Plucky Red Bull Racing team don’t finish last in thrilling raft race!!
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Saturday June 10th, 2017
By Ed Beard, sailing correspondent
Saturday evening at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve witnessed a return of an old favourite as once again Formula One’s finest took to the water of the Olympic rowing basin to contest the highly prestigious F1 Raft Race. It was a triumph for McLaren, a moral victory for Toro Rosso and a net gain in hygiene for the other competitors.
Rowing crews from the F1 teams were supplemented by crews from FOM, the FIA, the Canadian Grand Prix promoter and an F1 fan raft, the latter making up in enthusiasm what it lacked in performance and, indeed, structural integrity. F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting was on hand to blow the hooter and ensure there was absolutely nothing resembling fair play.
The rules were so simply even an F1 mechanic could follow them. Teams had 45 minutes to build their raft, using only materials scrounged from the garage or the garbage bins behind the paddock. Many senior team members were spotted wielding a hammer for the first time in decades, in the desperate effort to construct something seaworthy – or at least something that would not sink too quickly.
“This is absolute chaos, or what we call ‘building a raft’,” said Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner with a mouth full of nails. “We’ve put in the training over the past few weeks and our tactics are very clear: we’re absolutely going to play dirty. This is a great event for F1 and, of course it’s not about the winning. It’s totally about sinking the others.”
The race consisted of a dash to the far side around a buoy and back. The Montreal fire brigade were on hand with the water cannons to punish anyone spotted blatantly cheating or provide crowd control if the spectators turned ugly.
Team McLaren were hot favourites, having built something that looked like it might float (they also have a Olympic rowing medallist on the crew), and set off with the pace and enthusiasm of an angry dolphin. The rest of the field was a more haphazard affair. Toro Rosso, to everyone’s surprise, including their own (having used the construction method known as ‘making it up as you go along’) emerged as the first of the losers, closely followed by Sauber, who, like the Swiss in Jeux Sans Frontières seemed to be taking matters rather more seriously than the other crews.
The F1 fan boat brought up the rear of the field and courageously coped with their raft disintegrating mid-race – but some running (swimming) repairs got them back into contention to avoid the wooden spoon as they had a furious battle with the promoter’s boat, which included Formula 1 MD Sean Bratches, who was made to walk the plank of the FOM raft by the Dread Cap’n Brawn. The only real losers were those who did not show up – notably Mercedes, who had a note from their mother, and Ferrari who were worried about messing up their hair.
Our own crew, comprised of Christian Horner, John Hammond, Adam Wooten, Carl Anderson, Nathan Lewis, Chris Gregoryand Chris Gent, valiantly made the long journey to the midfield. “It was a brilliant effort, the team did great. We didn’t get the result – but we did manage to soak a lot of people” said Horner, who had fought his own quayside water pistol battle with the Cyril Abiteboul of the French Frigate Renault. “Well done McLaren, we’ll be back to win it next year.”