Atlas F1

The Formula One Insider

by Mitchell McCann, U.S.A.

A FRENCH-CANADIAN BUMPER ISSUE

And you thought only NASCAR had bumpers.

There was a really good reason that there was no Insider column after the Canadian GP but its not nearly as good a reason as the one I made up. I was taken hostage by the jack-booted black-shirts that pass for security at the Montreal track and was forced to show my ticket to each and every one of them before they would let me leave. I protested that I had in fact already shown my ticket to each of them at least twice but they claimed that Jean-Claude hadn't gotten a really good look at it and Pierre just wanted to see it again for old time's sake.

Back on the English speaking (well almost) side of the border, I had time to ponder the unique experience that is the Montreal GP. As you may know, Montreal is the one GP that I attend each season and the fact that it's the one weekend each year that I get to spend without wife or kids has nothing to do with it. Some of my experiences may be common to each and every GP but I tend to think that it has more to do with the fact that it's set in a little island of Francophonism, that Villeneuve is amongst the field and that there are a very large number of Americans in attendance.

I continue to be amazed by the amount of stuff that people take with them to the track. I would be used to this by now if it weren't for the fact that each year people seem to take more and more. I swear I saw one guy who had taken his vehicle apart piece by piece, packed it in rucksacks and carried it three miles along the Pont de la Concorde presumably to ensure that he could listen to the radio and use the cigarette lighter should his Bic fail to function properly. (I think the vehicle in question was a Winnebago complete with Honda Civic on a trailer hitch).

There was however one category of pack-mule about whom I changed my mind. Walking into the track I was amazed at the number of people who were carrying their own awnings with them. Some of these awnings were big enough to have housed Barnum and Bailey. I could understand some people wishing to save a few bucks by bringing their own food and beer but it seemed somewhat ridiculous to insist on using your own shade. I thought the trees would do an adequate job. Apparently though, these were the smart people.

There is PLENTY of shade at the track but we peons are not allowed to use it. Every tree and shrub, not to mention some of the larger staff members, is fenced off and guarded by the aforementioned jack-booted black-shirted security guards. Clearly, Bernie has the shade concession. You need a paddock pass to sit in the shade. In an effort to start a popular uprising against this cruel and unusual punishment, I closed my eyes when the FIA logo came up on the big screen. That'll show him.

Last year I was bumped from my seat in Grandstand 11 at the first hairpin so I was very pleased to get back there this year especially as I knew that they had now banned General Admission plebes from the entire area around the first hairpin. (More on the subject of snobbishness later). This I figured would be a huge relief when it came to seeking relief. The porta-potties are so overworked at the track that each year after the race, Montreal builds a new island. (I believe their plan is to build a causeway between Quebec and France and at the current rate of 'output', this should be complete about two years before Ferrari wins a world championship).

But, getting back to my point, and I'm pretty sure I had one before I started talking shit, I assumed that the absence of the GA throngs from the hairpin area would halve the total number of people in the vicinity, meaning that it would be possible to line up for a leak during the Formula Ford race and still be out in time to see the checkered flag being waved at Jacques Villeneuve (although technically this has proved to be very do-able the last couple of years). I was to be sorely disappointed though. The number of people had indeed been halved but the number of porta-potties had been quartered. Clearly, Bernie does not have the porta-potty concession.

I WENT TO MONTREAL AND A CART RACE BROKE OUT

So hands up. Who's a snob? (I'll put my hand down now if you don't mind otherwise this column won't be ready until the end of the season).

Montreal produced the best race of the season to that point but, and like Roseanne wearing spandex it's a big but, much of the excitement was directly attributable to the fact that the safety car spent more time on the track than Jos Verstappen does in half a season (sorry, just getting some practice in for his imminent return). It seems that F1 feels that when in Rome it has to act like a Roman. Being North America, the safety car put in four appearances and presumably, being North America, received a point for leading the most laps. I figure Indianapolis 2000 will see the entire race run behind the pace car.

As something of an F1 snob (you can call yourself a purist if you prefer, a purist being a snob who refuses to admit it) I'm having a hard time savoring such an exciting race. Perhaps I need to change. Maybe I should start advocating full course yellows, rolling starts and occasional right turns.

Am I, in fact, a closet CART fan? More to the point, are Max and Bernie closet CART fans? Max wasted no time proclaiming what a great race this was and how it proved that there is no problem of any kind in F1 right now. I wonder if he even saw the safety car? Maybe we should just turn the whole thing over to Tony George. He's always wanted his own series and that IRL thing certainly doesn't count.

As for me, I'll be lobbying for a U.S. round of the BTCC.

THE RAIN IN SPAIN STAYS MAINLY IN FRANCE

And so we move fluidly (that's a joke not a good one but a joke nonetheless) from the most exciting race of the season at the time to the most exciting race of the season at this time. I'm sure this move from success to more success has Max planning another groove for next season but again this race does not prove that all is right in the world. Not unless we plan on running safety cars every time it doesn't rain. I did thoroughly enjoy this race even if qualifying was something of a lottery and the race was decided on the pit wall instead of in the pit box. You've got to be happy for guys like Barrichello, Frentzen, Jackie Stewart and Eddie Jordan but you've got to wonder what peculiar alignment of the stars has plighted Alesi since he stepped into a Formula One car. But the rain giveth and the rain taketh away.

But I shouldn't get too down on this race. The conditions were the same for everybody and this race gave us everything close racing and passes, tension, excitement, an unexpected winner, an unexpected anthem, the safety car.

HILL ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

Following the French GP, Damon Hill announced that he will be retiring sooner or later, if not before... or after. I thought he had already retired but apparently not. It seems Benson & Hedges have 'persuaded' Hill to race at Silverstone and he will then be replaced, quite possibly by Verstappen, for the rest of the season.

As a Hill fan, it'll be sad to see the end of him but the time has certainly come. It'll be very interesting if Verstappen does get the seat as Holland, and the rest of the world, will finally have the chance to judge him in a decent car against a decent teammate. And possibly for the first time ever, the Verstappen fan club and I find ourselves in complete agreement as we await anxiously for Jos to prove that we were right all along.


Mitch McCann© 1999 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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