Canadian GP eyewitness report

Part I - The Race! We arrive at the track at 1:00 p.m., and it is very crowded getting through the turnstiles. I bought our bronze 34 tickets last December and I'm glad as it appears that the grandstands are sold out. We are in our seats by...

Part I - The Race!

We arrive at the track at 1:00 p.m., and it is very crowded getting through the turnstiles. I bought our bronze 34 tickets last December and I'm glad as it appears that the grandstands are sold out. We are in our seats by 1:15 and have time to chat with an r.a.s.f1 bloke sitting a few seats away from us and to eat our lunch.

The cars start lapping the track at about 1:40. The aren't as loud as last year and I don't hear the very loud bang during the gearchanges that I noticed in 1993. Blundell spins right by our grandstand and I watch as the marshals try to push his car. It seems to be locked in gear and it takes a lot of effort to move it just a few feet. Blundell runs off back to the pits. He, like every driver who parked their cars here is escorted by two burly security men for their trip back to safety in the pitlane.

Finally the grid is formed and they do the parade lap. Blundell is in the spare car. We can see the start on the big screen behind us and fortunately everyone is through the first corner, in grid order. However, going into the hairpin Hakkinen loses it and t-bones Herbert. The rest of the pack makes it through okay and the marshals move in to clear up the mess. Herbert's car is easy to push to the inside of the corner, but Hakkinen's takes more effort. He has to beat a hasty retreat as the pack comes through on the second lap, but by the third lap all is clear. Herbert doesn't come close enough for us to see his expression.

The race is still in grid order for the leaders until Coulthard spins, which I see on the big screen, but Alesi makes a fine opportunist pass on Berger as Coulthard pirouettes in front of them. It soon becomes clear that Hill is holding up the Ferraris while Schumacher makes a break. Also, the rest of the pack behind the first four is well behind and the Fortis are lapped very soon.

After Alesi gets past Hill I start to time the gap between Schumacher and Alesi. It is very consistent at about 12 seconds until shortly before Alesi's pit stop, when I guess his tires are starting to go off.

Then the action heats up as Berger runs out of gas and is well behind. He is lapped by Schumacher. Schumacher's pit stop seems very late to me and very quick. It is incredible how fast he was during the opening laps with I assume a heavier fuel load than the others especially the Williams cars. I don't know about the Ferraris as I know they use more fuel, so perhaps they had a full load on as well.

Meanwhile, the Jordans look like they are attached by a rope - the gap between them is so consistent, lap after lap. I read later on r.a.s.f1 that they were under team orders not to fight for position, so perhaps Irvine could have got through. He maintained his position however, and obeyed orders for a fine finish for the team.

When Schumacher slows down the crowd rise to their feet. No matter whose t-shirt or hat they are wearing or which flag they are waving, they are all very excited at the prospect of a first win for Alesi. First wins are probably the rarest of events in Formula One, and the rare combination of a number 27 Ferrari containing a fiery driver in the mould of a Gilles Villeneuve is enough to get the Montreal crowd in a frenzy of excitement.

I desperately want to know how many laps are left in the race, but the I can't find it in the program! Arghh! However, the couple in front of me know and are holding up their hands every time Alesi passes us, displaying with their fingers the number of laps left. Everyone is screaming when he goes past, standing up and waving frantically. The countdown is on!

Meanwhile, Schumacher is back on the track and putting on a real show, storming around the corners in an effort to get back into the points. Berger helps him in his quest by taking out Brundle. This doesn't bother me too much as it means thereis no possible way for Brundle to take out Alesi.

The finish is spectacular and I'm overwhelmed with emotion, almost in tears. I've been an Alesi fan since his terrific race at Phoenix in the Tyrrell, leading the first 30 or laps from Senna, and the great battle they had that day. I've always admired his great spirit and sportsmanlike conduct on the track, and his great loyalty to the Ferrari team. This win was long overdue!

Then we have the great pleasure of seeing him on the cool down lap. I see him drive down towards the hairpin, very slowly, waving to the crowd. He stops and waves with both arms, then sits down again and I could tell the engine has died. He leaps out and waves at us, his tremendous joy apparent to all of us. Fortunately for him Schumacher arrives on the scene and stops and picks him up - a few fans have invaded the track and I'm afraid that if Alesi had stayed there he'd have been mobbed.

Riding on the back of the Benetton Alesi hangs onto the airbox and waves at us, standing on the sidepods astride the engine. The crowd is going bonkers, screaming and yelling! The grandstand starts to sway and I am worried it is going to collapse! Finally he is out of sight and we all prepare to head for the pits!

Part II - Pitlane Pandemonium

The pits are very crowded. I don't think we've ever made it to the pits so soon after the finish before and I'm amazed at the number of people. Parc Ferme is now at the entrance end of the pits instead of just after the podium. This adds to the crush as people leaving the pits to go home have to climb the pit wall to get out. We spend some time admiring the cars - we can see the winning Ferrari of Jean Alesi, Hill's Williams, Irvine's Jordan. Roberto Moreno shows up and starts to check out the competition's cars!

The security guys are very nice and get out of the way when Mike wants to take pictures. He gets plenty of #27 before it is pushed into a garage to be checked. This is also new, they usually scrutineer them out in the open. After each car is checked it has to be pushed through the crowd to the team garage. Cars are also brought through on tow trucks. The tow truck drivers have to be very assertive and bull their way through the throng, blowing whistles to get the crowd's attention. Nobody is beaned by a front wing or a wheel though, the crowd is very cooperative.

We sit for a while on the railing waiting for the crowd to thin. The crowd in front of the Ferrari garages is very boisterous. There is also a crush of people in front of the Jordan pit. When things calm down it is almost five and we decide to check out the action in the garages.

The Williams team has been starting the cars. It is nice to hear them at idle and being revved up, not just as they sound while being raced. It is music to my ears, I wish my Rabbit sounded that crisp. Most of the teams still have their doors open and we can see the mechanics tearing the cars down and packing them for shipment home. It is interesting to see the cars without the rear body work, noses and wheels. Many of the seats are held in with double sided tape. A lot of the mechanics are eating sandwiches, probably the first meal they've had all day!

We go to the Jordan pit and the crowd spots Eddie Jordan! He responds to our calls and comes out and takes a bow! Another team owner I see is Ken Tyrrell, mucking in with the rest of his crew packing for the trip home.

I see a guy making off with a wheel - I wonder if security stopped him from leaving the park. Another trophy was a Benetton team banner that someone managed to get! I'd have love to get the posters of Alesi and Berger up in the Ferrari garage, I wonder what they do with them at the end of the day.

On our return to the Jordan pit we see Barrichello being interviewed by a TV crew. We manage to get him out to sign a few autographs, but things get a little out of hand and the garage door is slammed shut. A mechanic pleads with us to back up and let them get some work done.

Mike notices that a lot of the equipment is made of a composite material - the stands for the airhoses, the moulding around the monitors, even the bases for the posts for roping off the garages.

When it is almost six we decide to head home. It is always very anticlimactic sitting in the car eating our sandwiches before the drive home. We spot two Ferraris and a Porsche on our way out of Montreal.


-- Stephanie Coulshaw Forza Alesi! Ottawa, Canada

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jean Alesi , Eddie Jordan , Roberto Moreno , Gilles Villeneuve
Teams Ferrari , Williams , Benetton , Jordan