Ed. Note: This week we are fortunate to have up-and-coming junior formula driver Jack Mitchell Jr. blog about his experience during the Formula Tour F1600 races at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. Mitchell Jr. writes about his in-car and out-of-the-car experiences during Formula One’s prestigious stop at Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. Enjoy.
Wow what a weekend!
First off, huge thanks to Junior Open Wheel Talent for giving me another blog opportunity. I love doing these and hopefully it will provide a nice perspective of what goes on at this action-packed event on and off the track.
I competed in the Montreal Grand Prix last year with mixed results and learned important lessons about low grip street circuits. Being that it was my second year, I knew that I would have a solid chance at competing for the win.
The Exclusive Autosport Spectrum cars have been extremely reliable and quick at every track we’ve gone to. That’s a massive comfort heading into a track such as Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve.
For those who don’t know, the track is a public park for the other 362 days of the year and subsequently presents a lot of new elements that you would not usually have at a permanent road course. There is almost no grip when the weekend starts, but as the Formula 1 cars progressively lay more rubber down, the grip level increases significantly. Additionally, it’s a very bumpy course with a lot of curbing built for the Formula 1 cars. The curbs can severely damage a Formula 1600, if misused. All of this played a factor and made the racing fantastic this weekend.
Friday morning I woke up early in the hotel, located in downtown Montreal, to catch the first Formula 1 free practice. It was raining hard, but there must have been around 75,000 fans watching. I watched fellow American Alexander Rossi practice for Caterham, which was really inspiring. Once practice was over, it was time to get down to business with the team. The extraordinary EA crew checked and double-checked everything on the car, and we rolled out for qualifying at 6 p.m. Since I had the points lead I had the privilege of leading the field out for the session. I was ecstatic when I came out of the pits to find that there were still fans watching our session at 6 p.m. in wet conditions. The fans were so supportive all weekend and it was a huge compliment. Big thanks to everyone who came. When the session ended I was 3rd quickest, two-tenths off of pole.
Race 1 was interesting. It was raining but it was immediately after F1 qualifying. The racing line was completely dry from the F1 cars, but the rest of the circuit was wet. This was definitely new to me, and it made for a great race in front of all of the fans. I took the lead by lap two, and I pulled a nice six or seven-second gap on the rest of the field. The car was setup perfectly by the crew, and it was absolutely surreal to lead the first 20 minutes of the race in front of nearly 150,000 fans. Unfortunately, there was an incident that took place in Turn 1, which put the first three corners under caution. I happened to catch lap traffic right at the yellow flag and was forced to stay behind them. I lost my gap, which was a real bummer.
I battled hard with my teammate for the remainder of the race and ended up going two-wide into the final chicane. Although there was a possibility that we would have gotten through cleanly, I cut the chicane because we were extremely close to touching. I would rather get good points for the championship! I crossed the line in 1st but Thomas [McGregor] was given the win justly following the race. It was so cool waving to all of the fans after the race! Everyone was on their feet, and I am so pleased to know that we put on a good show.
After the race there were tons of festivities at the track and downtown. We were able to walk down pitlane and saw some big-name drivers like Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez. I waved at Kimi, but I don’t think he was in the best of moods, big surprise! I saw so many familiar faces, and everyone was really supportive. Our cars were in tech until nearly 8 p.m., and the whole team was at the track putting the engines back together until 2 a.m. This is the kind of support that creates such a winning atmosphere at Exclusive Autosport. I feel like my job of doing what I love on-track is such a minor duty compared to what the EA guys do. The next morning we made sure to grab tons of coffee and donuts for them!
I set the fastest lap in Race 1, which put me on pole for Sunday’s dry-weather race. There was a huge crash in the race preceding us, so we waited in our cars for two hours on the pre-grid. I got a great jump off the start and led for a short time before a safety car came out when I was running 2nd. I reclaimed the lead off the restart and pulled a small gap. Once again, my teammate Thomas and I were at the front! We bump drafted away from the pack and worked together really well.
The race was shortened to eight-laps, and there was a small miscommunication about the last lap. I’m accustomed to the white flag being thrown to signal the last lap, but they use a last lap board in the Formula Tour series. Since there is so much radio interference around the track it was hard to get a message from the team. Talking to other drivers after the race, I was far from being the only one who did not know what lap it was. American mistake! It was totally my fault and definitely will not happen again.
The whole race Thomas and I were moving off line and lifting in order to draft properly, but I did this on the last lap. I’m sure he was a little confused on why I gave it to him like that! It was a real bummer to lose the opportunity to battle for the GP win like that, but it happens. In the end there was nothing to feel disappointed about because my team, Exclusive Autosport, helped me bring back a pole and two 2nd-place trophies.
After the race was over I watched the F1 race with the whole team and saw Vettel take the win. He is a machine! It looks like he is in a different league than everyone else. We went down to the podium and everyone was booing him because he made the race “boring.” He was smiling though; I think he took it as a compliment.
The weekend was fantastic. Looking back I realize that it was a complete success. The results landed me in a tie for the points lead. I think we really had the pace to win either of the races; so in the big picture, everything is headed in the right direction this season. I really want to thank Exclusive Autosport for putting such a great program together; it has been such a success. Also, big thank you to Honda, Spectrum, Bell Helmets, Shark Designs, Sparco, Michael Duncalfe, our irreplaceable crew, my engineer Remi Lanteigne, and my family for all of the support.
Until next time,
-Jack Mitchell Jr.