Paddock Club facility for the circuit ( spending around 20 million Dollars! ), so it was nice to be a part of this inaugural weekend.
Lets have a quick recap of how the day unfolded.
Enroute to the Circuit :
The Boat Ride to the Paddock Club :
The Boat drops the guests right outside the entrance of the Paddock and sure enough you meet a lot of famous faces in F1.
Nicholas Latifi, Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team Reserve Driver
Brendan Hartley, Reserve Driver for Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :
Lance Stroll, Driver for Racing Point F1 Team :
Coffee & Croissants anyone?
Shots from FP3 ;
Alfa Romeo Racing during FP3 :
The Pitwalls of all teams hard at work :
Cars returning to the Pits after FP3 ( Video Link ) :
Sebastian Vettel was fastest from Charles LeClerc and Lewis Hamilton in FP3. Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen were P15 and P16 respectively.
Shortly after FP3 it was time for Lunch and the Pit Lane walk of the day.
Lunch, truly a global affair!
The Pit Lane Walk before Qualifying :
Selfie time with the GoPro Hero 7 Black :
Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Pit Stop Practice ( Video Link ) :
After a quick visit to the Pit Lane, I rushed back upstairs to be in time for the Podium visit. F1 Experiences takes its guests behind the scenes for a quick visit to the Cool Down Room ( a place where the top 3 Drivers are weighed and unwind after a gruelling race before heading out onto the Podium ).
The winner on the Top Step of the Podium. Since the Paddock Club has been revamped in Montreal so no one else has stood here before. We were among the first.
The View from the Podium. The area would be packed by Photographers, team members and fans after the race on Sunday!
Time for Qualifying! Shots from Q1 :
Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during Q1 :
Chequered Flag :
Kimi Raikkonen was knocked out in Q1 :( a big big disappointment. The Alfa just wasn't quick enough. Giovinazzi scraped through in 15th. Sebastian Vettel was fastest in Q1 from Charles LeClerc and Valtteri Bottas.
Q2 underway :
Antonio Giovinazzi during Q2 :
Kevin Magnussen crashed on his final run in Q2. He did go through Q3 but would take no further part.
Giovinazzi finished in P13. Max Verstappen didn't make it to Q3 either and that was a big surprise. Lewis Hamilton was fastest in Q2 from Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel.
Q3 underway :
And that is the end of Qualifying :
Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole from Lewis Hamilton and Charles LeClerc. Finally Ferrari had something to cheer about on Saturday.
Cars returning to Parc-ferme for Post-Qualifying Interviews :
Sebastian Vettel in great mood at the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Suite :
Pierre Gasly, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :
Nice to see Memorabilia, Posters,Car displays and even Ice Hockey in the Paddock Club. Adds to the Ambience and brings a different kind of freshness and vibe.
Some Stills from the Porsche Cup :
It was time to say goodbye to the Paddock Club and hang around for a bit downstairs. The decision turned out to be quite fruitful, evident from the pictures that follow!
Sergio Perez, Sportpesa Racing Point F1 Team :
Matia Binotto, Team Principal for Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :
Mr. Lawrence Stroll, Billionaire & Lance Stroll's Father :
Daniel Ricciardo, Renault Sport F1 Team :
Alexander Albon, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal for Renault Sport F1 Team :
Christian Horner, Team Principal for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :
Adrian Newey, The Guru of Aerodynamics and Chief Technical Officer for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal for Sportpesa Racing Point F1 Team :
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team :
Francois, a dear friend from Renault Sport F1 Team :
Paul Ripke, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team official photographer :
Robert Kubica from Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team :
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team :
Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing F1 Team :
Back to the Hotel :
It was an enjoyable Saturday in the Paddock Club ( barring the Qualifying result for the Alfa Romeos ofcourse ). It would be a Long Sunday Afternoon for Kimi & Antonio but all hope wasn't lost for a good points finish. Once again thank you to Edge Global Events for organizing the passes.