By Patrick Greene
Alright, time for a quick story. Last year, for Christmas, we bought race weekend tickets to the Montreal GP for our eldest son (the most die hard fan in a family of F1 people). As we all know, this shit's expensive—we could only afford General Admission for the two of us (his was free, which helped).
Anyway: three months ago, two of our really good friends asked us to be at their wedding (and to perform in it). The wedding is on Cape Cod, which is about eight hours south of Montreal. And it's tomorrow, starting precisely the same time as quali.
The problem was that I couldn't really justify driving all the way up from Boston (where we live) to Quebec and back again on two separate trips in one weekend. It just seemed crazy. It was beginning to look like Friday was out as well.
Then, about two weeks ago, my manager told me I was going to need to fly to India (Delhi, if anyone has tips on where to eat BTW). She needed me to fly out on Sunday evening to make it in time for a working session on Tuesday in freakin' Asia.
All of a sudden, it was looking like this wasn't going to happen. It would've been devastating to our son, but also would've kind of crushed me too—I've been dreaming of getting to a GP since my childhood.
Anyway, I got home from rehearsal late last night (10pm). I looked at our son, I looked at my passport, I looked at the tickets, and I realized life is full of boring moments where people do the thing that makes the most sense.
So I grabbed his birth certificate (he's three, so that's all he needs to cross (allegedly)), threw a bunch of crap in the car, activated my international data plan, buckled up his car seat, and hit the road. Travel time was exactly five hours. I figured I'd find a motel near the border crossing. We'd get there late (around 3am), but then we could sleep a few hours and make FP2, if not FP1.
I'm running on pure adrenaline and optimism at this point. Making great time. We make it to customs earlier than anticipated, and I feel like I'm walking on air. Our son hasn't even woken up once in this whole process.
So I pull up to the border crossing and hand them my paperwork.
"Step out of the car please, sir."
"Step out of the car and bring the child inside."
They start asking these insanely personal, specific questions. For 30 minutes. Our son wakes up screaming. He starts punching me in the face in his exhausted delirium.
I realize they are trying to figure out if I'm kidnapping him. "Why," says the border agent, "would someone be crossing in the middle of the night to get to a practice session five hours away when you're just going to drive home again and then repeat the insanity two days later?"
"Because … it's Formula 1?"
"It doesn't sound plausible. Where are you staying?"
"I … haven't really figured that out yet. I was going to wing it."
"Yeah, like, figure it out."
"At three in the morning. Without the mother from the birth certificate present."
"These races are really expensive. I don't know what to tell you."
"And then you're flying to India immediately afterwards?"
" … yes."
" … this sounds atypical".
"Story of my life."
Anyway, they eventually allow us to cross. But now it's clearly too late to get a motel. Meaning I'm about to pull an all-nighter out of necessity, and our son is going to have to make do with the four hours of sleep he got before customs.
I pull into Montreal DELIRIOUSLY tired. Our son is screaming that he wants to get out of the car seat. I start looking desperately for a place to park so we can sleep in the front seats for a half-hour before we have to ditch the car and take the Metro to the park.
The only thing I find that isn't locked down is a 24-hour American-style diner called "Miami." I park in the one available space, bring our son into the front passenger seat, set up his sleeping bag, and immediately realize the reason that space is available is because it's the spot where all of the employees take their communal cigarette breaks.
So all of a sudden I find myself huddled down, hiding from ten people within feet of the car, literally choking on the secondhand smoke coming through the sunroof.
It's not even vaguely nighttime anymore. Like, people are commuting to work. So we decide to eat like pigs at the diner, find a Metro station where we can leave the car, and just get to the circuit at any cost. Embracing the lack of sleep, the poorly thought-through spontaneity of the whole affair. Embracing that these sorts of ridiculous adventures are the ones children remember when they get old and the world starts to feel a little less exciting.
So all this is to say we made it. It was completely incredible. Being meters away from these legendary drivers we talk about all the time; realizing that the current PUs DO in fact still sound like shit in-person, but they sound like POWERFUL shit and that's kind of cool; buying a bowl of poutine because it's not like we're even trying to pretend we're making responsible decisions at this point; eating said poutine on a grassy knoll twenty yards from a wall where three WDC winners collided back-to-back those many years ago; summoning the willpower and the Red Bull to make it back to Boston alive; it is all so incredibly worth it.
I know many of you have been to GPs in the past. But this is my first, and I am completely in awe of how wonderful it feels to physically be a part of the action we follow so closely. I truly can't wait to wake up at 4am on Sunday and do this all over again.