All of Montréal revs up for the F1 Grand Prix

Jamie O'Meara

The Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada will roar back in Montréal again in 2018 and, as usual, brings with it a high-octane programme of activities and events both on and off the track. With tens of thousands of elite racing fans about to converge on the city, let the following help you get off to a great start enjoying yourself at this highly anticipated, annual motor racing extravaganza.

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A citywide adrenaline fest

As annual cultural calendar highlights go in Montréal, the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada, taking place from June 8 to 10, is one of the highest. While the actual race takes place at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve – located on Île Notre-Dame, part of Parc Jean-Drapeau, former site of the Expo 67 World’s Fair – ripples of Grand Prix activities (and excitement) spread out across Montréal at parties, street festivals and innumerable bars, restaurants and clubs for days leading up to the event. And, with an estimated 300 million people in 150 different countries watching the race broadcast, it’s the city’s yearly time to shine on the world stage.

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The race by the numbers

Number of laps: 70

Circuit Length: 4.361 km

Race Distance: 305.27 km

Maximum speed: 350 km/h

Number of turns on the circuit: 13 (including the infamous “Wall of Champions” that’s ruined many a racer’s day at lucky turn 13)

Safety car probability: 80%

Spectator capacity of Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve: 100,000

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The schedule at a glance

Friday, June 8: The racetrack opens to the public at 8 am and free F1 practice sessions take place from 10 to 11:30 am as well as from 2 to 3:30 pm. Ferrari Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and Formula Tour 1600 practice sessions will run throughout the rest of the day until 6:15 pm.

Saturday, June 9: The track opens its doors at 7:30 am and the last free F1 practice session takes place from 11 am to noon. Following that, there are F1 qualifying sessions from 2 to 3 pm and then races in the Ferrari Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and Formula Tour 1600 series concluding at 6:05 pm.

Sunday, June 10: The racetrack opens at 7:30 am and Ferrari Challenge, Porsche GT3 and Tour 1600 races run throughout the morning. At 12:30 pm, the F1 Drivers Parade takes place, and at precisely 2:10 pm the F1 Grand Prix du Canada will roar to life.

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Get into the zones

Apart from the action on the track, there are several areas dedicated to other types of diversion, beginning with the Family Zone: located near the Family Grandstand (which is free for children under 15), the Family Zone offers family-friendly activities. If you’re looking for an oasis of rest and relaxation, the Heineken Terrace is on the edge of the lagoon and offers visitors the perfect place to refresh. The Park & Cosmos Zone is packed with official merch booths, kiosks, activities and the Monster area, where acrobatic motocross exhibitions will keep things jumpin’. And the Beach Zone behind the podium is accessible to all ticket holders and offers its visitors DJs, beach games and a bar-terrace.

In MTL, Grand Prix is spelled p-a-r-t-y

For the nightlife-inclined, most – if not all – of Montréal’s major pubs and clubs have special Grand Prix events planned that tailor to celebrities, nightlife connoisseurs and the simply curious alike. Every year since 1999, the city’s hugely popular Crescent Street, a centrally located restaurant and nightclub hub, turns into a giant outdoor party courtesy of the Crescent Street Grand Prix Festival. Each night features live performances by top Canadian bands and DJs, while daytime programming is packed with driver appearances, autograph sessions, racing simulators, race car displays and the always-popular Pit Stop Challenge (see how fast you can change a tire, pit crew style). New this year, the festival will not only close Crescent Street, but de Maisonneuve Boulevard too, between Bishop Street and de la Montagne Street, allowing for more room and accessibility.

A few short blocks away, the annual Peel Formula event closes off downtown Peel Street for four days, June 7 to 10. Peel Street – renowned for its restaurants, popular clubs and high-end clothing boutiques – will be bumper-to-bumper with luxury cars, fashion shows, food kiosks, live performances and evening DJs, promising F1 fans tons of fun in a boisterous and swanky setting.

At the prestigious Ritz-Carlton Montréal, The Grand Prix Party will be held on June 8 and will feature "an exotic Sahara Middle Eastern sensuous vibe." On the menu: open Piper-Heidsieck champagne bar, food stations, late-night dessert stations, music by DJ YO-C, live performances, entertainment and open bar.

In Griffintown, head to New City Gas for Grand Prix Weekend, three nights of partying: on June 8, Hardwell and Kill The Buzz; on June 9, Nervo and Cheat Codes; and on June 10, Oliver Heldens, Sultan + Shepard and Frank Walter.

Check out this list for other parties going on this weekend:

Other awesome things to do nearby

Take full advantage of your time on Grand Prix weekend and check out some other notable places and spaces in close proximity to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. Walk around neighbouring Île Sainte-Hélène – site of the internationally renowned Osheaga, ÎleSoniq and Heavy Montréal music festivals – and take in some of the most beautiful views of the city going. Visit the Biosphère, Environment Museum, formerly the United States pavilion during Expo 67 and an architectural masterpiece. Climb the 157 steps of the historic, castle-like Tour de Lévis with its 360-degree view of the islands, the river, downtown Montréal and the surrounding areas, or go for more hair-raising kinds of thrills at the world-class La Ronde amusement park. And, of course, nestled in the heart of it all (actually inside the racetrack) is the spectacular Casino de Montréal, ready and able to satisfy all your food, drink and entertainment appetites.

Jamie O’Meara

Jamie O’Meara, blogger

Jamie O’Meara is a writer for The Montreal Gazette, C2 Montréal, Moment Factory and more. He also manages the PR Team at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and is the former Editor-in-Chief of alt-weekly newspaper HOUR Magazine.

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