O Canada!


So, it’s been a few weeks since the Monaco Grand Prix and all the build up leading to it. But, there have been races. Things are heating up on the F1 circuit, and I don’t just mean the sweltering summer temperatures faced on track. There have been outbursts replete with colorful language, fights and near fisticuffs (if such a thing is possible on a racetrack), and shoeys. Shoeys? Yes, dear readers, shoeys. And, if you’ve been following the Monaco Grand Prix posts, here and here, you’ll know that one driver has to be on podium in order for a shoey to happen. Whose that one driver? Read on, ladies and gents…

We’ll start with Canada. O Canada! I love the Circuit Gilles-Villenueve in Montreal. It’s absolutely beautiful, and while it doesn’t have the thrill of a street race like Monaco, there are thrills nonetheless. As a matter of fact, I so love this track, its layout, and its location that I devoted a portion of my first novel to describing it. 

Jackson, the hero and Formula 1 racer in my novel, is in Canada before his race, while his love interest, Penelope, is in Paris, where she lives with the four boys to whom she is guardian. While in Montreal, Jackson calls her every morning to hear about her day and to tell her about his previous one. Here’s a snippet: 

    Jackson walked the track in words for her. Closing her eyes, she saw Ile-Notre Dame island between the St. Laurence Seaway and the bassin olympique, the rowing lake, from the 1976 Olympics, running along more than half the track. The Wall of Champions, nicknamed as such since it had ended numerous races for some of the most experienced drivers, was described for her, a white and red barrier two tires thick, shielding it from future collisions. 
    “The wall comes after turns thirteen and fourteen. It’s a chicane, love. You know, contrived curves. It’s easy to understeer there. It’s about curb handling.”
    Penelope wrinkled her nose. Curb handling? She didn’t know how to begin to understand it. In truth, she had done very little driving in her life, and none of it was with a standard transmission. Not that one needed to know manual to drive a F1 racer. That was a horse of an entirely different color, more on par with the delicacy of aeronautics than automobiles.
    “Sorry, love, I know you don’t care.”
    “I care,” she insisted earnestly. “I just don’t understand.” 
    And, so, he would patiently explain. Sometimes she followed him, grasping the nebulous concepts, other times, she was still at a loss.

I kept that last bit in there about Penelope being at a loss because when I first started watching F1, I, too, was at a loss. So many things went right over my head. However, I champion small beginnings, dear readers, and they apply to whatever it is you are trying to learn. Small beginnings. I am learning more every race, compounding my knowledge to formulate intelligent and informed opinions about what I see on track. 

One of the things I’ve learned is how biased the commentators can be. (This is not specific to Formula 1; I see it in any of the sports that I watch now. Commentators have their opinions and some are very liberal with expressing them almost as fact.) I particularly love it when the commentators clearly have their favorite picked out before the race and then the drivers write a different story on the track. For example, as Sebastian Vettel has been having an excellent season this year, and Lewis Hamilton has been struggling with various issues on his car, some of the commentators seem to have almost written Hamilton off completely. It’s hilarious, actually. 

At the start of the Canadian Grand Prix- throughout the whole weekend, actually- Lewis Hamilton was on point. He took pole. I need to stop here for a moment and mention something about this particular pole for Hamilton. It was his 65th pole; meaning that for the 65th time, he started a race in first. This is a milestone in his career. As mentioned in this post, Hamilton is a huge fan of Ayrton Senna. (Don’t know him? Check out this post.) At the time of his death, Senna had set a record of 65 poles, only to be surpassed by one other racer, Michael Schumacher, who has 68. This weekend in Canada, Hamilton tied Senna. To commemorate the moment, Senna’s family presented Hamilton with one of Senna’s helmets. This is what Hamilton had to say:  “I’m shaken. Speechless. I know that Ayrton was for many of you your favorite driver, and he was the same for me. He was the one who inspired me today, so to match him and to receive this is a great honor. To Ayrton and his family, God bless you, thank you.”

So, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took pole at the start. Ferrari’s Vettel placed 2nd on the grid, followed by Mercedes’ Bottas and then Ferrari’s Raikkonen with Redbull’s Verstappen and Ricciardo in fifth and sixth. To listen to the start of the race, you literally heard the words- Excellent start from Sebastian Vettel. Picture it: The lights have just gone off- we’re talking fractions of seconds- and Excellent start from Sebastian Vettel

Here’s what really went down:

Excellent start from Sebastian Vettel... You be the judge. 

Hamilton did just as Hamilton does. He started well. He stayed in first. But all hell broke loose behind him. Within seconds of the lights going out, Verstappen carped his diem and came up the side, shooting from fifth to second, cutting off Vettel completely. But did Vettel get displaced to third? Nope. Bottas was there, and suddenly, in less than five seconds, Vettel found himself in fourth. I’m not sure how these commentators define excellent start, but in my book, that’s not so excellent. As if Vettel needed to feel any worse; when Verstappen passed him, he clipped him, doing damage to Vettel’s right front wing. This damage forced the 4X World Champion to pit early and put him further down the line. Within the first few laps, Vettel found himself in eighteenth place. (Of course, by the 31st lap, Vettel was in seventh, driving just as you would expect a 4X World Champion to drive: superbly.)

I have to give props where Max Verstappen is concerned. The nineteen year old drove tenaciously. For the eleven laps he was in the race, he proved to be a serious contender for first. He challenged Hamilton a couple of times, but his engine gave out on the eleventh lap. That’s just tragic, dear readers, especially since he had so much promise. He’s been having a rough year, finishing only four of the eight races. 

I made the podium, said Sir Patrick Stewart.

Never fear. Redbull finished rather well in the end. Daniel Ricciardo pulled through and came in third, behind Mercedes’ Bottas in second and Hamilton in first. (The Silver Arrows of Mercedes took a 1-2 on podium, a much needed occurrence.) And, ever the amiable, Ricciardo treated his fans to another shoey. And, just because it’s too cool not to mention, Sir Patrick Stewart interviewed the drivers on podium and he was so ecstatic for his first podium that he drank to the novelty out of Ricciardo’s other shoe! Don’t you think Sir Patrick’s rather fabulous? (And, just because the drivers love it when a celebrity interviews them, Lewis Hamilton asked Sir Patrick, as he plays Xavier in X-Men, if he could read his mind. And, of course, Sir Patrick could. Closing his eyes, placing his hands to his temples to channel his focus, he read Hamilton’s thoughts as the winner: “You are… happy!” 

Oh…one last bit. Rookie Williams’ driver 18 year-old Lance Stroll is Canadian. As of this Grand Prix, he had never finished within the points (that’s the top 10 positions on track). However, in his homeland, Lance Stroll accrued his first points, finishing ninth. His first Canadian Grand Prix and his first points. That just makes me smile. (I love it when a driver does well in his homeland.) What do you think? Do you think it’s good when a driver can finish well in his native homeland? 

Well, that’s Canada for you. There’s more to come, but it’s simply too thrilling to try and squeeze all the juicy goodness, as Ricciardo would say, of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix into the Canadian Grand Prix re-cap. You’ll just have to wait. Till next time, dear readers…