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2014 Canadian Grand Prix: Race Day!

After soaking up FP2 and Qualifying on Friday and Saturday, it was finally time for Sunday’s main event: The 2014 Canadian Grand Prix!

After taking the navette (ferry shuttle) from the Old Port to Île Notre-Dame again, I winded my way past the crowds already assembled. I arrived around 1:00pm, a full hour before the race, just to take in the sights, colours, and smells.

Speaking of colours, my Gran’pa, who lives here in Montreal and whom I’ve been visiting between trips to the track, taught me a Latin saying last night at dinner: de gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum (there’s no point debating tastes and colours, they’re purely subjective). Here’s the two of us at the top of Westmount’s Summit Park, overlooking the city. Pretty cute eh?

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Back to Race Day and speaking of smells… (haha this is why I have footnotes on my other blog) these two mounted officers were stationed by the front entrance to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

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Inside the gates, the fully regaled crowd was resting in the shade, taking pictures with the various and sundry busty beauties, eating hot dogs, drinking beer, and having a pretty good time. As demonstrated by this young crew of tifosi.

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Again, here’s the view from my seat at Turn 10. Given what transpired today, I don’t think I could’ve picked any better!

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Also, over my right shoulder was that Expo ’67 dome thing. Y’know the one.

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Then, at 2:00pm ET sharp, it was on! I did a little tweeting during the event, so I’ll share some of my in-the-moment thoughts here.

During the first number of laps, like during the first number of races this season, the view was a familiar one: Mercedes 1-2.

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Then, inexplicably:

The power problems of the W05s weren’t immediately apparent to me. Their lethargic pit spots were, however, clear as day. Four-and-a-half seconds vs threeish for their competitors.

Those 2-3 extra seconds in the pit likely cost Rosberg the race, which he almost won despite losing his 160hp electric engine. What cost Hamilton the race were his brakes, which started smoking around lap 48 and forced him to retire early, leaving his teammate to the vultures.

As the race progressed, I  found the direct sun and aluminum bleacher seats a bit much so I moved up towards the fence right in front of the stands, closer to the action. I found a prime spot right behind the cameraman that was only accessible to people >6′ tall but… I’m 6’1″. Here you can see Vettel squeezed between Perez and Massa on lap 69/70.

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From there, the sound of the engines was also a little louder. And not just the F1 cars either…

Another thing that became apparent from watching the race live today was just how close and entertaining the races-within-the-race are. Those points battles are wicked and it’s equally heartbreaking when 3rd or 4th is snapped away as 1st or 2nd, as we found out when Perez collided with Massa late in the race and took them both out. And nearly took out Vettel too.

When this accident occurred, the crowds fell absolutely silent, as if someone might be hurt. I, for one, wasn’t in the least bit concered. F1 is so safe now that it’s really not that big a deal to have a shunt like that. The cars themselves are nearly bulletproof and the pads lining the track could absorb a meteor from space.

I think that this level of safety is actually unhealthy. Not in the physical sense, surely, but in the psychological and sociological senses. How so? Because, as the Stoics were fond of saying, pain is information. So when Perez casually hops out of his car after a 300 kph blast into the barriers, what does he learn? Not a fucking thing. He’s therefore not discouraged from pulling the same shit next time.

As with so much of the Western World, the risk has been taken out of the game, leaving a sanitized mirage in its place. We see this in finance, we see this at local playgrounds, we see this in racing. And it’s a bloody shame. I’m too young to have followed F1 when it still required, as Taleb would say, skin in the game, but episodes like the Perez one today speak loud and clear.

For the fans, since there’s not at least one driver getting seriously injured every season, it’s little wonder that anyone who follows the sport talks of little more that how loud the engines are(n’t).

And speaking of the engine noise… how about that new 1.6L turbo V6s? Well, I found it to be pitch perfect. I’ve been to enough shows and concerts where I left with ears buzzing; having to wear ear plugs in no way adds to the experience for me. The engines were loud enough to be heard without cringing. What more could I ask for?

Watching Rosberg, Ricciardo, Perez, Vettel, and Massa run within 2 seconds of each other for the last 10 laps or so, an incredibly tight finish by anyone’s account, most definitely added to my experience. And though I’d decided to cheer for Rosberg, who led until lap 68/70, Daniel Ricciardo’s infectious grin, sincere gratitude, and obvious talent are impossible for me to dislike.

So when Daniel won, I was cheering with the rest of the Red Bullers!

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Today, Sunday June 8, 2014 was a day of firsts.

It was my first Grand Prix, Ricciardo’s first Formula 1 victory, and the first non-Mercedes win this season! Hey, there’s a Boxing Day… why not a Firsts Day?

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Back in town, at the Geox store on St. Catherine’s street, F1 fever was already subsiding. Signs were being taken down, race-goers were rolling suitcases out to the curbs, and the out-of-town Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis were giving their final adieus to the host city by banging their engine noises off the thick stone buildings.

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The fever in Montreal has come and gone for another year. What’s left behind is… art.

And three CarEnvy posts in as many days! Now there’s a first.

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[Photo credits: author]

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