Your clients live life in the fast-paced worlds of business and finance, so treat a lucky few to the rubber-melting speed of a Formula One race.
Not all North Americans are familiar with the 65-year-old motor sport, but its following is international: more than 400 million people in 150 countries watch every year. The draw? Drama at 320 kilometres per hour.
Taking your clients doesn’t necessarily mean trekking across the globe. Formula One’s Canadian Grand Prix is in Montreal every June. It’s a highlight of the season, as events pack streets and grand ballrooms alike. Here’s how to host clients without a bump in the road.
Tickets can be purchased on Formula One’s website about 10 months in advance of the race. The best often sell out, so buy before doing other planning. Then, study the course and pick a grandstand near a corner or chicane, suggests advisor Brian Adams, president of Ecivda Financial Group in Ottawa, Ont. Corners are where the action happens, as that’s where drivers have the best chance to pass opponents.
“A chicane is even better,” he explains. (For what that is, and other F1 terms, see “Cheat sheet.”)
In the 1970s, Adams watched from a different vantage point—at track level while marshaling races. He volunteered at the Canadian Race Communications Association, waving the flags used to signal drivers about course conditions, and administering aid at crashes.
Wherever you sit, there are two types of tickets: race day only, or three-day passes, which also grant access to practice and qualifying sessions. Montreal prices start at $140 per person for the race, going up to $575 per person for a Friday to Sunday pass in the main grandstand. There are also corporate suites, though details and bookings aren’t available until closer to race day.
Where to stay
Unlike some races, which are in remote locations, Montreal has plenty of hotel options. To be close to the racetrack, find a place downtown or in Old Montreal, says Hugo Leclerc, a spokesperson for Tourism Montreal.
The Ritz-Carlton is well located, he says, and so is the soon-to-be-opened Hôtel Mount Stephen. Hotel Le St-James hosts celebrities and Grand Prix-related events, says Leclerc. He says prices rise closer to race weekend, and many places fill up. Book as soon as you buy your race tickets.
Drivers arrive the Thursday before the race. Friday, they practice. The qualifying round occurs Saturday, when drivers each drive laps; their best time determines their starting places on Sunday—the main race.
Qualifying and practice laps aren’t as interesting as the race because drivers are on the track alone, says Adams. But there are other incentives to go on the off days: other leagues run races, and they can be dramatic.
“Grand Prix drivers don’t make a lot of mistakes,” says Adams, “[But] with a Formula Ford group, for instance, you’re going to see everything. You’re going to see them four-[across] trying to take the lead. It’s crazy.”
There’s no need to be at the track all weekend to get your F1 fix. In Montreal, there are free events city-wide. On Crescent Street, events include driver appearances, concerts and luxury car displays. Other activities are usually announced in the weeks leading up to the race, says Leclerc.
There are also galas with well-known drivers as guests of honour. A highlight is Le Grand Soir, which raises money for a Montreal food bank and Sacré Coeur Hospital. Tickets are $1,000 per person for cocktails, dinner and a concert. Past guests have included hockey player P.K. Subban, Montreal mayor Denis Coderre and F1 drivers themselves.
The Ritz-Carlton also hosts an annual race gala, and former F1 driver David Coulthard was guest of honour in 2015. Tickets cost $295 to $395 a person, and the event included live music, food and an open champagne bar.
The grounds at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Ile-Notre Dame open early in the morning. The race is usually at 2:00 p.m., but it’s best to go hours ahead to avoid traffic. Many take the Metro, says Leclerc, but consider hiring a chauffeured car (starting at $200 for two hours).
When you arrive, teams will be making last-minute adjustments to the car and the other leagues will be running final races, says Adams.
If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the drivers, who may be at their teams’ merchandise booths or in the paddock, where cars are kept. If you run into Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg—two of the best racers—don’t expect more than a polite wave or smile. They’re trying to focus before the race, says Adams.
Once seated, you’ll see the F1 drivers’ parade and opening ceremonies. The green light indicates a warm-up lap, and the race starts when all five red lights turn off.
The roar of the engines is loud, so bring earplugs. If there’s a lull in the action, tell guests about how difficult conditions are for drivers. Adams reminds people that, with each turn, Formula One drivers are experiencing g-forces three to five times higher than normal. Drivers also lose 10 to 20 pounds during the 2-hour race because of how hot it is in the cockpit, he says.
To get more out of the spectacle, bring a portable radio and earphones to tune into race commentary. Adams suggests buying a race program, which will have car numbers and pictures, to help you follow along. He says not to bother with binoculars, because you won’t be able to see more than the immediate section of the track from your seat anyways. Instead, sit further up to be safer and to see better.
The Montreal course is known for its difficult turns, which can cause collisions and intensify competition. So Adams says to be alert if you’re near the track. “If two cars collide […] there can be metal and fuel going all over the place,” he explains.
When the race is over, be patient, says Leclerc: about 100,000 other spectators are trying to leave, too. Unlike at other tracks, you can’t take a helicopter back into town. So, if you plan to take clients to dinner, budget extra time to get to the restaurant.
The combination of international glamour, cutting-edge engineering and Montreal hospitality should make for an unforgettable weekend. Before it’s over, your clients may ask which race you’re all going to next year.
Cheat Sheet: Sound like an F1 pro
Chicane: a part of the track that features a sequence of tight corners in alternating directions.
Formation lap: A lap before the start of the race when drivers get into starting order and warm up their tires.
Lollipop: The horizontal stop sign a pit crew member holds in front of the car during a pit stop. It tells the driver which gear the car should be in.
Pits: The area to the side of the track, where teams’ mechanics are ready to refuel and repair the car.
Pole position: The first place in the starting grid, earned by the driver with the fastest qualifying time.
Source: Formula One