It’s like you’re living inside one of those magazines you see at airports.
That carnival atmosphere is amplified at the track itself. On practice days and race day, I’m ferried to the circuit in freshly hatched Infiniti QX80s by drivers who look like they moonlight in the presidential security detail. We’re dropped off beside the track at the – of course – Montreal Casino, a structure so hideously busy – the eye doesn’t know where to focus – it’s like it was built to be seen drunk. We cross covered bridges to the Renault Suite in the F1 Paddock Club. The suites sit atop “garages” so pristine you could perform operations.
Life is sweet in the Renault Suite. Champagne, fine foods and beautiful people are everywhere. Cheers! The ambience is chill dance club cum uptown bistro. 2016 marks the first year Infiniti and Renault’s well-established strategic partnership has seen genuine collaboration. Infiniti is directly involved in the development of hybrid technology to boost the performance of the Renault F1 car. Plus they’ve expanded the Infiniti Engineering Academy, a global talent search for young engineering students to work for a year in Renault Sport F1 and ultimately apply useful new knowledge in Infiniti automotive.
Oh, yes, there’s also racing! First, more champagne.
The concept of joie de vivre was invented by the French but the Quebecois have elevated it to what Republicans would disdain as a lifestyle choice. The extra exuberance and ubiquitous bon-homie during race weekend may have something to do with the tenuous nature of the event. Dance while you can. Montrealers behave like the party will go on forever but know it could evaporate like that. It all comes down pretty much to the whims of one man.
If Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Stephen Harper had a baby, it’d be Bernie Ecclestone.
Despite its reach and clout, Formula 1 is, at least practically speaking, a family business. As with most families it is highly dysfunctional. The don, Bernie Ecclestone, apparent inspiration for Tywin Lannister, is continually screaming for more money from all quarters. Always there’s the barely veiled threat to relocate his race and surrounding carnival to some stifling emirate where the local government knows how to treat a monopolist properly.
Just last week though, current Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said that the future of the F1 in Montreal is secure, despite looming deadlines for millions. A graduate of federal politics and Canada’s former Secretary of State for Amateur Sport, Coderre knows how the game is played. “There’s no problem,” he said and added, “it’s taxpayers’ money … and it takes a few months.”
Such swagger is worthy of the great Jean Drapeau himself!
Your average partier on Crescent Street is probably less confident though. Indeed, the perennial unsteady iffy-ness of Montreal’s F1 weekends remains an apt metaphor for life. Enjoy it while you have it because, come tomorrow, all belts could be off.