Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Vettel claims 50th F1 victory, never challenged in Montreal

Sebastian Vettel dominated Sunday's Montreal Grand Prix from start to checkered flag, giving Ferrari its first Canadian victory since the great Michael Schumacher claimed the prize in 2004, and giving Vettel his 50th F1 victory in his storied career.

Seb Vettel was a blur all race long in his very quick Ferrari

While Vettel's performance left his second place rival Valtteri Bottas chasing him all day in the Mercedes, the overall results spell a larger problem for Formula 1. Just as transpired in Monaco two weeks ago, the car in pole position won the race. More troubling than that, starting positions one through three finished one through three in both races. This is what Sam on the YouTube channel Seen Through Glass calls "processional Formula 1," the cars form up in a line and then process all the way through to the finish line in exactly that order. While there is always inherent drama in watching human beings race, whether they are on foot, driving a car or riding on horseback, it nevertheless represents a big problem when the starting position gives a very good indication of the finishing position. I doubt the efforts of the Formula One's governing body will change this. Races will remain techno-fests, pitting team strategists and their crews against each other while wringing happenstance and chance largely out of the sport. The old world attraction of motorsport, the daredevilry of the drivers combined with the ferocity of the machines, fades from view, replaced by computer simulations and spreadsheets.

Perfect conditions for a Formula 1 event

Montreal as a venue gets a mixed review. The city is a wonderful blend of North American and French, with beautiful architecture in the old city and a vibrant and multicultural street life throughout. The track however leaves much to be desired. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is undergoing renovations long overdue. Located on an island in the St. Lawrence river and the location for 1976 Summer Olympics, Parc Jean-Drapeau felt worn and neglected when I visited a few years ago. Like many North American cities, Montreal is reclaiming its waterfront and has committed a large investment in redoing the park. Because work is still underway, fans at this year's event were herded like cattle onto paths that could not handle the capacity. The end result -- it took over one hour to walk the half mile from the track back to the Metro stop to get back into the city. I shudder to think what would have happened if there had been an incident of any kind, terrorist or otherwise. The results would have been very dire indeed. As it was, the wait was insufferable. Race fans began to scream at police to open up the other half of the bridge that had been restricted for auto use, leading many to wonder if we were about to witness a second French Revolution. This is an odd case where the race organizers may have overorganized. Regardless, they have to get a better handle on this next time, or as one Montrealer told me, "the city deserves to lose it," meaning Montreal would no longer host. I wouldn't go that far, but the gent had a point.

Like the exodus out of Egypt, we marched ...

and marched

and marched.