Race fans around the country might not agree on much, but many will concede that the Canadian Grand Prix marks the unofficial start of summer. After being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, this year’s first race weekend was met with anticipation and joy that electrified Montreal, reminding us just how exciting in-person events can be.
The F1 race weekend was epic, with supporting series from the Nissan Sentra Cup and Ferrari Challenge. Each of these series featured plenty of local talent and teams eager to put on a show. The crowd was cheering every four-wheeled chariot on the track no matter the conditions, as it was cold and wet on Saturday and hot and sunny on Sunday.
It’s hard to imagine people getting buzzed off the Sentra Cup, a low-cost, single-spec series that only runs in Canada. Relatively speaking, it doesn’t feature overwhelmingly sexy or speedy cars, but somehow, the Nissan series still manages to be so much fun. With the cars essentially identical, the competition is very close, leading to a cluster of cars on the track constantly vying for the top spots.
The Ferrari Challenge is another spec series but on a faster and fancier scale. During the two days of racing, the pilots of these Ferraris demonstrated the sheer speed and ear-tingling joy the Italian marque is known for.
But of course, Formula One was the headliner in Montreal; it’s always been an event Canadian race fans circled on their calendars. During the driver’s parade, the cheers for perennial stars Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, and Sebastien Vettel were loud and boisterous, but even Canadian drivers Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi enjoyed a bout of acclaim, despite languishing in the standings.
What Makes the Race So Interesting?
The fans aren’t the only people happy to be back at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“It’s very enjoyable, as the whole city is really super welcoming,” said Aston Martin Formula One team manager Mick Crack, before highlighting the special parts of this Canadian circuit. “It’s a great track because you have long straights, chicanes with high curbs, and some lower-speed corners, so you have to decide what kind of aerodynamic compromises you make.”
He also pointed out that the many high-speed straights and low-speed corners are hard on the cars’ brakes, which means more safety cars and incidents on the track.
The experienced manager also described the challenges this generation of F1 cars face on a track like the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“We have to handle these bumps that we weren’t even aware of before. The cars are now so low and so stiff that every single bump is felt, and because the cars are set up this way, curb riding, for example, is much more difficult. With these kinds of cars, to run on a smooth track like we had in Miami, for example, it’s much, much easier, but when we go to the old tracks like Montreal, the track is more challenging and enjoyable,” he explained.
The race exposed the difficulty of the track as well as the poise required to perform well. There were a few safety cars sent out, but in the end, the strategy employed by the team was fairly successful, as Aston Martin saw Stroll finish in the top 10, which was good enough to earn a few points for the team. It’s always good to see a Canadian overachieve on the global scale. Max Verstappen from Red Bull Racing came in first, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz coming in second, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton landing in third.
With an estimated 330,000 attendees at the Canadian Grand Prix, the entire city of Montreal was race-crazy. That’s a record number for the event, and you could feel it at every street corner. Car enthusiasts revved up and down the downtown core, showing off exotics, modified cars, burly motorcycles, and classics. The energy made the city feel alive and buzzing.
Restaurants were packed with guests enjoying the atmosphere, while the nightlife spilled onto the streets into the early hours of the morning.
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Formula One is far from the only race event revitalizing Canadian fans this summer. The Honda Indy will pack the streets around Toronto’s Exhibition Place from July 15 to 17 after being cancelled in 2020 and 2021. The Indy arrives with a whole entourage of supporting series including the Porsche Carrera Cup, NASCAR Pinty’s Series, and the always enjoyable Stadium Super Trucks.
Further East from Toronto, the epic Canadian Tire Motorsports Park will host the Chevrolet Grand Prix hosting races from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship over the Canada Day long weekend, after taking the last two years off. Not only is this the only time Canadians can catch a variety of IMSA races, but the weekend will also host two new series designed to celebrate Formula One heroes, with cars from 1966 through to 1985, and Endurance Icons with prototype and GT race cars from 1992 to 2016.
Canadian Tire Motorsports Park will also host the second running of the Drive Festival from September 9 to 11, which is a celebration of all things automotive. All kinds of cars will be on the track, including supercars and exotics, while the off-road park will be full of rugged machines tackling the terrain, ensuring enthusiasts from all walks of life are entertained.
Outside of Ottawa, the Calabogie Motorsports Park will be hosting several fun racing series on August 20 to 21, including the Vintage Auto Racing Association of Canada Vintage Race Car series, which is always a treat to watch, as significant and cool classics hit the complex corners of Calabogie.
If the Canadian Grand Prix was any indication, this summer is officially open for car and racing enthusiasts. After so many cancellations over the past two years, it’s clear the appetite for speed is now higher than ever.