Canada 2013 - The A-List Grand Prix

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The Montreal Olympics of 1976, Hugh Grant, Expo '67, James McAvoy, Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas. The 2013 Canadian Grand Prix weekend was an eclectic A-list mix of the past, the present and the future.

Vettel ran away with the main event on Sunday afternoon, leading every lap from pole position, but Formula One’s first foray of the year to North America was as much about the people attending the race and the track’s unique setting on the Ile Notre Dame in the St Lawrence river. 

Hugh Grant had switched allegiance since his last visit to a grand prix, at Monza in 2012. Back then he was a guest of Ferrari, having just picked up a new set of wheels in Maranello, but this weekend he was a guest of Red Bull Racing and loving every moment of chatting to Sebastian Vettel after the race, if their mutual back-slapping was understood correctly!

McAvoy, a star of X-Men and Atonement, was an interested observer on the grid. While loving the excitement of it all, he also found the improvisation of the mechanics a surprise. “These are the most sophisticated cars in the world,” he said. “So, how come there’s so much gaffer tape all over them?”

Many former F1 stars were in the paddock over the weekend as well. Double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi showed up on Saturday, joining a host of other champions such as Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Niki Lauda, and you couldn’t help wondering on Saturday evening if Williams rookie Bottas mightn’t be a champion of the future.

Rain has always been a great leveller in F1, but what made the weather conditions so tricky during qualifying was the fact that they were never consistent. Persistent drizzle made the track greasy; it was too wet for dry tyres, but not wet enough for full wet tyres either. For the first time in recent memory, the entire session was completed on intermediate tyres.

Bottas drove with brilliant consistency throughout all three segments of qualifying and he lined up third, taking some impressive scalps along the way. In fact, the only cars ahead of him on the grid were Vettel and Hamilton. “As soon as it became clear that the conditions weren’t going to improve enough for slicks,” said Valtteri, “I thought a good result was possible.”

Unfortunately, Valtteri’s Williams FW35 didn’t have the dry-weather pace to bring home his and the team’s first points of the season. That at least saved him getting wet because he’d vowed to jump into the rowing lake at the back of the paddock if he’d come home inside the top 10.

Rounding off a brilliant weekend of entertainment in Montreal were the Rolling Stones, who played in the city’s Bell Centre on Sunday evening. They played a three-hour set, gaining praise from Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner. “Mick and the guys are fitter than the drivers,” he said. Wild horses the lot of them.