Organisers of this weekend’s Canadian grand prix have called off a scheduled “open house” day.
The promoters of the Montreal race had planned to allow spectators to attend the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and tour the F1 pitlane for free on Thursday. La Presse newspaper said the open day has taken place since the early 90s, with 12,000 taking advantage last year.
But according to the Canadian Press, it has been called off in 2012 due to “security concerns”, amid threats made by protesting university students and internet terrorists.
“Considering the various disruption threats made public recently, the free admission and the naturally open character of the open house day revealed some risks that we could not ignore,” said promoter Francois Dumontier. “We wish to express our sincere apologies to the F1 fans and, among them, a good share of our spectators who appreciate this annual gathering with the world championship teams,” he added.
Despite the cancellation, Dumontier insisted Montreal is safe for race-goers.
“We cannot deny that something is happening in Montreal,” he told La Presse, “but what is conveyed in the foreign media is always the same — stunning images of petrol bombs and clashes with police. I am trying to reassure people who are asking me questions about it. There are F1 people who arrived a few days ago and they have said nothing to me about the situation.”
He admitted to having ramped up security.
“We will not divulge any details,” Dumontier is quoted by the Times, “but we already have a rather elaborate plan. We increased security, reviewed certain points that might have been more vulnerable and, over several weeks, have been working closely with the police. We’re ready for several contingencies.”
‘Fake Charlie Whiting’ will meet the real thing next week. Mark McArdle is the man behind the fake Twitter account which has caught the eye of FIA race director Whiting.
“I am still pinching myself — I am floored that this is really happening,” McArdle told the Globe and Mail.
The Canadian newspaper reports that Whiting was amused by his fake Twitter identity and therefore extended 43-year-old McArdle an official invite to the Montreal paddock next Thursday.
“We are going to meet up in Montreal for a chat — I thought it would be quite fun,” the real Whiting said. “I will be fairly busy on Thursday, but I will be quite happy to show him around race control.”
Whiting admits he was tipped off about the ‘fake’ Twitter account.
“I don’t do Twitter and I barely know what it is, to be frank,” he smiled. “But people have come up to me on occasion and said ‘I love your tweets’ and I always say that I don’t do any. People don’t realise that it’s not me.
“Now, if he was doing and writing silly things, I might have something to say about it, but it’s quite fun and he’s not casting me in a bad light, so I’m pretty happy really.”
The report said McArdle has been invited to also spend time with the McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, Force India and HRT teams on Thursday, while Caterham has offered up a paddock pass to his wife Helen.
F1’s governing body has vowed to act on the controversy about the floor of Red Bull’s 2012 car.
Ferrari and McLaren reportedly came close to officially protesting Mark Webber’s win immediately after the Monaco grand prix. They were apparently persuaded to wait until Monday, when the issue would be discussed at the sport’s high profile meeting in the Principality.
After that, it has emerged that the FIA has vowed to issue a clarification about the regulations relating to ‘holes’ in the floor of cars before the forthcoming Canadian grand prix.
“All I can say is that we need a clarification on this point,” Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali is quoted as saying.
Also according to Italy’s Autosprint, McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh added: “It is not for me to adjudge the legality of a competitor’s car, it is for the FIA.
“But I think we will get that (clarification) before the next race.”
Yet another weekend has passed in which the pre-race favourite, Lotus, failed to deliver. But Jaime Alguersuari thinks the Enstone based team remains poised to shine in the very near future.
“From my point of view, I still believe that they have the most competitive package, both mechanically and aerodynamically,” said the former Toro Rosso driver. “They have great traction and very little degradation of the rear tyres. It is unfortunate that here they were not able to get the most from it but you will see again in Canada they will again be the favourites,” the Spaniard told the AS sports daily in Monaco.
Behind garage doors, however, confusion still reigns. Red Bull became the sport’s only multiple-race winner of the 2012 season so far with Mark Webber’s Monaco breakthrough. But team manager Jonathan Wheatley used the word “lottery” to explain how races are being won and lost.
“On Thursday we thought ninth or tenth would be our maximum,” he is quoted by Der Spiegel. “Lotus with Romain Grosjean looked over a second quicker than the rest.”
Flavio Briatore said teams will be needing to take a ‘long game’ approach to the championship, with championship leader Fernando Alonso the favourite in his view.
“If the lottery continues, it will be best to cope with it by having the most tickets in your pocket,” the former Renault team boss told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “And that’s Alonso.”
Angry students could threaten next month’s Canadian grand prix.
Protests in Montreal, regarding planned university tuition fee increases, have been turning increasingly ugly and even violent, involving the throwing of glass bottles and hundreds of arrests. According to the French language La Presse newspaper, at least one student association has specifically threatened to disrupt the F1 race, scheduled for 10 June on the nearby Il Notre Dame.
“I cannot deny that we are following this out of the corner of our eye and will continue to follow it in the coming days,” admitted race promoter Francois Dumontier.
The report said students’ chants at recent demonstrations included references to the grand prix. At a recent meeting, one association of students approved a resolution to adopt “a weekend of disruption” aimed at “the cancellation” of the race, which represents “sexist, non-environmental and elitist” values.
“It is not clear that we will be targeted,” Dumontier insisted, “but we are an international event and are ready with a safety plan ranging from dealing with simple mischief to a wider disruption. The grand prix is often targeted because we are a major event. We are not worried but we have our eyes open and will work with the public authorities,” he added.