F1: an unprecedented enthusiasm for open doors

Motorsports enthusiasts crowded the gates near the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit for the first day of activities at the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix. Despite the rain, the organizers recorded a record number of visitors to the open house on Thursday.

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Quebecers and international visitors missed the Montreal event. Around 20,000 supporters were allowed onto the site and the swarm had to be pushed back around 10.15am, just an hour after the gates opened. The huge crowd even gathered near the casino on the other side of the river.

Normally 5,000 or 6,000 people go through the turnstiles that day. The previous record was 10,000 people, organizers said.

This year, drivers did not have to appear in the pits and paddocks on Thursday. Some still performed, like Mick Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi.

Joel Lemay / QMI Agency

Joel Lemay / QMI Agency

The doors are open, some wouldn’t miss them for anything in the world. A Quebec native, Sylvain Côté has not missed an edition of the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978.

Mr. Côté has attended several important events over the years. He remembers the “magic” victory of Jean Alesi in 1995, Jacques Villeneuve in 2018 at the wheel of his father’s Ferrari, the famous Gilles or the fatal accident of Riccardo Paletti.

“Every year always has its special features. […] I would do everything not to miss anything here at the Grand Prix,” assured the 50-year-old.

However, he had never seen so many people in the wells. Impossible to move without colliding with someone. According to him, it could be a backlash to the popular Netflix series Drive to Survive.

“Usually the weather is nicer. This year it’s raining and there are too many people. Like today, the “Netflix effect” has its advantages and its major disadvantages. You used to be able to walk around, and the pit line is smaller,” said Mr. Côté, who, however, is happy about larger grandstands for amateurs.

Joel Lemay / QMI Agency

Joel Lemay / QMI Agency

For many, the Canadian Grand Prix is ​​also synonymous with nostalgia. Eric Heldman, an Ontarian, has over fifteen visits to the Gilles-Villeneuve Circuit. He’s going there this year in an Aston Martin jersey named Quebecer Lance Stroll.

“I’ve been to quite a few races and this is one of my favorites because of the atmosphere and everything that surrounds it. It’s impossible to beat Montreal,” said the 50-year-old, who is attending the celebrations with a friend.

Despite the gray weather, the charm of metropolitan Québec is undeniable. Neel Amin from New Jersey fell in love with the setting of the event. He is taking his 8 year old son there for the first time.

“When you think of Formula 1 in America, Montreal immediately comes to mind. In the United States it is younger while [ce Grand Prix] is historical in nature,” concluded Mr. Amin.

This sets the table for the race weekend. Around 350,000 fans are expected in the next few days.

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