Paddock Postcard from Montreal 12 Jun 2011
It may have shifted from its seaside perch in Monte Carlo to Montreals Ile Notre-Dame but the F1 paddock has lost none of Monacos glitz and glamour in the move.
As if to prove the point, the Canadian city threw its traditional Formula One welcome party - the Grand Evening- on Thursday night. Raising money for local charities, the spectacular event was hosted by Michael Fortier, the Vice Chairman of RBC Capital Markets, and Formula One group CEO Bernie Ecclestone.
Amongst the guests were Ferraris Fernando Alonso, Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Christina Horner, Peter Sauber and driver Kamui Kobayashi, Force Indias Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, Toro Rossos Jaime Alguersuari and Franz Tost and HRTs Colin Kolles and Vitantonio Liuzzi. The Ferrari of local hero Gilles Villeneuve also put in an appearance to the delight of guests.
Very few places on the calendar embrace the paddock as enthusiastically as Montreal and hordes of fans joined the throng at the track for an open house day on Thursday, where they enjoyed a pit-lane walk and the chance to meet and greet drivers at the autograph session. Amongst those getting up close and personal with some very knowledgeable fans and putting pen to paper were Di Resta, Sutil and Vettel.
The drivers themselves were greeted with very familiar faces on their arrival in the paddock on Thursday. Each one found their garage had been personalised not just with their name but with a drawing of their face included on the sign.
Meanwhile, there were celebrations down at McLaren who racked up their 10,000th lap in the lead of a Grand Prix in Monaco last month. Driver Jenson Button was given the special task of cutting the cake on Friday evening.
Other famous racing faces present included double F1 world championship, double CART championship and double Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, who was once again the FIAs driver steward, together with the late Teddy Mayers son Tim. Former Tyrrell and Williams F1 star Derek Daly was there on TV duty, as was Karl Wendlinger who was working with Austrian Television. Newly announced test and reserve driver Rob Wickens was at Virgin, where Sir Richard Branson made a rare visit along with Hollywood actor Bradley Cooper, and DTM star Bruno Spengler took time out of a trip home to hang out at Mercedes with test and reserve driver Sam Bird.
Gymkhana legend and World Rally Championship star Ken Block also put in an appearance, as Pirelli announced he will sample their test Formula One car at Monza in August. Another familiar racer was Bertrand Gachot, who drove for Coloni, Jordan and Larrousse in F1, and evergreen engineer Tyler Alexander was down at McLaren together with Ron Dennis.
Lisa Dennis was also in town, as was Texan driving force Tavo Helmund, learning all he could ahead of next years return to a US Grand Prix. Sponsorship gurus Rod Campbell and Steve Madincea were also in the paddock, along with US racing scribe Gordon Kirby and ace US photographer Gary Gold.
Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque du Soleil, came over from his franchises Montreal base, Hollywood star Colin Farrell was a guest of Renault, Star Wars creator George Lucas was down at Williams and pop star Rihanna and rapper Ice T both visited Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.
The on-track action included some lovely Ferrari and Formula Ford racing, and another great historic field which included a Williams FW08, a couple of FW07s, Shadows from DN1 to DN8 and DN9, and an ex-Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari T4/T5.
For more pictures, check out our Paddock Postcard gallery.
For tickets and travel to 2011 Formula One races, click here.