f1 canadian grand prix
Photography by Annika Lautens

A Fashion Girl’s Guide to Formula One

Apparently, there’s more to the Montreal Grand Prix than just fast cars and cute drivers.

Have you ever been shown to your seat via a private boat? No? Before this month, I would have said the same. Then, I attended the F1 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and I fear I may never be able to go back to regular transportation again.

In early June, I, a fashion director with a taste for slow fashion, not fast cars, found myself at the ninth race of the Formula One season, and no, I wasn’t lost. I was there in the name of scientific research, thanks to American Express (Amex), the official payments partner in the Americas. Now, it should be said that until this year, I’ve never watched an F1 race in my life. In fact, I can’t even drive a regular car. (#CityGirl.) But even I have to admit that the sport is everywhere!

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lewis Hamilton (@lewishamilton)

According to Nielson Sports Research, Formula One is on track to reach a billion fans. While the sport itself has been a mainstay in Europe for decades, it took the Netflix docuseries Formula 1: Drive to Survive to bring that level of fanfare to North America. Since the show debuted in 2019, the fandom has skyrocketed, with its audience spending as much time watching the racers, er, races, as they do oogling the outfits worn off the track. And for good reason.

Lewis Hamilton (the poster boy of the sport and driver for Mercedes, soon to be Ferrari) attended the 2024 Met Gala. His teammate George Russell regularly wears Tommy Hilfiger. And brands like Boss, Tumi, Puma and Reiss have entered long-term partnerships with teams and their athletes. Drivers, it seems, have become a new breed of fashion influencer, whether they know it (and like it) or not.

Besides being surprised at how stylish the F1 Canadian Grand Prix race actually was (hello, moto jackets!), the perks Amex offers its cardmembers made it a downright luxurious experience, from the Plaza Premium Lounge at Toronto’s Pearson airport and the Humaniti Hotel Montreal to early access to tickets. And I haven’t even gotten to the Trackside Lounge at the racetrack, with a private bar and views of the finish line. Divine!

If you consider yourself more of a fashion girlie than a fan, here’s my guide on how to the F1 Canadian Grand Prix in style. Because, trust me, there’s a lot of style trackside.

Where to stay during the F1 Canadian Grand Prix

Being an Amex F1 groupie had a lot of perks, and the hotel was one of the biggest. Through The Hotel Collection, I stayed at the Humaniti Hotel Montreal and as soon as I entered the lobby, there was no doubt about what I was in town for. Checkered flags were lined up beside the revolving doors. Cutouts of Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and other racers greeted me at the concierge desk. There was even a pop-up shop where you could purchase merch — it was essentially Disney World for racing fans.

But when I needed a break from the F1 of it all, the Marriott Bonvoy property provided the perfect escape. My room was an oasis and came complete with a king-size bed and rain shower head that made me feel like I was re-enacting Hilary Duff’s iconic bop “Come Clean.” The terrace and pool had me forgetting I was in downtown Montreal and the H3 Restaurant had a tasting menu that would make any Toronto foodie swoon. Plus, as an honorary Amex cardmember, I got to indulge in extras like a room upgrade at check-in and a $100 USD hotel benefit to be put towards amenities like dining and the spa. A win-win if I ever saw one.

What to wear to a Formula One race

f1 canadian grand prix
Photography by Annika Lautens

As I learned from some A+ people watching, there are three aesthetics that are acceptable to wear to a major Formula One event. First is function over fashion. For anyone with general admission, you have to be prepared for anything and truly any weather, with zero overhead coverage. This weekend alone we saw torrential rain, chunks of hail and scorching sun. That means bring a hat (preferably with a team logo), rain poncho and sweater.

For those lucky enough to find themselves in a VIP section, or in a section with some sort of weather protection, the vibe fell into one of two style teams: quiet luxury or moto chic. I saw many streetwear-inspired matching sets, leather jackets and vintage car motifs and I must say, my Reformation denim jumpsuit fit the vibe perfectly. But other than that, I decided to go the stealth wealth route. Think head-to-toe white, pleated pants, button-ups and preppy baseball hats with blazers.

Where to watch the Canadian Grand Prix

f1 canadian grand prix
Photography by Annika Lautens

As the official payments partner in the Americas, Amex has access to oodles of onsite benefits. As their guest for the weekend, I got to sit in the Elite Suite, a giant tented area near the start and finish line of the track that, yes, required a private boat to get to, and yes, served filet mignon for lunch, and yes, had the most beautiful portable washrooms I’ve ever seen. Suffice to say, it was bougie with a capital B.

f1 canadian grand prix
Photography courtesy of Amex

But even if you aren’t media, the good news is that no matter what kind of race ticket you have, Amex’s Trackside Lounge (which is stationed just across the track from the Elite Suite) is available to any cardmember who wants to get closer to the action. The two-story structure is right by the starting grid and has one of the best views of the podium. Also, two words: private bar.

Where to take a break from all the Montreal Formula One action

Photography by Annika Lautens

Was it all cars, crowds and racing chat during my F1 weekend? Of course not! After all, a girl’s gotta shop. In 2023, over 13,000 businesses in the Montreal area started accepting Amex, including many small businesses. Thanks to Amex Maps, I discovered Billie Boutique in Montreal’s Outremont neighbourhood. And while I got some rest from the sports world, my wallet got to work.

ganni loafers
Photography by Annika Lautens

At the shop, playful picks from Scandi brands like Ganni and Herskind line the walls in colour-coordinated sections. Jewellery for both minimalists and maximalists alike was organized artfully around a mirror that was begging for a selfie. Bags and shoes peppered the rest of space. And with so many options to choose from, I took my time trying everything on from a pink sequined bow top to a sleek navy silk dress. But alas, I only brought one checked bag (insert sad violin music), so I had to make some tough decisions. A pair of Ganni loafers made it over the finish line, and are now going to become my whole personality.

Where (and what) to eat

Photography by Annika Lautens

It’s no secret that Montreal is known for being a foodie hotspot but what they don’t tell you is that during the F1 Canadian Grand Prix weekend, it’s almost impossible to find a reso. That’s where my temporary Amex Platinum Cardmember status came to the rescue, getting me access to the hottest restaurants in town. During my F1 stay, that included Liverpool House, a stunning French restaurant in the hip St. Henri hood that is usually booked up weeks in advance.

We dined family style but let’s be honest — the food was so good, I was eating for multiple family members. A seafood tower started the night off strong, along with beef tartare and some veggies. A delectable cut of beef immersed in a red wine sauce, plus some delicious frites, came next. But the favourite by far was the lobster spaghetti (pictured above) that arrived with meaty claws and a decadent dollop of fresh chives. Say less!

What to take away from my Formula One weekend

Am I a fully converted F1 girlie now? Probably not. But I certainly have a better appreciation for the sport; it’s fun, fast and surprisingly fashionable. No polyester jerseys here; instead, the Grand Prix set relaxes in breezy buttoned shirts and linen pants. Windbreakers were chicly styled with a streetwear edge. Even sneakers had an upgrade, with many rocking New Balances and Adidas Sambas. So the next time your partner wants to wake up early to watch a race on Euro time, don’t say no right away. Who knows, you just might get some style inspo from it. Zoom, zoom.

More Style