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Formula 1 touched down in Montreal for the first time in three years and off-track there were plenty of talking points, and intrigue, despite Max Verstappen running away with matters on it.
Formula 1 Back in Canada
Formula 1 returned to Canada for the first time since 2019, following the two-year hiatus enforced by the pandemic. As with cities such as Melbourne and Austin, Montreal fully embraces Formula 1, with a lively atmosphere throughout the weekend downtown, especially along Rue Crescent and Rue Sainte-Catherine, despite the best efforts of the weather to intervene.
An estimated 338,000 spectators filed through the gates on the man-made Ile Notre Dame throughout the course of the four-day event. The event, which holds a contract through 2031, remains one of Formula 1’s best all-round Grands Prix.
Hamilton’s Goes Full on 1990s
Lewis Hamilton was a child of the 90s, when video gaming was in its infancy, compared to the sophisticated technology that is now available. Upon arriving in Montreal, Hamilton took a trip to a store in downtown Montreal and got something a little old school set up for the weekend.
“I just had this itch to play old games,” said Hamilton. “I've just recently found an old Nintendo 64 in my storage. And then I went and got Golden Eye. And then when I landed I went to get Mario Kart, but they didn't have the Nintendo 64. So I bought a Sega Genesis, and then they had the Senna game there. So I was like, ‘Oh, this is perfect’. So I've been spending the last couple of nights driving the Senna game, but I’m not that quick on it.”
The game Hamilton is referring to is Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II, which was released in July 1992. The game is also available free of charge on PC so after being influenced by Hamilton several journalists got a little addicted during Friday practice…
F1 Working on South Africa for 2023
Formula 1 chiefs are continuing discussions over the return of South Africa to the calendar after a three-decade absence. South Africa last hosted Formula 1 in 1993 and Stefano Domenicali last week traveled to Kyalami straight from Baku to pick up talks with race promoters.
Securing a spot for South Africa would give Formula 1 a presence on every habitable continent. With the return of Qatar, debut of Las Vegas and prospective comeback of China that would leave 26 Grands Prix, which is two over the contractual limit of 24.
Consequently two Grands Prix from the schedule would need to be removed, with France, Monaco and Belgium the most at-risk events. China remaining out of bounds again for 2023 could hand one a lifeline but Formula 1 may instead run 23 grands prix, rather than hit its limit of 24, meaning two would still drop. At current thinking only one of Monaco, France or Belgium will be on the 2023 schedule.
F1’s Villeneuve Tribute
2022 marks 40 years since Canadian icon Gilles Villeneuve was killed during a crash in Formula 1 qualifying at Belgian circuit Zolder.
The semi-permanent facility in Montreal was named after Villeneuve in the aftermath while the "Salut Gilles" signature has always been inscribed across the start/finish line. Prior to the race on Sunday the grid slots of the Ferrari drivers were painted red, with an inscription to remember Canada’s fallen racer.
Villeneuve’s son Jacques, the 1997 World Champion, was present in the paddock throughout the weekend and also handed over the Pole Position Trophy to current champion Max Verstappen, who was just four weeks old when Villeneuve claimed his world title.
Latifi’s Difficult Weekend, On and Off Track
Canada’s two Formula 1 drivers do not, to put it kindly, stir the soul in terms of their widespread popularity.
That is not entirely surprising given their backgrounds—both Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi are the offspring of billionaires—and their relative racing performances. Stroll has had a disappointing season, though drove well to pick up the final point, while Latifi is under pressure to retain his seat.
On Wednesday Williams had a pop-up shop downtown in Montreal with driver appearances. While Alex Albon’s appearance was so popular that the shop had to be shut for capacity, Latifi’s presence attracted significantly fewer numbers. Rumors continue to circulate that Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri is being lined up for the seat currently occupied by Latifi in 2023.
Latifi had another difficult weekend on-track in Canada, accepting his side of the garage “were lacking a lot of pace” in all conditions, and he also walloped one of the many groundhogs that reside on the island during the wet final practice session.
A Bouncing We Will Go
The row over how to tackle the porpoising being suffered by some Formula 1 teams rumbles on. The FIA issued a Technical Directive on Thursday on the grounds of safety, but while a long-term solution is desirable several teams and drivers were unhappy over the late notice of the TD, as well as the risk of introducing mid-season changes that could influence the championship.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, an advocate of changes for safety reasons, criticised “team principals trying to manipulate what is being said in order to keep the competitive advantage and trying to play political games,” labeling them “disingenuous” and “pitiful.”
Wolff’s comments came after an allegedly heated discussion with counterparts from Ferrari and Red Bull during the usual team bosses’ meeting on Saturday.
“I think it was just pointed out to him clearly that perhaps his issues were within rather than everybody's issue,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner. “I think their concept is the issue rather than the regulation.”
Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto was also swift to point out that Technical Directives “are there to clarify information, and to address policing, not there to change the regulations.”
Part of the TD outlined that teams could run a second floor stay and Mercedes was swift to run one on both cars during separate practice sessions, though removed it for the rest of the weekend amid the threat of a protest.
“Adding stays, which, if you came here with a stay—we didn't know because a TD came out on Thursday, so we don't have one—it just means you can stiffen the floor, run the car even lower and gain an aerodynamic advantage,” said Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer. “So, to be able to do that, I think that that isn't fair for the rest of us that couldn't bring a stay.”
Binotto and Horner were also a little perplexed at Mercedes adding a second stay so swiftly after the TD was issued.
“Toto said that they did it overnight, what I can say is that Ferrari would not be capable of doing that,” he said. “And what I can say is that I’m surprised that a team is so strong in doing that overnight but I can maybe only trust what he is saying.”
Said Horner: “What was particularly disappointing was the second stay because that has to be discussed in a technical forum and that is overtly biased to sorting one team's problems out, which were the only team that turned up here with it even in advance of the TD. So work that one out.”
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) June 16, 2022
Who Knew a Zamboni Has 'Rabbit Mode'
Sergio Perez and Yuki Tsunoda took a trip to Montreal’s Olympic Park to get behind the wheel of a Zamboni. The vehicles, which reach just 10 mph, are used to resurface ice and feature at every hockey game, a sport that is exceptionally popular in these parts.
A course was set up that featured hairpin turns, a slalom section and long straights, mirroring chunks of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with Perez proving more adept than Tsunoda.
“I managed to find a secret to make me fast—the rabbit mode,” said Perez. “You have a switch that you have to press to go fast, you have a rabbit and you have a turtle on the switch. The Zamboni is quite quick if you turn with a lot of wheel and a lot of throttle, then you can lift the wheels a bit.”
Added Tsunoda: “In my head I was going really fast, but Checo found out there was a ‘rabbit mode’ which gave him some extra power that I didn’t have, so I was a bit disappointed I hadn’t used it too."