After three long years, the Formula 1 (F1) Grand Prix finally made its return to Montreal. From June 17 to June 19, fans came from all over North America to see the race and The McGill Tribune followed suit, heading down to the track to scope out the scene and experience the excitement of the F1 Grand Prix firsthand.
The city streets were filled with fancy cars, electronic racing simulators, and lavish pop-up bars all as a part of the Grand Prix weekend celebration. Before actually seeing the race, we explored some of the booths, including displays with the McLaren and Williams cars where you could take pictures and get a closer look at how each car was carefully crafted into a hundred-million-dollar racing machine.
Friday began with fairly rainy weather, making the track slippery and viewing conditions cold and wet. After the free practice sessions, Red Bull racer Max Verstappen was a clear favourite, finishing first in both FP1 and FP2. This momentum continued into Saturday, where Verstappen dominated the competition, driving the fastest lap in all three qualifying sessions.
Even with General Admission tickets, we were able to find spots right next to the track, where we were blasted by the sound of powerful engines and the best views. With cars driving by at over 300 kilometres per hour, fans were on their toes knowing they could blink and miss all the action. One surprising element was the smell. With the rain and wind, the smell of a race car—burnt rubber and gasoline—filled the air. Although these smells are traditionally unpleasant, it added to the full experience of being at the race track. After scoping out the viewing locations around the track, we settled on a spot at the start of the hairpin turn—a prime location as we were able to see the cars both as they downshifted into the turn and accelerated out of the corner. Around us were fans from Edmonton, Mexico City, Chicago, and L.A. who had all waited for years in anticipation of the return of the Canadian Grand Prix.
Going into Sunday’s race, the weather cleared and the sun crept out from behind the clouds for a beautiful day of racing. The most notable news for race day was that Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, currently P3 in the Drivers’ Championship, would be starting 19th after a 10-place grid penalty for changing his engine a third time, when only two engine changes are allowed.
Leclerc proceeded to gain 14 places over the course of the race to finish fifth. With his ability to perform exceptionally under pressure, and provided the problems with his car are resolved, Leclerc is a strong contender to be the Drivers’ Champion, the single driver with the most points at the end of the F1 season.
While Saturday’s qualifying was a historic day for the Haas team as they qualified fifth and sixth—their best-ever team results—the race was unfortunately not as successful. After an impressive race start, Mick Schumacher had a power unit issue in his car and was forced to retire just over halfway through. Teammate Kevin Magnussen sustained damage to his front wing in the opening lap of the race and was forced to make a pit stop for repairs, leaving him to finish in 17th place—dead last.
As a relatively new fan to the sport, experiencing my first Grand Prix was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Seeing the city come to life, and thousands of passionate fans fill the streets and the stadium after two pandemic summers was an unforgettable experience.
F1 races are often inaccessible, with ticket prices reaching up to thousands of dollars per day. But if you get the chance to attend, participating in a Grand Prix weekend is a great way to feel the full intensity of a race, meet other fans, and check something new off your F1 bucket list.