MONTREAL - It’s not surprising that Great Britain’s Lewis Hamilton would like this race and this place.
The McLaren driver has won the pole for all three of the Canadian Grand Prix events he’s raced and taken the checkered flag first in two of them.
But if you are trying to get a taste of what exists here with Montreal’s race, the only Formula 1 race in North America, the event Octane Motorsports Events promoter Francois Dumontier believes he can replicate with the Edmonton Indy, Lewis Hamilton is a good place to begin.
“This is a fantastic place,” he said.
“I don’t have an answer why I’ve been so successful here but it might have something to do with the atmosphere. I think the fans here are spectacular. I think this is one of the top Grand Prix races of the year. When the city is packed with people, it’s a great place to be.
“First and foremost, the city is one of my favourite cities in the entire word,” he said, shifting into a higher gear.
“Every time I’ve been here it’s been very lively. They put on a great show and are great hosts for all the fans that come.
“And then you come to the circuit which is on a tiny island, with great history, and it’s a great place to drive.
“And I have never been here when the grandstands have not been completely packed. You go to circuits sometimes where there are a couple of thousand people and the atmosphere is just nowhere. But you come here and you immediately feel the huge buzz. You can see the people here are passionate about their motor racing. It’s spectacular.”
German driver Adrian Sutil seconds the motion.
“It’s always nice and enjoyable here. From a driving point of view, it’s more like a street circuit. It’s not like some circuits where you have run-off areas and where you can get away with some mistakes.”
But it’s more than just the race here, he says.
“Sometimes you have more normal race weekends where it’s all about the racing. Of course, that’s here for us as well. But you can feel the atmosphere and all the fans around the circuit.
“It’s close to the city. It’s in the city, which is why I like it here.
It doesn’t seem to matter who you talk to, there’s nothing but rave reviews for this event, Canada’s largest annual sports event.
It’s the combination of everything, not just the scene at the track where Friday, many explain, there will be a considerable crowd for practice sessions which don’t draw anybody at many other F1 races. But it’s the away-from-the-track scene as much as what happens at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Charlie Whiting, the FIA technical delegate, said that really registers.
Whiting said he notices something in Montreal when it comes to his safety people.
“They work faster and harder so they can leave earlier,” he said of their eagerness to join the scene downtown.
Christian Tortora, a broadcaster with Radio Monte Carlo who will be working his 535th Formula1 race here Sunday, called this “the second most perfect event after Australia.
“It’s the ambiance,” he said. “It’s the hospitality here.”
“We get a lot of compliments like that and I believe they’re sincere,” said CGP promoter Francois Dumontier. “We’re in the top three in worldwide TV numbers, with Australia and Brazil, and I think we’d be in the top with Australia, Germany, Italy, England and Spain in attendance, while at the same time being in the bottom three in ticket prices.”
You get the idea. If you can create something similar with IndyCar, who wouldn’t want to see it happen in Edmonton?
Replicate away, Mr. Dumontier.
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