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GP Week : Issue 203
22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: AS GOOD AS IT GETS OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER Montreal is nearly the perfect race. I can’t speak of legendary circuits of years gone by, but when it comes to the venues that have played host to Formula One grands prix since I first started covering the sport in 2010, Canada is as good as it gets. For those lucky enough to attend races in person, a good weekend is about so much more than the action on track. The race itself is important – that should go without saying – but it’s also important to have a good crowd, a good atmosphere. China’s Shanghai International Circuit has been the scene of some great races over the years (we all remember Kimi Raikkonen losing the best part of ten places over the course of two laps in 2012, right?), but the lack of excitement from the grandstands makes grands prix there less memorable than similarly thrilling races at more popular venues. A passionate and knowledgeable crowd is one of Montreal’s strengths. And their passion is not felt solely at the circuit. A short walk along Rue Ste Catherine on any night of the race weekend is a perfect demonstration of the way in which a city can make a race. There isn’t a single venue on the calendar where Formula One is loved unquestioningly by all the locals. Wherever we go there are naysayers, and Montreal is no different. But talking to bar staff and waiters downtown, even those who avoid the Parc Jean Drapeau like the plague are enthused by having F1 come to town. The city buzzes with excitement all week long, and when the weather is on side the pavements are filled with race fans wining and dining and soaking up the warmth of a Montreal summer. Crescent and Peel Streets play host to all manner of entertainment for the fans, and the beer flows like water. But however good the party is in town, if the Canadian Grand Prix were a consistently lacklustre affair the race would lose an awful lot of its sheen. Luckily, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of the best on the calendar when it comes to guaranteeing a memorable Sunday afternoon. As a track, Montreal rewards the brave and punishes the reckless. The long straights encourage speed, while the corners are hard on brakes and an easy place to make mistakes. Then you have the close walls, which echo a street circuit, and which are just as unforgiving as the buildings that line the streets of Monaco and Pau. The power-hungry track inhales fuel, and pure speed will always lose out to intelligent driving from cockpit and pit wall alike. In fact, there are only two criticisms that can be levelled at the Canadian Grand Prix. Montreal’s hoteliers are about the worst on the calendar when it comes to price gouging, trebling or quadrupling their normal rates over the course of the race weekend. When I booked this year ’s hotel nine months ago, I secured a very good deal. Such a good deal, in fact, that I received no fewer than five separate emails from the owner once the calendar was published, berating me for having secured a room at 25 percent of the price I would have paid once the grand prix dates had been confirmed. And the other criticism? Given that Montreal is so damn close to perfect, it’s a travesty that we only get to race here once a year.