The future is knocking at the Canadian Grand Prix this year, with two Canadians under 21 in the paddock, and 18 year old Max Verstappen arriving in Montreal as the youngest Grand Prix winner ever.
The young Canadians
It’s been a decade since a Canadian last raced in Formula One. Now, not one, but two Canadians are on the verge of bringing the Maple Leaf back to the Grand Prix in a big way. Both will be at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 12th, though not yet in the seat of a Formula One car. 20 year old Nicholas Lafiti from Toronto is now a test driver with Renault’s F1 team. Lafiti’s currently racing in the GP2 series so he will be in the paddock, not in the driver’s seat. The other Canadian at the race is even younger – 17 year old Lance Stroll, of Montreal, a member of the Williams F1 team’s young driver development program.
Not allowed - yet
Stroll currently leads in the European Formula 3 standings. We know for sure he won’t be on the Canadian track this year – As thestar.com put it: “drivers under 18 are not allowed to get in the F1 car and take practice laps.” But the driver most people will be watching just barely beats that age limit.
To the Max
18 year old Max Verstappen is the Next Big Thing in Formula 1. Even the chairman of the rival Mercedes-AMG-Petronas team, Niki Lauda, called Verstappen “The talent of the century” after Verstappen capitalized on a dramatic collision at the Spanish Grand Prix May 15th to post his first career Formula One victory. Verstappen was already the youngest driver ever to compete at this elite level. (Lauda knows what he’s talking about – he was Formula One World Champion three times during his long career as a driver.)
In the blood
Fast cars are in Verstappen’s blood – his father, Jos Verstappen, raced between 1994 and 2003 participating in more than 100 Grand Prix races, and despite having no wins was the most successful Dutch driver until his son’s victory on May 15th. The father was fast – the son even faster!
Unique track, rich history
The Canadian Grand Prix is the only Grand Prix race held on an artificial island. The Île Notre Dame where Circuit Gilles Villeneuve sits was built with the fill dug out to make way for Montreal’s subway system. The Circuit has seen 6 drivers celebrate their first wins, from Gilles Villeneuve in 1978, (when it was called the Île Notre Dame Circuit) to Daniel Ricciardo in 2014. The race hasn’t always been held there – in 1968 and 1970 the Formula One cars raced at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant/Saint Jovite, and for a total of 8 years, it was held at Mosport in Ontario. The track is, of course, now named for the late legendary Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve, whom the BBC ranked one of the 20 greatest Formula One drivers of all time.
Hot weekend ticket
Business should be brisk in Montreal the weekend of the race – The Montreal Gazette reports that 2015 saw an increase in the number of fans at the track, and ticket sales in 2016 are ahead of last year’s pace. Prices range from a one day General Admission at C$46 to the 3 day VIP Package in the Elite Restaurant at C$3260. If the past is any preview, the spending will go well beyond the track. Last year, the Montreal Gazette called the race “a spending bonanza for the city”, noting a C$90 Million benefit to the economy and a 300% increase in sales for the GP weekend on Crescent St. With future legends like Verstappen, Lafiti and Stroll represented on the track and in the paddock this year, as well as veterans like Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen, and Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, it’s no wonder.
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