Canadian Grand Prix: Formula 1 Racing in the Heart of Montreal
Although the race takes center stage and everyone’s attention turns to the elite F-1 drivers racing 70 laps around the city’s track on race day, Grand Prix weekend transforms Montreal as the jet set and race enthusiasts storm the city for a three day celebration that offers 24/7 entertainment both on and off the track. Canada has a long history with the Grand Prix, hosting its first official race in 1967 when it first joined the F-1 calendar. Initially the event rotated between English and French-speaking Canada, being held in Ontario-based Mosport Park and Quebec-based Mont-Tremblant. Due to the danger of the Mont-Tremblant track, the race was permanently held in Ontario before finding its eventual home in Montreal in 1978. The race was not held in 1987 as a result of a sponsorship dispute between Molson and Labatt and again in 2009 when it was dropped from the F-1 calendar, which also marked the first time the F-1 calendar did not hold a North American race in over fifty years. 2010 marked the official return of the Grand Prix to Montreal at the famed Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, named for the beloved Quebec born F-1 champion, who raced for Ferrari for the majority of his career before dying in a crash during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982.
Along with its storied history, visitors to the city during Grand Prix weekend also get to enjoy non-stop entertainment throughout the city for the race weekend. The popular downtown streets of rue Peel and rue Crescent are restricted to only pedestrian traffic. The local cafes, bars and restaurants all take advantage of the festival atmosphere by setting up pop-up terraces in the streets. Additionally, race sponsors display cars for visitors to see up close and promotional race events, such as contests to change a race car tire, are in full swing. Live music fills the streets day and night allowing crowds to enjoy every minute of the summer festival atmosphere. It is also common for world famous musical acts and DJ’s to hold performances around the city leading up to and during the big weekend.
On race day, general admission visitors are free to roam around the track and find their desired spot behind the catch fences to watch the F-1 cars zoom around the track at speeds around 200 mph. Ear plugs are a necessity if you plan to get close to the action and a radio if you want to hear the race called while watching the cars zip by in a blur before your eyes.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve-Parc Jean Drapeau, Île Notre-Dame
Held Annually: July