Following Monaco, the F1 circus found itself dashing all team equipment back to England, having two days to reset things again, and fly again Sunday (only a small 6-hour direct hop) across the North Atlantic to Montréal. This is an extraordinary Grand Prix in every sense of the word. As I previously said in Melbourne, then Monaco, it’s back again to one of those “M” letter venues, my favourites and those which by coincidence remain the best events of the calendar.
Arriving mid-afternoon, with no jet lag to deal with, it was perfect time to watch the world pass by at the Vieux Port de Montreal. Temperatures feeling refreshing thanks to late afternoon breeze, jazz beginning to sound in the background, beer always on hand, this would only be a warm-up to the coming days up the road in Crescent Street. Coming Thursday evening, motorsport-crazy north American race fans will be packing terraces, enjoying loud live concert music into the night.
Following a too early wake-up call, teams again found themselves crossing the Concorde bridge, one can feel the mighty Saint Lawrence river flowing below, and into the much-loved Ile de Notre Dame. F1 Personnel Parking is a tiny strip of land, across the 1976 Olympic rowing basin, a tiny pedestrian floating bridge connecting our way to F1 Paddock. Together with Monaco, the smallest yet one of the most atmospheric of them all. Reminds me of Adelaide in the old days.
With days still to go before track activity begins, F1 fans arrived early across the other side of the Pit Wall to have a glimpse of the teams. Back first time since Monza last year was our tifoso mate Kim Reimer, this time wearing on his head a 1:8 scale model of championship leading SF07H.
Over the years, passionate North American fans have very much become a part of the Canadian Grand Prix, and this year’s edition of the event was a 50-year celebration. Concrete walls sitting incredibly close to the tarmac, tyre brushes can be seen, silent witnesses bringing so many memories of so many memorable and wild races disputed in Canada.
Luckily and especially after the past decade, which has seen the buck placed over tradition, the circuit remains basically the same since local hero Gilles Villeneuve won the inaugural race in 1978. As always, unpredictable weather conditions could be a factor, slippery track condition another, however coming here we knew the long straights and this circuit were always going to favour the AMG Mercedes. Ten years after scoring his first F1 race win here, Lewis Hamilton demolished all opposition to score his 65th Pole Position, equaling Ayrton Senna’s record and receiving the late Brazilian’s 1987 helmet in recognition of his achievement. An inspired Lewis then went on to dominate the race he has now made his own.
Having these long straights, Ferrari and Red Bull brought many aerodynamic updates to Canada. Both teams pushing development at the rear end sections of their cars. After dominating in Monte-Carlo, finishing the race in fourth position was the best Vettel could manage after the team from Maranello had a tough time trying to catch the Mercedes Benz powered cars, chiefly around the last sector of the circuit.
After a difficult start to the season, bravo to Daniel Ricciardo who in Canada drove a very mature race on his way to his third consecutive podium since Barcelona and consolidated himself as the man Red Bull can rely on. Awesome, mate!
Formula “Pain” continued for McLaren-Honda, as Alonso had another mechanical breakdown in Canada. Frustration running higher than ever and relations between the team from Woking and the Japanese engine supplier deteriorating more with every passing day – each of the two parts blaming each other for not supplying a competitive package.
Meanwhile according to reports in the Spanish media, Señor Alonso is beginning to study his options for next season, aiming to take the Mercedes seat they say. This possibility seems difficult to happen, so as a full-time IndyCar drive. Difficult to place him anywhere really, impossible to understand for a driver of his caliber. Victim of bad luck or paying the price for some bad career decisions, it’s been four long years since the last time we heard the Spanish National Anthem on the podium.
Real racers at Force India, the frustration ran high post-race for Esteban Ocon who felt Sergio Perez obstructed his pace by not following team orders to let the French young gun past. This situation you would always expect when you put two good drivers in a competitive car.
In front of the mics, Perez remained cool, having support from his family again in full force in Montréal, with father Antonio putting again his show for the television cameras to cool things down a bit. The Frenchman on the other hand carried on being furious, claiming to Canal+ he had enough pace to finish in fourth.
Circus or not, story promises to develop into a very good script continuing on the streets of Baku…