I am a fan of motor racing. And like many other, I started by watching Formula 1 when I was in elementary school. I remember watching epic battles between Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen. I could not wait to see races on my favorite tracks – Monaco, Monza, Old Hockenheimring, Indianapolis. But most of all, I have always been waiting to see Grand Prix of Canada, at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, in Montreal. Every race at this track is super exciting.
Where F1 fan would go?
On my 3rd day in Montreal, I went to see the track! It is located in the park Jean Drapeau in the middle of St. Lawrence river. Getting there is really easy. The metro goes right to the park. Then a Formula 1 fan will find direction to track by instinct!
At first I did not recognize it. On TV the track looks very different, much wider, and distances seem longer. I entered the track just before the Casino Hairpin. It took me about 15 seconds to recognize it. No ad banners, no stands, just a wide asphalt curve, with grass on its sides. And a parking meter in the apex!
Since the track is in the public park, you the access on it is free. You can walk on it, skate, ride a bycicle… But even drive your car! Not exceeding 30 km/h, you’re not in F1 yet 🙂 It is a racetrack on race days, and public road on regular days. But what do we usually have on public roads? No, I’m not talking about trucks. Public transit! There are buses that drive on the track. Regular public buses. You can get in as a passenger and take a ride. I could not believe what I saw. Mass-transit bus doing regular service on a racetrack! My mind was blown! Welcome to Canada!
Walking a lap
I strongly recommend taking a bixi or your own bicycle. But since I did not have neither, I decided to walk all around the track!
First, there was a long walk along the Casino Straight. I was super excited to see the legendary last chicane that the straight leads to.
The last chicane in Montreal is probably one of the most famous places among all Formula 1 race tracks. It has a very tight exit on the main straight, and on the exit, there is a wall. It requires really precise driving. Too much of accelerator on the exit, and the car will be smashed into the wall, too little, and the driver will not have enough speed on the straight. In 1999, smashing into this wall ended a race for three world champions – Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher, and Jaques Villeneuve. Since then, the wall is nicknamed “the Wall of Champions”. Highlights of this even can be seen here on YouTube.
I really wanted to photograph a bus driving into the chicane. I was waiting for over 20 minutes for a bus to pass by. Then I have seen it coming! I run to the perfect position for a shot, set up my camera, caught my breath anticipating amazing shot… And a driver decided to cut the chicane! He did not go into the corner, he drove around it! What a “bad man”. I was swearing really bad at him. 20 minutes at burning sunshine, thirsty, tired.. And he spoiled it!
Then I walked into the pit stop. When watching races, it is the most busy place on track – people running around, cars drive in and out, officials, guests. Now it was empty. I had a feeling of being in a ghost town. I could clearly imagine what it is during race event. I think I could feel it. That place is unusual energetically. Empty and alive at the same time.
The start-finish straight leads to corners 1 and 2, called Virage Senna.
Then a short straight going uphill and to the first chicane.
Then another short straight into corner 5, and then into second chicane.
And another straight to the bridge with heavy braking zone, and into third chicane, the slowest corner on the track. And then another short straight and I’m back to where I started.
The next thing to do is to drive a few laps on a bicycle. Then I must totally come and see how the serious guys do it, at over 300 km/h on 900 bhp race cars! Next year I hope to be on the other side of TV screen, watching F1 race on the track!