Welcome to my first ‘Big PICture’ newsletter, a way of keeping you guys up to speed about what I do on a grand prix weekend when not sitting behind the wheel of my Caterham CT03.
I know it’s been over a week since the Canadian GP but so much happened during the race weekend that I wanted to start there before sending regular updates after each event. So here goes…
I know a lot of the drivers, team members and press enjoy visiting Montreal each year and I feel the same way. Firstly, I find the French culture and language helps me to settle in and feel at home faster. But that’s far from the only reason. There’s a great atmosphere in the city when the GP comes to town and everyone is really friendly.
There are some great places to visit, like Crescent Street and Sainte Catherine Street where the locals hold their Grand Prix Festival in the week leading up to the race. The roads are closed to traffic and pedestrianised, which helps to create a fantastic buzz in the city.
Montreal isn’t somewhere I had visited before racing there last year, but it’s quickly become one of my favourites on the calendar.
At a grand prix my ‘weekend’ actually begins on a Wednesday when most of the drivers are busy with some sort of event. For me in Canada this meant attending the FOTA Fan Forum with Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta and my compatriot Romain Grosjean.
Fans are vitally important because although as drivers we race for the team and ourselves, we are also competing for them. It’s actually something that’s really important to us.
The event took place in downtown Montreal where around 500 fans turned up. We signed autographs and took photos with them before heading on stage for interviews in English and French. The public had the chance to ask questions too.
For me, the opportunity to meet fans is always more fun when organised away from the circuit and before the weekend-proper. Otherwise there is a strict schedule to follow and many things swirling around inside your head, what with briefings, debriefings and team sponsor responsibilities, not to mention the main reason for actually being there: driving!
All of this means you have less time to spend with the fans who have made a special effort to turn up, which is why on this relaxed chance I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet everyone.
Meeting the X-men…
The new X-men movie, Days of Future Past, was being shot in Montreal at the same time as the GP and a few of the stars were invited by Caterham to attend the race. I met Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult during the weekend and while all of them were very friendly, I was also impressed that they had attended grands prix before.
They certainly knew the format and how things work. They were very happy to be there and it was great to meet them and have a chat.
If I’m honest I haven’t seen all of the X-men films but do like the superhero genre, amongst others. In fact the last film I saw at the cinema was Iron Man 3 in 3D, which was great!
Trying a Twizy with a twist!
As there was no grand prix last weekend I was invited to Saint Quentin near Paris to try Renault’s new road-going electric car, the Twizy Way, as well as its crazy cousin, the Twizy RSF1!
During the day we drove in a convoy of Twizys from town hall to town hall where something different had been organised with competition winners. A lot of people turned up to see what was going on and there was a great atmosphere.
We must have done that for two or three hours before stopping at the Renault Technocentre in Guyancour to have a couple of runs and pictures with the special RSF1 model.
For those who haven’t heard about this car, it’s a Twizy with Formula 1 technology, including a KERS unit to boost power, wings front and rear, and slick tyres! It was absolutely amazing and, as a concept car, I feel incredibly lucky to have driven it.
That’s it from me this week. Next up is Caterham’s second home race (after Malaysia) at Silverstone on June 30 where everyone in the team is confident of recovering from our Montreal blip.