I am something of a nut for motorsport, specifically Formula 1. There’s just something about the combination of advanced engineering, speed, aerodynamics, exotic locations, supermodels and high performance brands that gets my adrenaline going.

As a kid, I watched F1 on and off, and followed Jackie Stewart (because he sounds like my Dad), Nigel “Il Lione” Mansell, Piquet, Villeneuve (Sr.), and Senna. There was always something very exciting about watching guys race close to 200mph wheel to wheel. If you’re interested, there’s tons of web sites relating to F1, but my favorite is Autosport Magazine.

In May 2003, I was in Monte Carlo for a work related event with my wife. It was the first time I was ever there, and it was a place unlike any other for me.

To stand on the apex of the “Lowes Hairpin” and know about the rich history of this amazing street circuit gave me chills. We were staying at the Monte Carlo Grand Hotel (now the Fairmont Monte Carlo). It was a short walk to the Casino, where James Bond and his like were seen playing Baccarat. I couldn’t find the nickel slots anywhere.

Anyhow, back to F1. Seeing the circuits in person, especially Monte Carlo really helped me appreciate exactly what these drivers are made of. The street circuit in Monte Carlo is open for regular traffic throughout the race weekend, and in places, it’s only about 2.5 car widths wide. Imagine doing 200mph heading into a blind corner with steel armcos on each side. Skill or lunacy, or maybe lots of both.

I’ve been going to the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. That weekend is always one of the highlights of my year. I have gone each time with a good friend from my U of Waterloo days who lived in Calgary and would fly in for the event.

Our first souvenirs would usually be a yellow piece of paper signed by some guy named “Officer Lalonde” from the Cornwall OPP. Let’s just say that the 14.7″ cross drilled brakes in my M5 usually get pretty well tested when they start looking for customers. My last invoice from the OPP was for 134km/h in a 100 zone. Under “heavy braking”. As an aside, the M5 is electronically limited to 155mph (248km/h) but I can state with some confidence that the limit on some of them is a bit higher than that. ‘Nuff said ;)

Montreal is a great city any time, but during the F1 weekend, it takes on a city-wide party atmosphere. Crescent Street is closed to cars and becomes a total F1 house party. Bands, beer, fashion shows, beer, exotic cars, beer, F1 art, beer.

In 2006, I managed to secure some tickets to some private BMW events. We got to visit the BMW Pit Lane Park when Jacques did his laps in the wet.

Poor guy, they put full wet rubber on his car and expected him to go do donuts for the crowd. There was just too much grip with the full wets. I had my big 400mm lens on my camera and got some very good pictures of Jacques in the cockpit with a less than pleased look on his face as his pit crew pushed him back from the wall.

We also managed to get 2 tickets to the BMW VIP party at Jacque’s restaurant NewTown (get it, Villeneuve == New Town) on Crescent St. We met many intersting (and some not so interesting, but very attractive) people.

The highlight was having a beer with Dr. Mario Theissen, head of BMW Motorsport and the Team Principal for the F1 team. We were really curious about how Heidfeld and Villeneuve could have done so poorly in Qualifying when they were putting in great lap times during the final practice. I readied myself for what I was sure was going to be a deep, technical explanation involving track temperatures, out-lap tire temperatures, downforce compromises in favor of speed. Dr. Theissen looked squarely at us and said “No, they drove too slow!”

I happened to have the aforementioned speeding ticket in my jacket pocket, and thought it would make a great souvenir if I had Dr. Theissen autograph it. Well, he did, but was disappointed though with the lack of pace I had demonstrated. Back to my day job I guess! And this year, I doubt the party will be at New Town since Jacques is now driving around afternoons making left turns in his new Chevy on the NASCAR NexTel league. He was replaced mid-season by the Polish test driver Robert Kubica.

The race was tremendous, and as usual, over the weekend I took over 1000 pictures. All the ones on this blog are mine. I’m a big believer in taking lots of pictures to help you figure out composition and ensure that you start to understand and recognize what makes a good vs not good picture.

I have my tickets in hand for the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix. Unfortunately, my buddy won’t be going with me this year, since he moved to England last Fall. The good news is that I am planning to attend the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July! In his place, I will be bringing my wonderful wife to her first F1 weekend. I know we’ll have a great time.

But I wonder if I’ll be able to spend as much time with the “Budweiser Girls” as before…Time will tell!