This was my first Grand Prix; in fact, this was my first time going to an auto race. I had spent a little less than a year obsessing and learning about F1, to the point that it would seem it was a sport I had loved my whole life. However, it all began on an early Sunday morning during the summer, when I turned on Formula 1 racing at the legendary Spa Francorchamps in Belgium. I had realized how beautiful this sport was, pit stops so fluid and quick and the cars turning at outrageous speeds that I could not even comprehend. This is precisely when Wikipedia is by far the best invention of modern times. Being the inquisitive car enthusiast that I am, I researched everything. What is DRS? What is the KERS system? Who is Lewis Hamilton? Who is the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time? And the questions keep going. For the next several months I learned just about everything that I possibly could about Formula 1. My passion for cars continued but now I have an equal passion for Formula 1. This passion needed to come to life; I felt the need to experience a Grand Prix. I came upon the Canadian Grand Prix. Not too far away from home, one of my favorite tracks, and it occurs over summer vacation. Perfect! I counted down the days until I would arrive in Canada and witness racing history and greatness before my eyes.
Friday, June 6, 2014 (Practice)
There was a lively vibe amongst the paddock, teams putting the cars together and drivers reviewing the track and data. Media hounded the Mercedes garage anticipating the drivers’ appearance. Fans became anxious while my heart beated faster and my mind and eyes focused on the teams garages. Soon you could here the engines being fired up and the cars revving their turbocharged V6 engines as a warm up. The cars came out of their respected garages, the engines sounding reluctant to perform, crackling and whining as they exited the pit lane. As they came flying around for their first laps of FP1 I watched silently, as all I wanted to do was observe and take in the tradition, the history, the speed, and the science flying by me. Seeing a Ferrari fly by and the instant thoughts of the rich history within the team flash through my mind. Schumacher, Surtees, and actually seeing Raikonnen and Alonso in person was unbelievable. However, the moment that made the crowds roar was Lewis Hamilton’s car flying by the grandstand, setting consecutive fastest laps over the rest of the field.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve makes a beautiful setting for a F1 race, a lake and river system in the interior of the track creates a nice view when walking and discovering the track. Boaters drive their pontoons along the river listening to the engines swirl around the track. The sounds of music echo in the distance from the parties taking place and the sounds of whooshing V6 engines crescendo from the Wall of Champions. Fans hold beers and burgers as they sweat in the hot beating sun of the Quebecois summer.
Saturday, June 7, 2014 (Qualifying)
Saturday is the day that the racing counts. Drivers take to the track, making final changes to the car, trying to set the fastest time possible for qualifying. As expected the Mercedes powered cars set the fastest times. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton trading off purple sectors and laps for Mercedes AMG Petronas. Behind them by a significant margin was the Red Bull team and Williams Martini Racing. Into Q3 teams waited until the very end of quali to put on the super-soft tire and set a time. Down to the very last lap available, teams fought for pole position. Lewis came in first with the fastest, the crowd cheered and roared with happiness. But Nico was still out on his last lap, and as he came around he set the fastest time. The crowd couldn’t believe it; a roar even louder came from the crowd. The entertainment from qualifying left the people leaving ecstatic for the race on Sunday.
Sunday, June 8, 2014 (Race Day)
Engineers frantically prepped the F1 cars, only a few hours remained until lights out. The fans hurried to the grand stands and fans scatter the park to get a prime view of today’s spectacle. It was Sunday, the day that F1 drivers and teams go into a whole other zone to bring home the best result possible in the race. The paddock suddenly felt focused and more serious, nobody had time for interviews or any distractions. As the hours were counting down, the drivers parade began. Vintage cars lined up on the grid to drive around the world famous drivers. Interviews took place, drivers fired up the fans promising an exciting and hard fought race. Sure enough, right from lights out, the race was an extraordinary example of awesome auto racing.
Engineers packed the grid along with the cars. Last minute safety checks and adjustments to the car were made. Then the engines were fired up and loud roars came from the turbo V6 engines. However, just as loud as the roar from the engines, was the roar from the crowd. They were anxious and excited to this race begin. The safety car took the cars around for the formation lap. As the cars sat on their grid positions everyone held their breath. For once this weekend there was complete silence from the crowd as we all watched the red lights. 1 light came on, the engines revved and prepared for launch. Then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5. Lastly, a pause with 5 red lights shining brightly down on the roaring cars waiting to be let go.
The pause felt like an eternity, all of the emotion built up until this moment. Finally, all 5 lights were put and the cars were gone in about 2 seconds. Racing down to turn 1 Nico Rosberg retained the lead from his team mate Lewis Hamilton who provoked a pass up the inside. Wheels touch and Hamilton briefly left the track falling back into 3rd. To everyone’s surprise there was a crash on Lap 1 which brought out the Safety Car for about 10 laps. Soon the racing resumed and right from the get go, the battles intensified, like adding fuel to a fire. Cars came into the final chicane hurdling towards the terrifying Wall of Champions going wheel to wheel and drag racing down the front straight, DRS wide open and drivers swerving to get their desired racing line. It was a braking battle into turn 1 and there could only be one winner. Lewis fought back to get right behind Nico Rosberg for 2nd place. Pushing Nico harder and harder each lap, Lewis put the pressure on Nico. After the first stint it was a battle for track position on the pit stops. Nico in first with a sub 3 second stop, perfect. Lewis went all out on his final lap before his pit stop, setting the fastest time of the race. Yet, it was not enough to solidify his first place position. His stop took 5 seconds and just like that Lewis was again behind Nico. Lewis remained on Nico’s gearbox for a few more laps until finally making the move for the lead. Lewis lead the race until the second stint was over. The race out of pit lane was neck and neck going to into turn 1, Lewis took the lead back. Sadly a few laps later, Lewis had ERS and brake failure and was forced to retire the car. Nico had similar issues but was able to finish on the podium, losing his 30 second lead. In the final laps, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo took the lead with just three laps to go. Following him was Nico, Sebastian Vettel Sergio Perez, and Felipe Massa. All of the cars were within 1 second of each other, surely, it was going to be an exciting finish. Cutting to the last lap, it was the final push for all the drivers. Racing down the front straight Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez took each other out. Flying into the barriers at 150 mph. A huge crash it was, medics running towards the scene. Thankfully everyone was ok. The race ended under the Safety Car and Daniel Ricciardo won his first career F1 race. How awesome! While I am a Mercedes fan, I was happy for Daniel and the race was so exciting to watch. How could I be disappointed? It was one of the best spectacles I’ve ever seen in my life and I felt ecstatic about the days in Montreal.