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The Team Behind the Team: What Does Montreal Mean to Me?

Evan Short's love of motorsport was born in Montreal. Our Trackside Electronic Systems Team Leader has had the honour of sharing that passion with family members, heroes, and mentors at the circuit over the years.

We caught up with the Canadian to learn more about the personal and national significance the Grand Prix in Montreal has had on his career in F1.

"I grew up in Ottawa," says Evan. "It was a quiet town. Going to Montreal was far more cosmopolitan, there was a massive community from Europe and the rest of the world.

"Going there felt a bit like going to Europe. As an engineer it has some of the best schools in the country, too."

Canada's history and love-affair with F1 can be traced back to one man, and one man only: Gilles Villeneuve.

Evan was only eight when Gilles tragically lost his life at the 1982 Dutch Grand Prix, but Evan had already felt the buzz that was spreading across the country as a result of the 32-year-old's success.

"The reason that F1 was popular in Canada while I was growing up was because of him, and later the rise of his son Jacques [Villeneuve]," explains Evan.

"You had this incredible story of this homegrown hero died so young and then his son coming through the ranks to be World Champion."

When Jacques beat Michael Schumacher to the 1997 F1 World Championship, Evan had yet to reach the F1 fraternity. He was at University, but the paddock was in touching distance.

"The father of a friend of mine - Bob Robinson - was a car dealer in Vancouver and was involved in Canadian motorsport," says Evan.

"National interest in F1 had peaked thanks to Jacques' win and Bob was inspired too.

"He encouraged his son and myself into motorsport to start a Formula SAE team, the North American equivalent of Formula Student.

"He gave us an introduction to the sport by sponsoring our team, loaning us cars and trailers to drive round North America to go to competitions. He had this incredible passion for it.

"That is how I really got involved, and when you get your teeth into motorsport, it is a lot of fun."

Fast forward two years and Evan was taking his first bite out of F1 in Canada, and it was in the pits for one of the sport's most iconic teams.

Already he could see there was something special about Montreal.

"My first season was 1999. I started as the radio man for Ferrari. It was only my third or fourth race - and first out of Europe - but I was absolutely blown away by the noise and the crowd.

"The energy there was something very different."

The circuit lies a good 200 kilometres east of Ottawa, but Evan felt right at home that weekend 25 years ago.

"I was able to show my family around," he says.

"Until that point they were probably thinking 'I do not really know what his job really is. He has just disappeared to Europe, who knows what he is working on. He could work in a sandwich shop for all we know!'

"To be able to show them around and hear the cars going by and see what I was working on was incredibly special.

"They were non F1 fans growing up, so it was eye-opening for them. My mum has become an avid fan ever since so it was transformational for our family too!

"Years later I was able to bring my own family around the garage. That was pretty special, to be able to show them what I do."

There was another special guest who Evan got to show around in those early years too: Bob Robinson.

"Bob had sponsored our Formula SAE team and got us to the competitions, so it was a dream for him to look around the Ferrari garage.

"He is unfortunately no longer with us, but I will always remember how he was bouncing off the walls with excitement that day."

Since that first visit to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Evan has tasted victory eight times - four with Ferrari and four with our Team here in Brackley. In 2016, he was on the podium to collect the winning constructor's trophy.

Michael Douglas was on hand for interviews that Sunday afternoon, but it was not the Hollywood actor that left Evan starstruck.

"The man handing out the trophies was Marc Garneau," recalls Evan.

"To the drivers he was introduced as the Minister of Transport, but to me he was a boyhood hero. He was the first Canadian in space!

"It was this strange moment standing there with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, who everyone was starstruck by. But I was stood there looking at Marc thinking, do you not know who that is?!

"No-one in the team did. I was the only one.

"It was an honour to represent the team and it was particularly special for me."

Other memorable moments have taken place not at the track, but instead in and on the neighbouring Olympic Basin - the man-made body of water created for the rowing and canoeing events at the 1976 Summer Olympics.

When the annual boat race between teams across the basin still took place, Evan recalls having to teach a group of Italian mechanics how to row.

"We were horrendous, we lost by about half a kilometre. But it was always cool that Montreal had that event, it gave the race weekend a different kind of exposure."

It was a honour to represent the team on the [2016] podium. I even met my boyhood hero!

Evan

Results on track have also played their part in enticing those trackside into the nearby waters.

"People get thrown in," says Evan. "If you have had a good Qualifying, you are in the lake. A great race, in the lake. Bad race, in the lake.

"Particularly when we had Michael [Schumacher] in the team. He had a real sense of fun and would always be throwing team members into the water, more times than you could count!

"That was a side of Michael the public did not always see."

This year's Grand Prix will be the 43rd to be held on the Notre Dame Island. Only four circuits have held more in F1's history.

Such longevity has made Evan proud.

"The Villeneuves sparked that passion for Canada, and it has been there ever since. It was the sport's foothold in North America for so long," Evan says.

"Montreal is the perfect match for F1, it is such a Cosmopolitan city. We do not take over, there is always life going on away from the Grand Prix during the weekend.

"When the interest in the [United] States was fluctuating, it became the closest thing to a home race for the States and Mexico as well as Canada."

"They could not quite nail down that interest, but Canada was always there. During that fallow period for F1 in this part of the world, we could always be a bit smug that we kept the flag flying."

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