Canadian Grand Prix Formula 1 Racing - A Jaded Fan Returns to F1

Joe Sherman
Roy Ritchie

But it was the Polish princess, Anna Niedzwiecka, a factory worker from Kraków, who blew me away. Here in Montreal with her husband, Grzegorz, Anna wore a huge, floppy crown emblazoned POLSKA. Despite the blistering heat, over her shoulders hung a heavy cape. She whipped out a Robert Kubica fan club banner, which stretched thirty feet, and said, "This year our first in Montreal," sounding like they'd be back.

Waking from my revitalizing snooze, I find a spot to watch the F1 qualifications. The cars are on soft-compound tires, lap times faster, cars better-tuned than yesterday. Then there's a problem. Drivers are spinning onto the grass, just missing walls. I watch some of this scattered action on a large screen hanging over the track, an announcer babbling. Evidently, the surface is breaking up in the heat. Bits of asphalt are coming free and forming ball bearings. High-speed cornering on marbles sounds dicey. The cars go into the pits, and maintenance guys with brooms appear, doing their best to sweep clear the ball bearings. But this is F1. Drivers must deal with marbles if conditions so dictate, just as they must deal with rain, the great equalizer, when it falls. In some ways, the sport does remain true to its original intent, which was to be a road circuit race in whatever conditions nature and the road threw up.

Once qualifications resume, I'm moving through a motley mass of humanity. Primarily male, primarily in shorts. All sweaty. Going with the flow, I'm steered along through the smells of roasting hot dogs, fried dough, beef. Nobody can see the track, only hear the shrill keening of the 700-hp engines that can rev to 19,000 rpm. Fans shove a little, politely overtake. I notice more father/daughter duos bonding in the great, steamy cattle car of general admission. The movement is wonderfully directionless. Everyone seems in a good, stinky mood.

Leaving, my straw hat bobs in a sea of red Ferrari caps all the way to the glutted Métro entrance. In the subway car, a local asks me who took the pole.


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