F1


I’ve been working furiously to review, edit and post my best shots from the F1 weekend to flickr.  After I had posted a few in an initial batch, I got an email from an editor at Wikipedia.  He had seen my photos on flickr, and was asking if I would allow some of them to be used within articles about F1.  This was a pretty big honour to me, and being able to actually put content back into Wikipedia is something I’m really happy about.  In order to make this possible, I had to change the licensing on my images to a Creative Commons License.  So I took care of this, and about an hour later, my images were dressing up several articles.

Here’s a sampling of my images on Wikipedia pages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Canadian_Grand_Prix
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kubica
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bmw_sauber
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_Sauber_F1.08
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubens_Barrichello
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_RA108
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Vettel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scuderia_Toro_Rosso
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Coulthard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Bull_Racing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Bull_RB4
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Windsor

So, that’s it for now.  Back to the creative destruction we call home renovation…

mJm

I forgot to mention that my LA friend said he was hoping to meet up with a friend of his who drives an F1 car.  He gave me the following hints:  Drove for Benetton, drove for Red Bull, and it Italian.  Now, I pride myself on knowing a bit about these things, and thought I knew who it was.  There are currently only 3 Italians racing:  Vitantonio Liuzzi (but technically he’s just a test driver), which leaves Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella.  Fisi fits the bill, but didn’t drive for RedBull.

When I told him “I think it’s Fisi but I don’t think the RedBull part he right”, he said “correct”, and showed me his Blackberry Curve with the SMS thread he was having at that moment with Fisi.  They met in Italy years ago when my LA friend was doing some production work for a TV show there.  I was pretty excited about the prospect of partying with Fisi, but held little hope this would happen.  It’s not like these drivers can go out on wild benders with the likes of me then crawl hungover into the cockpit of their cars.  Did you hear that Kimi – try to keep it real this weekend ;)

Anyhow, the SMS thread continued for a while, with Fisi saying we’ll try to meet later.  But he probably went to bed.  Another “almost” brush with greatness.

mJm

We just got back to our hotel room after a stunning event at BICE restaurant in Montreal.  Because it was too far to walk, we decided to drive there.  I checked with the restaurant, and they have “special parking”.  So we arrived, and on the way I was a bit concerned about showing up to the party in a non-BMW car.  Oh well, no time for those kinds of worries.  We arrived and were given a primo parking spot on the curb right in front of the restaurant.

I screwed up a bit because I thought dinner started at 7pm, but when I looked at my email on the way to get the car, I saw that it started at 6:30..Oops..So we arrived a bit late.  We saw Lindsay Duffield, the CEO of BMW Canada, and the kind gentleman who has extended the invitations to these events.  We were taken to a table next to his, and introduced to the people at our table.  What an interesting group.  Sitting right next to me was a Hollywood Movie/TV producer.  You’d definitely know his work.  We hit it off right away, and were pretty much brothers by the end of the dinner.  We laughed alot.  Dining with him was a very impressive woman who is the CEO of a major automotive company.  I spent most of the dinner bantering back and forth with my new LA friend, and enjoying the atmosphere of this very nice restaurant.

Shortly after we arrived and were introduced, Dr. Mario Theissen arrived.  He’s the head honcho of BMW Motorsports.  I had met him a few years ago when Hans and I went to my first BMW Team party.  Then there was an announcement that the BMW Sauber drivers had arrived.  I wasn’t sure who was going to be doing PR duty tonight, but to my surprise and delight, both pilots, Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica were present.

After a few minutes of Q&A from the moderator, Nick and Robert mingled with the crowd.  Sitting next to the CEO’s table has it’s benefits.  Dr. Theissen was seated there, and the drivers came over to meet and greet.  Some of the kids there lined up to get an autograph, and that’s when I struck.  I’ve been carrying around on F1 weekends a speeding ticket I got from Cornwall OPP officer Lalonde in my M5.  I had Dr. Theissen sign it a couple of years ago, and got Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel last year.  Now I could complete the collection with Nick’s autograph.

So there I stood, surrounded by kids, waiting my turn.  I got up to Nick and said “Nick, could you please autograph this?”.  He gave the paper a puzzled look, and said “What is it?”  I told him “It’s a speeding ticket I got in my M5!”.  He laughed and asked “How fast?”.  When I told him I don’t think he was impressed.  Then he signed it.  I showed him where Dr. Theissen, Robert and Sebastian had signed it, and told him that now I can get it framed and mounted in my office.

The drivers then left, to get a good night’s sleep.  Robert qualified P2, although he had the pole right up until Lewis Hamilton secured it on his final lap.  Nick was further down the field in P8, but is likely fueled heavier.

As the night proceeded, the conversation turned to the Paddock Club.  For an F1 fan, the Paddock Club is Heaven.  It’s close (right above) the pits, and is overflowing with great food and drink.  My LA friend and the CEO asked me if we were in the Paddock, and we had to admit that we were out with “the unwashed masses”.  So then the question came:  We have a single Paddock Pass for tomorrow, because the CEO is flying to Italy.  Do I want it?  Now, the way this plays out will clearly piss off Hans, and he’s probably forever question my judgement, but because it was 1 pass and not 2, I had to pass on the Pass.  I really enjoy these events with Helen, and I can’t imagine leaving her out there while I literally partied like a rock star.  But still, it was a tantalizing and very generous offer.  When we do the Paddock Club one day, we’ll do it together.

So with dinner finished, we took our leave, and thanked everyone for a wonderful night of conversation and laughter.  I do hope to see these folks again one day.  Mr. LA made me promise that we would do the South Carolina BMW M Driving School, and also said “I have to take you to some Premiers”.  That would be pretty amazing.

So, that’s the update from Montreal tonight.  I’ve started reviewing/editing pictures and will try to post some to flickr tonight.  For those looking for my pix, you can find them at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ph-stop

Tomorrow is Race Day.  Weather is likely going to be a major factor, because the forecast calls for rain.  Can’t wait!

mJm

Apologies for the tardiness of this update.  If you have ever attended an F1 weekend in Montreal, you’ll understand why sitting at your computer so you can update your blog is extremely low on the list of daily priorities.

So, Friday is Practice day at the circuit.  This is the day I take alot of pictures from track level, and generally scope out the circuit and buy some team logo-ed shirts.  The day started out with me leaving our room at 730am and heading down to get my car.  I am doing Valet Parking, but I parked the car myself, with a Valet sitting in the right seat making sure I wasn’t doing anything “inappropriate”.  I am 100% against giving the keys to my car to a Valet.  l’m sure most are very responsible, but the ones that aren’t don’t wear “Hello, my name is Wreckless Idiot” stickers on their nice jackets.  Once I had dropped off the Valet at the front door of the hotel, I told TomTom where I wanted to go.  I find GPS devices usually very useful and reliable, but if you’ve ever tried using one downtown when you’re surrounded by skyscrapers, you’re then familiar with the “Nav Nervous Breakdown Syndrome”.  The symptoms are pretty easy to spot.  Your GPS throws a fit, and starts moving you around the city in multi-block chunks spread only seconds apart.  I had that happen in Boston once, and I swear to you I drove around the city for 30 minutes just trying to catch up with the GPS and get agreement on our exact location on this planet.

Anyhow, I digress.  The Luigi Ferrari club had arranged for “secure parking” as part of a charity fundraiser.  The parking lot is on the island, so I decided to give it a try.  I still have to walk for close to an hour to get to my seats on the far end of the circuit, but even by taking the Metro, the walk is about 45 minutes.

After picking up some shirts, and my KangarooTV, I decided to check out our front row seats.  Well, let me just say that the placement of a TV screen and the associated scaffolding has been moved so that we have an even better view of the track.  Now we can see part of the main straight, start/finish line, turn 1, turn 2 and up the back straight to turn 3.  Sweet!  And we’re close enough to the track that I could *in theory only* all out of my seat and land on the monocoque of Lewis’ MP4-23.

So, next was scoping out some shooting spots for the Practice Session starting at 10am.  Because it was a bit rainy/misty, the crowds were lighter.  I was happy about that.  The area I prefer to shoot from is an “exclusive access” area only.  You have to have a pretty plastic badge that has your name, picture, blood type, SIN/SSN, height, weight, hair colour, eye colour, boxers/briefs, favourite author and mother’s maiden name on it.  I don’t have that, but I do have Photoshop and time on my hands ;)

But alas, like security in the virtual world, the physical world is rife with soft spots.  And I just climbed over and down one of them.  The key to not getting booted is to not look like some prat who shouldn’t be there.  So, pop a big lens on your camera, carry a rediculously large and heavy amount of equipment and look generally pissed off.  I practice this in front of a mirror before each GP.  Just ask my friend Hans about how far looking like you belong somewhere will get you in Montreal (like a JordanF1 exclusive team party).

It was about 15 minutes before the track was green, and I struck up a conversation with one of the “pros” who wear the much coveted (by me) official FIA “Photographer All Access” smocks.  The nice gent I met was a freelancer from northern NY state and covers open wheeled racing in North America.  We exchanged some race experiences and then settled down to “work”.  The early cars during practice are what I like to think of as “street sweepers”.  They are the less competitive cars/teams who’s primary job during practice is to drive around the track and clean it of debris, and try to leave as much rubber in the corners as possible.  Once the top teams are satisfied that the cleanup is complete, they’ll start sending out their cars.  You’ll never see a McLaren, BWM or Ferrari hitting the track first during practice.  Bet you didn’t know that.  Ok, Hans, you knew that.

My new pro photog friend made a gesture with his eyes and head that indicated to me that I should turn around to see something interesting.  I was figuring it was going to be some inconceivably beautiful pitbabe, but to my amazement it was a smallish guy in his 50s with short grey hair.  It was none other than SpeedTV’s Peter Windsor!  Well, that was very cool.  He was standing with a few other SpeedTV guys chatting, so I decided this was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I went over to meet him.  We had a brief chat (he liked my camera equipment and said I must take great pictures).  I asked him who his money was on for this weekend, and he said as he pointed “that boy there”.  Lewis Hamilton was driving by in his shiny McLaren Mercedes.  Well, Peter Windsor favouring Lewis Hamilton is like Don Cherry favouring Doug Gilmore.  Anyhow, back to the action…

A few months ago, I got a Facebook notification from someone I went to University with.  It was a total surprise and wonderful news.  We were both going to be at the race, and were sitting 1 grandstand apart.  So we called each other and met up.  It’s always amazing to me how guys who haven’t seen each other in 20 years can just pick up where they left off.  We’re both a big bigger and greyer, but mostly the same too though.

After a few Bud’s with my long lost friend Andre and his brother in law, I headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner with Helen at the Ferreira Cafe on Peel Street.  It was an event hosted by the Ferrari Club of Ontario.  Dinner was really good, and the people we met were interesting.  But Crescent Street was calling me.  Just before we left the restaurant, Andre called me and said that they were coming back into town to “do Crescent Street”.  So we met up, and I drank too many Martinis and had a great (but way too expensive) cigar.  Another great night in Montreal.

So, that’s where I’ll wrap it up.  I have to get on to pictures and re-capping today’s Qualifying news.  Tonight, we’re at the BMW Sauber team dinner.  Helen and I think Nick Heidfeld will be there tonight.  He hasn’t been to any of the previous dinners, because he’s usually the “#1” driver who is higher on the grid.  Last year we met Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel.  I’m actually hoping Nick is there because I need to get his autograph on my M5 speeding ticket before I get it framed.  I’ll then have the autographs of the 3 drivers and the Team Principal.

mJm

Before I get into it, I must state up front that I’m breaking my promise of posting pictures tonight.  The truth is, I didn’t take any.  Really.

Tonight, we ate at La Queue de Chaval Steakhouse.  I did some research a few months ago looking for really good steak places.  This one was highly recommended.  We had 7:30pm reservations upstairs.  Before going to the restaurant, we went for a short walk up Peel Street to see the Ferraris.  Helen wasn’t enjoying the walk as much, because she was breaking in new shoes.  Ouch.

When we arrived at the Ferrari display, I was a bit shocked.  I know the Ferrari Club of Quebec uses this as a fund raiser by having sponsors pay to have their logo present with the cars, but it seemed to me they went a bit overboard.  There were sponsor logos all over every car.  It looked like corner-store NASCAR.  I’d much prefer some decent signage around the cars and leaving these works of automotive art alone.  It really ruins the pictures, and thus, I decided to not take any.  I spent a few minutes pointing out the differences between the 360 and 430, as well as the Challenge Stradale models.

So, appetite worked up, and off we went to dinner.

We were early, but our table was ready right away.  Awesome!  As we were seated, we met our waiter, who asked us where we were from, and if we were in town for the F1.  We mentioned to him that when we were walking to the restaurant, we passed the Sheraton, and saw a bunch of Honda-clothed folks.  He told us Honda was indeed staying there, and that the team dined here last night (including Button and Barrichello).  Wow!  He then pointed out the large table being set up down from us, and told us it was for the BMW team.  Double Wow!

So, we then reviewed the awesome menu.  They do things LARGE there.  Helen ordered a shrimp cocktail consisting of 2 shrimp.  They weighed about 11 lbs each, so they were filling.  I had the crab claws, which involved effort, but I needed the exercise.  As we finished our appetizer, I saw a familiar face walking towards me with some other guys.  It was my old friend Vitantonio Liuzzi.  He used to drive for Torro Rosso, but lost his seat, and is now testing for Force India.  A few minutes later, Giancarlo Fisichella joined him.  Neato!  Two drivers at the table next to us.  Our main course arrived (filet for Helen, Big Ass Hunk-o-Protein for me) in walks the ever-likeable Rubens Barrichello.  Bingo.  Of course, I’m Twittering this all madly, as Helen makes fun of me.  I point out that this is essentially notetaking for my blog, and she sees suddenly the utility of Twitter.

We’re finishing our main course, and then in comes Kwik Nick (though, not as Kwik as Kubica this year) Heidfeld, Robert Kubica and Christian Klien.  There’s also a group of Formula BMW kids with them and some folks who I assume are there to drive the important people around and pay the tab.

I was curious what these finely tuned 150lb athletes eat and drink.  Well, the Italians seemed to be enjoying some seafood and wine.  I couldn’t tell what Kubica/Heidfeld were eating, but from what I’ve read recently, Kubica doesn’t eat much, and feels hungry all the time.  Pretty crappy place to hang out if you’re hungry if you asked me.

There was one last Celebrity Spot – Justin Trudeau, son of the late Prime Minister.

Anyhow, we finished dinner and dessert and I escorted Helen to the Bar downstairs so I could be a great gentleman and go back to the hotel to pick up the car and meet her at the restaurant.  I wouldn’t last 5 steps in those shoes, but I suspect there’s charity money to be made in orchestrating that spectacle.  As I waited to cross the street, I saw that I was standing next to Christian Klein.  I said hi to him, and we crossed over together.  He was being picked up in a BMW SUV with Kubica inside.  Must be a party somewhere, or else Kubica couldn’t stand looking at my steak when all he eats is celery.

Quicker than you can say “Can I please have the bill for my champagne?” I was back.  Parked outside, looking quite dapper I think.  Helen hopped in, and off we went for a tour of Old Montreal.  I had a list of team hotels I wanted to check out/drive by.  Well, apparently there’s a Hotel St. James in West Montreal and it is NOTHING like the one in Old Montreal where Ferrari stays.  I knew we were in trouble when TomTom had me on 20W heading back to Toronto.  After a U-turn in a dodgy area, I got us back to Old Montreal.  I couldn’t (and more concerning, TomTom couldn’t) find the real St. James (it must be very exclusive).  But I did find the hotel where Red Bull was staying (it was dead, like it looked closed).  And we found the hotel where McLaren are staying.  It was pretty funny because when we turned the corner, I saw about 50 people just standing around across the street from the hotel.  Then I realized, they’re doing the same thing I am, only they’re more dedicated.  I’m willing to drive by and wave at a driver, but I ain’t gonna stand around waiting when there’s fun to be had in Montreal.  To each their own.

I’m all packed for tomorrow.  I have my luggage cart-thingy that will bear the load of my camera equipment this year.  It may rain, it may not.  I don’t care either way.  I have bags for my gear, and I’m not made of sugar.  I am going to try the sweet on-site parking that I scored through a club connection.

I’ll be watching Fisi’s practice times tomorrow with great interest.  If he had the Tiramisu then I’m sure he’s at least 3 tenths slower.

mJm

We have arrived in Montreal, and already the excitement that pervades the entire city for the F1 weekend is evident!  Our drive was pleasantly uneventful, and fun.  With the roof down for the last 2/3rds of it, we got our share of sunshine and fresh air.

Our checkin at the Marriott Chateau Champlain went smoothly.  I spoke to the valet/doorman and scored a primo parking spot in the valet section right in front of the hotel.  I also managed to get agreement on my self-parking in the valet section (that gives me in/out privileges).  It was either the money that exchanged hands, or the appreciation of cars that sealed the deal.

Our room is north facing on the 31st floor, and to my surprise and excitement, faces straight onto Peel Street, which today/tonight is hosting “Ferrari Night”.  There is a brilliant eleven on the road made up of over 30 beautiful Ferraris.  We’ll definitely be taking a look at that on our way to dinner.

After dinner, we’re going to drive around town, and try to stop off at some of the hotels in Old Montreal where we know Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull are staying.  I haven’t completed my recon for the other teams, but expect that to be done tonight.

I genuinely love this weekend.  F1 is a incredible mixture of sport, engineering, fashion, culture and passion.  It’s clear why it’s so popular with the many global sponsors that foot the bill for the extravegant costs involved in participating.  Which reminds me, I think I’ll have to get serious about a goal for myself involving starting a company that is successful enough to either have me sponsor a team, or dare I dream, own a team of my own!  There’s nothing wrong with letting the 40ish owner drive the car once in a while right?  And I have alot of friends who’d love a few laps too.

Anyhow, I’m pretty excited, and so is Helen.  She shows it differently.  Like right now, I’m gyrating between looking at the Ferraris out the window and updating my blog, while Helen is sleeping.  Ah, the fresh air, massive renovation, and 4 hours sleep last night must have gotten to her.  Well, she better rest up, because we’re partying like rock stars this weekend, and it’s going to be LOUD!

Next update will include some pix..I promise.

mJm

I went to bed around 2200 last night. I was pretty tired from all the wandering around London. My plans today were to wake up at a normal time, have breakfast, then hop in the Jetta and drive around. My only constraints are the replay of the F1 Qualifying in Malaysia at 1430 and a massage at 1700.

Well, I woke up initially at 0330 this morning. I managed to fall back asleep around 0530 after watching Star Trek TNG. The next thing I know, it’s 1100 and I realize my plans now need to change. I don’t have time to visit the McLaren factory in nearby Woking, much less visit my birthplace. But I have this nagging hesitation about visiting the site of my birth and the house I lived in. I don’t understand this feeling, but it’s been bothering me since I started plotting the trip.

In any event, I’ve headed down to the lobby bar to have lunch. The food in this hotel is quite bad. I’m looking forward to a decent meal in Bangalore at the 5 Star Oberoi Hotel.

Well, off to read the paper. I may take some pictures of this hotel and post them. It’s a typical airport hotel. The next time I have a layover in London, I am definitely going to stay in the city. There’s so much more to do. My flight leaves Heathrow at 1415 tomorrow, so my plans are to watch the F1 live, then head to the airport.

mJm


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!