Sunday, 29 June 2008

Montreal: Race Day!

Race day is what the whole weekend builds up to. Three support races were held in the morning, but all were over by the time we got to our seats (the first race starts before we leave our apartment to go for breakfast). The big drama was the way the track was disintegrating, as usual. The FIA Technical Director ordered it fixed, and an hour before the race, they laid down an epoxy resin glue to hold it together.

There's always a driver parade, with the drives sitting in the back of vintage Austin Healys.

And then, the race. Lewis Hamilton was on pole, and was tearing away from the rest of the pack. Kimi Raikonnen was running second, Robert Kubica 3rd. Hamilton had built up a 10 second lead by Lap 23 when Adrian Sutil spun and crashed just past my corner. This brought out the safety car, and the rules are the pit lane closes when that happens. This also happened to be the 1/3rd point in the race, so for guys on a 3 pit stop race strategy, they wanted gas. The moment the pit lane re-opened, the leading 7 drivers headed into the pits. I knew the race to get out of the pits would be entertaining, so focused my camera on the exit.

It was a mess. Kimi Raikonnen and Robert Kubica had the best pit stops. They came down the pit lane side by side -- only to find that while the pit entrance was open, the exit wasn't. They stopped for the red light. Lewis Hamilton apparantly didn't see the red light, and drove straight into the back of Raikonnen. Nelson Piquet Jr. had the same problem and hit Hamilton. Here's the mess from my view. In the first shot, blurry though it is, you can see Kubica in the white car coming out, having avoided the mess, followed by Alonso, but Hamilton, Raikonnen & Piquet are not looking good. The 2nd picture is the aftermath shot. Piquet wasn't damaged too badly, so did get out, leaving the McLaren and the Ferarri behind.

Kubica went on to win, Jarno led a lap or two. The thing that bugged me most was that late in the race, Jarno had Phillipe Massa hot on his tail. In F1, it's one thing to catch someone, another to pass them. With 5 laps left, Jarno's teammate Glock was 4th, Jarno 5th and Massa 6th. Here's a shot of how close Jarno & Glock were.

Then right in front of me, Glock screwed up, blocked Jarno, and Massa was able to squeak by. Here's Glock way off line about to cut Jarno off.

They say a point in F1 is worth $1,000,000 to the team, so Glock's mistake was a bad one.

As usual, after the race, we scramble through the fence, and hot foot to the start/finish line to see the drivers.

In between, we saw Mr. Raikonnen's car being hauled away.

Then it's to the fence to see the cars getting checked out by the FIA, and to see how badly their tires are really wrecked.

Mike and I agreed: best seats, best apartment, and best race so far.

Montreal Not Racing

Now I'm 4 posts behind, so they're going to start getting briefer.

Montreal's race is a great event on a number of levels. First there's racing (see the other posts). Then there's the race babes...

Then there's other stuff at the track, like the Snowbirds...

Then there's the other race activities. This year, we were in the "shopping centre" area of the track buying some souvenirs (there was no Toyota booth!), which surrounds the Budwiser Stage, and who showed up other than Alain Prost, He competed in 13 years of F1, and won the championship 4 times, placed 2nd another 4, and ran his own team for a while after retiring.

Then there's the rest of Ile St. Helene & Ile Notre-Dame, where the race is held, which is a park, and a darned beautiful one at that.

Then there's Montreal itself. We stay in an area known as The Plateau, somewhere near the Sherbrooke or Mt. Royal Metro station. The neighborhood is fantastic; tree lined streets, little cafes everywhere, nice little shops. There's lots of BYO restaurants there; they sell no wine, and you have to bring it. Fortunatly, you can buy wine (crappy, generraly) in any corner store. The SAQ are around, too, but we hardly ever go there.

This is where we stayed this year; here's Mike and John just arriving home (it's an apartment in the building with the For Sale sign). The others are other views of the streets in the neighborhood.

Montreal is a wild an crazy party town. The food is generally fantastic, and the city really has neighborhoods. Old Montreal is beautiful and historic. Downtown goes berserk for the race weekend; Crescent Street was so clogged with folks you could barely move. We have evolved into a routine where we mostly eat in the neighborhood except for one night in Old Montreal. We only get to Crescent one night, usually after dinner, constrained by the fact that the Metro shuts down about 11. This year we had a fantastic Afghan meal at Khyber Pass right near our place, a great Portuguese BBQ one at Jano on St. Laurent, OK Greek on Prince Arthur near the Square St. Louis, and a dinner at our favourite place in Old Montreal (I can tell you it's at the corner of St Gabriel & St. Paul, but despite being there 3 times, I have no idea what it is called...)

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Montreal Grand Prix, Part 2

Boy, I am behind in my posts. Blame Canmore & Wyoming.

Saturday at the rand Prix features support races, including the Ferrari Challenge (rich guys racing their 430's)...

...the Formula BMW series, which wasn't that interesting, since there was little passing and not much action at our corner...

...and the GT3 race with Porche 911's that was even less interesting.

So back to the F1 stuff. Saturday is qualifying. It was sunny and hot (32°) and humid (70%). During practice, they actually do some racing, then they space themselves to get a good qualifying lap. Here's David Coulthard chasing Kimi Raikonnen:

DC on his own...

...and Fernando Alonso chasing Adrian Sutil.

When the guys qualify, they push, and push hard, so make mistakes. Here's Jarno, first taking the corner the way he should, then getting bent out of shape and turned around. He put all the grass and stuff on the track.

There's a story about all the photos above. Friday night, on the way off the track, I managed to throw my camera onto an asphalt pathway, and it busted. So by long distance and the internet, KC tracked me down a Montreal camera store that was open at 9 AM on Saturday that carried Olympus. They confirmed my camera was a goner, but the memory card was fine and no shots were lost. I was only about 15 minutes late getting to my seat, and now I am the proud owner of an Olympus SP-560UZ. An expensive day.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Montreal Grand Prix, Part 1

The Grand Prix was early this year. Mike, John and I had our usual seats in Senna Corner. Here's the view from the top of our grandstand.

This is about as far as you can get from the entrance to the track, but we think it's the best view. However, Mike's knee I think would have preferred to be at the other end of the track at the hairpin.

I said last year that the best part of Montreal was the ability to get "up close & personal" with the cars. I tend to do this on Friday (there's fewer folks at the track, and thus more room at the fence) and Sunday after the race. Let's start with Friday shots. First, Jarno Trulli (my fave) being chased by his team mate Timo Glock...

Kimi Raikonnen...

David Coulthard...

...and Lewis Hamilton.

Careful observers will note the first two shots feature the cars shod in wet condition tires. Friday wasn't nice. It drizzled in the morning and was only 15°. It "warmed up" in the afternoon to 18°, and the track did dry a bit.

Friday also features folks testing the limits and failing. Add a damp track and you get spins and slides. Former world champion Fernando Alonso lost it in the afternoon practice right in front of us. At first the marshals tried to push him out, but then he bailed, and they hauled his car off with a crane.

Adrian Sutil tried out the grass for fun.

Our seats were the best ever. All the last group of shots were from our seats, as are these.

Friday for the last few years has brought SpeedTV's broadcaster Peter Windsor to our end to hang out for an hour or so, and this year not only did I get his picture, I also went down and said hi. That's him on the left in the black fleece.

Next post: Saturday practices, support races and babes...