Adam Rosales made the most of his first visit to the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. Read all about his trip and find out why he’s planning to return this year!
- Images & Videos © Adam Rosales
- The 2023 Canadian Prix takes place on June 16-18. Tickets are still available.
- Read our Canadian Grand Prix Travel Guide
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is situated on Notre-Dame Island right near downtown Montreal. Even though it’s technically a street circuit, it’s been around for over 40 years and has basically cemented itself on the Formula 1 calendar as one of the longest lasting races in North America. The Canadian Grand Prix provides a “Kick-Start to Summer” every year in Montreal but it doesn’t always provide the expected warm conditions. The incredibly wet 2011 race comes to mind, which is why there is now a 2-hour time limit once races start. Jenson Button won the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix in over 4 hours (including a 2 hour red flag), completing five pit stops and one drive through penalty before passing Vettel on the last lap for victory.
Living in North America, the Canadian Grand Prix is one of the only races that has always taken place during normal hours for me. It was always on my list of races to attend since it’s usually a great race at an old school circuit that’s well connected to the city by public transport. In November 2019, my wife bought tickets for the 2020 race as a birthday gift. I was incredibly excited to finally make the trek but the world took a big turn that year. The circuit offered options to roll over tickets to 2021. The race was cancelled again, so I rolled over my tickets to 2022. During these couple of years, F1 has skyrocketed in popularity which makes these tickets very hard to secure. The circuit also offers ticket renewals if purchased direct, which is a big reason why tickets have been hard to buy for the past few seasons.
We had a big year last year with several races planned but Montreal is a somewhat domestic trip for us so we planned a fairly quick trip. There has been a brewery I’ve always wanted to visit which is located in a remote area of Vermont called Hill Farmstead Brewery. We planned on flying to Boston, renting a car and driving north through Vermont to Montreal. This was both to save some money since flights directly to Montreal can be just as expensive as flying to Europe from Texas and being able to finally make the trip to Hill Farmstead.
Unfortunately, the weather that week shut down a majority of flights to the east coast. Our original flight on Wednesday evening was canceled, and we were rebooked for a Thursday morning flight. Due to this, our reservation at Hill Farmstead would go unused and a bucket list stop was no longer part of the itinerary. On Thursday morning, when we were about to board our first flight, our connecting flight was canceled too. There was no official notification, luckily I had kept refreshing my Delta Airlines app and had noticed, So now we were now in a weird situation of whether we should board the plane to Cincinnati or not. I spoke to the gate agent as soon as I noticed and she was able to get us on a connection via Detroit instead of Cincinnati with an arrival to Hartford, Connecticut (instead of Boston).
Once we landed in Detroit, we were able to change our rental car but had already lost out on the hotel we had reserved in Boston the night before, as it was a non-refundable booking. While waiting in Detroit, the majority of flights to the East Coast were still being canceled. We thought about changing our plans again and renting a car to drive the ten hours from Detroit to Montreal.
But it turned out that Detroit Airport was short staffed and they could not retrieve our checked bags. So we went back through security and rolled the dice on our flight. Luckily, our flight to Boston was one of the few to take off for the East Coast that night. We landed in Boston on Thursday night at 11:50pm, picked up the rental car and just started driving. We found a random hotel in New Hampshire around 2:00 am for $270 per night. It was a nice place but we didn’t get to enjoy it much. As we were loading the car early in the morning, I noticed a giant scrape which looked like somebody had tried to break into the car overnight. This trip seemed like it was not meant to happen. We continued our drive, stopping for some coffee and breakfast in a small town along the way. It rained for the rest of the drive to Montreal. It was about a 4-hour drive from our hotel and it was now Saturday.
We arrived in Montreal in the early afternoon. We checked into the Airbnb and then I headed straight for the Metro station nearby. It was a bit busy, but it was very easy to purchase a ticket and ride to Parc Jean-Drapeau. By this time, it was less than an hour before qualifying started. After exiting the Metro, I found some vendors and got myself a cold White Claw to kick off the race weekend. Even though it was still raining a little, crowds and vendors were still a-plenty. I found a shuttle from the Metro to the Casino, which I knew would save some time (20 minutes of walking) compared to walking to Grandstand 11. Once I exited the shuttle at the casino, there was an entrance near the last straight before the Wall of Champions (final turn). Security was easy but I also was not carrying a bag. Once inside the circuit, it’s laid out with some narrow but paved concrete paths. Along the concrete was mud and some standing water. Foot traffic moved very slowly in some sections, mostly due to the narrow paths but the mud and standing water didn’t help. Being solo and not very mindful of my shoes, I was able to maneuver myself briskly through the crowds to Grandstand 11. I arrived at my seat 2 minutes before qualifying started. The trek from the Metro took me about 30 minutes, I wouldn’t have been able to pull that off if my wife was with me (without being yelled at). On the way to this section, you have to cross a bridge about halfway between Turns 2 and 3. To cross, there was a ticket check by the event staff.
After crossing the bridge, there are vendors and portable toilets. The lines were a bit intimidating if you’re short on time like I was. The vendors consist of basic event food such as burgers, sandwiches, coffee and drinks. I did notice some vegan and vegetarian options which would come in handy for my wife on Sunday, when she would be joining me.
Once qualifying was over, I wandered back towards the Metro stop but instead of taking that, I had pre-booked some tickets for the Ferry. It’s located near the metro but a separate area with a dock at Parc Jean-Drapeau Ferry Terminal. The departures are timed with an explanation to arrive and check-in about 15 minutes prior to departing. I gave myself about an hour and a half after qualifying before the scheduled departure. This buffer was for the 40+ minute walk from Grandstand 11 as well as any possible red flags that would have delayed the session.
I was joined by my wife and we took the ferry from Old Port to Parc Jean-Drapeau. This was booked in advance via Navettes Fluviales, costing $11 CAD for a return ticket with scheduled departures. The 5-minute ride to the island was a literal breeze. It was wide open and chilly with the wind. Great views and not anywhere near as packed as the metro. The ferry docked about a 5-minute walk from the Metro. Thanks to my experience on Saturday, I was able to plan and take the shuttle from the Metro to the Casino. There was more security on Sunday but it was still fairly easy. Once inside, the walk to the beach zone was definitely more crowded but since we arrived early (finally something we planned for happened!) and lounged out in the glorious weather we initially expected, eating from the various food trucks and drinking a few beers before the drivers parade. The beach zone, located infield of the Turn 1 sector is a great spot with a lot of vendors and chairs scattered about with a giant screen to watch the drivers parade and support races. This is an openly accessible area to anybody within the circuit grounds, it’s just before the bridge to cross to the Grandstand 11 and 12 area.
Grandstand 11: Section 2, Row T
I was able to buy Section 2, Row T aisle seats (aisle shared with section 3) in 2019. We could see a little bit of the final chicane (Wall of Champions) and half the pit straight, through the Turn 2 exit to the approach of Turn 3. There are two screens, one by pit exit next to Grandstand 12 and another on the left at the infield by the barriers, across by the exit of Turn 2. There is no shade so I was in the rain on Saturday and we were in the sun on Sunday. It helps to travel with a rain jacket and sunscreen, to be prepared either way. This section gets pretty windy breezes up high, some people’s hats flew off on occasion as the wind gusted.
Grandstand 11 offered normal bleacher seating that kind of gave you a sore back and bum; a lot of people had brought along bleacher seats/cushions. The guy ahead of me had one that took up about 1/3 of my foot space. I’m 6’3” so it was pretty annoying, which is why it helps to be mindful of your cushion size if you opt to take one. But that’s why I got an aisle seat. I was able to just sit sideways and have my feet on the stairs. He was a friendly guy, we spoke a lot before the race. So I didn’t mind really. Bleachers are just small in general for me. Regardless of the limited space, I feel like it’s definitely worth the cramps. The view from this section is incredible. You can see the cars fly down to Turn 1, hard braking and some overtaking. The pit exit feeds into Turn 2, and this is where Yuki Tsunoda crashed into the wall just below my section due to cold tires after a pit stop.
There are the usual amenities at this end of the circuit; portable bathrooms, food vendors and drink vendors. There are some drink vendors in your section walking up and down that also sell beer and water. If you wave to get some attention, somebody will come to your aisle and the crowd will pass down your drink or money, so there is no stress of having to squeeze through your row. The crowds are very friendly and also very lively to all the action. Seat neighbors are definitely willing to talk and share stories. Many people here are locals who have been going to this race for several years like my neighbors who had been to the previous seven editions of the race.
Both days, once the track sessions are over at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve it was a long walk back to the Metro station. Lots of narrow paths and slow moving crowds. When returning, I didn’t try to get the shuttle from the Casino to the Metro. The walk took about 50 minutes on Saturday and probably the same on Sunday after cutting through to the Main Straight for the track invasion and podium ceremony.
The circuit opened just after the safety car went by. It was very soon after the race had ended. Our section opened at the T2 exit, where there is a recovery area and large gate. We walked down right in line with the start/finish line. I think the track invasion helped the overall exit of the event so everyone doesn’t have to be stuck on the bridge to get back across the track and to the beach zone. As I got onto the circuit, people were climbing down the front of the stands and climbing through holes in the fence intended for flaggers/marshals and cameras. It seemed a bit chaotic but there were no event staff saying it wasn’t allowed. It was a bit of a free-for-all to get onto the circuit. It was a great experience to get to see the podium. We didn’t run and made it to the podium area at the start of the interviews, got to see the anthems and champagne spray in the celebratory confetti.
It’s all portables behind the grandstands. There were no sinks to wash hands, they had some empty looking sanitizer in the units but I had my own along with some wet sanitizing wipes I brought. The men’s urinals definitely helped the lines move, as they allow four people to access at once.
You are allowed to bring food in to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, which is fantastic. Drinks are allowed as well, just no alcohol. We didn’t plan very well since we arrived late and only took some chips, trail mix and water. Once inside at the beach zone, we found a vegan food stall. We got a pre-packed salad for $11 CAD. Priced very well for a large event, especially a healthy option. It’s refreshing to see something that isn’t fried or a hot dog, my wife loved it. It’s always a primary complaint at races. For example, we usually have to sneak in fruit to COTA because they mostly sell overpriced fried meat and carnival style food. After a couple of $9 CAD beers, I was able to get two large portioned fries and six (big) wings for $26 CAD. Decent value for a major event. They accepted cards everywhere except for the people walking up and down the grandstand selling beer. It was very convenient. Beers were $9 CAD for an 11oz Heineken and $10.50 CAD for a 16oz Sol around the park or in your stand.
We stayed in an Airbnb downtown off St Laurent blvd. This area had a lot going on nearby and was a bit loud but had plenty of food, drinks and partying all nearby. Prices for going out and food are pretty reasonable in Montreal. I didn’t get much time around the city but overall it seemed much cheaper to visit than Miami, Austin or Monaco. Expect to pay around $15-20 CAD per meal downtown. We shared a giant plate of poutine for $8 CAD. After that, we met up with some internet friends from the Missed Apex Podcast Patreon group. We had a good time at a random bar with some food and drinks. A lot of bars in the area have either live music or a DJ with loud music setting up a party vibe. The group then wandered to Arcade MTL for more drinks and all you can play games. I was stunned they had Marvel VS Capcom 2 and many of the old school classics. We had a great time there, definitely recommend it.
I can’t wait to go back to Montreal and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. We are definitely going back this year. We plan on trying a second attempt on our original plans but will include a few days in Boston and some more time in Vermont. The great thing about the race in Montreal is the circuit does ticket renewals if purchased directly through the circuit. I was able to renew my seats a few weeks after the event, securing them for 2023. Montreal is about a 5-hour drive from Boston, which in my opinion is not too bad. I’m used to longer drives and don’t mind doing it. Podcasts are great for drives. On Monday, we had an early start so we did not stress on our 5-hour drive to catch our return flight from Boston. We had some time set aside to meet some friends in Vermont on the way down at Shelburne Farms, which was a nice way to break up the trip. Crossing the border back into the United States was fairly easy after a 30-minute wait.
Be prepared and plan for crowds. It’s a great festival environment and the ability to enter with your own food and drinks can make it a very reasonably priced grand prix to attend. I definitely recommend getting a grandstand seat, hopefully with a screen. The circuit has been adding grandstands in recent years and trying to include a screen for most of them. I wouldn’t really recommend general admission at this circuit. It’s mostly flat and you need to get there really early to secure a good spot. Many people I’ve spoken to say it’s required to arrive before gates open and literally run to the good spots. You also have to stay there holding your area all day. I definitely recommend a grandstand seat over general admission. It’s great being able to walk and take public transport to the track and not having to park and walk miles back to the car only to sit in traffic for hours like some circuits can be. Crowds were lively, enhancing the live sport aspect. For the best flexibility and ease, I would try and book Ferry tickets for the return from the circuit. The metro can be crowded on the way in but it’s not as bad as leaving. It can be very time consuming leaving the circuit, so set your expectations for that and try not to have any critical plans like an early evening flight to catch, which will make your day more stressful than it needs to be.
Attending the Canadian Grand Prix – Cost Breakdown
- Race Tickets (Grandstand 11 – Section 2) = $920 CAD
- Airbnb in Downtown Montreal (3 nights) = $561 USD
- Flights from Austin to Boston Area (Round trip per person) = $497 USD
- Car Rental (4 days) = $584 USD
- Unplanned Hotel in New Hampshire ( 1 night) = $270 USD