Spy's Ultimate Raft Team

The Canadian Grand Prix isn’t the only thing up for grabs this weekend. Liberty have done many strange and wonderful things in the last two years – but resurrecting the Canadian Grand Prix rowing basin raft race is probably Spy’s favourite.

The rules are very simple: the crew gets to drag anything lying around in the garage* down to the side of the rowing basin where, with the aid of hammer, nails and copious amounts of tank tape, it’s turned into rafts. Or things vaguely resembling rafts. Or things that don’t really resemble rafts but do float. Or don’t.

After that the crew clamber on board, and at the starting gun, paddle like lunatics, across the basin, around a buoy and back to the start. Mr C Whiting esq is our referee and says it’s against the rules to attempt to sink your opponents** – mostly because it’s a waste of energy as they’ll probably do that themselves – but this apart,anything goes. It’s a bit silly but being F1, it’s also insanely competitive, and we really want to kick ass this year. Unlike last year, when the ass we kicked was mostly our own. You may think it’s impossible to kick your own ass – but that’s because you’re not as highly motivated as a professional racing team.

McLaren won last year, possibly because they had a ringer in the form of an Olympic rowing medallist on board. No doubt they would argue race engineer Tom Stallard isn’t a ringer, having been in the team for over a decade. Spy thinks that’s just an example of good forward planning. But it does make you wonder who we’d have on the dream team, given the whole history of F1 to choose from. So rather than do anything productive today, Spy’s put his mind to refining his crew – but feel free to think up your own.


Patrick Head

The team’s going to need someone in charge, and while sensitive man-management and an inclusive approach to decision-making have their place, Spy has a sneaking suspicion, captaining the raft is going to work best with quite a bit of shouting. While he didn’t get along with life in the Royal Navy, no-one does shouting better than Sir Patrick. And if it’s misty on the basin, we can use him as a foghorn.

Graham Hill

It’s not coincidence that the 1962 and 1968 World Champion had the colours of the London Rowing Club on his lid. Careful analysis of last year’s race has taught us that in a rowing race it helps is there’s someone who actually knows how to row. Hill won plenty of rowing trophies – but that pencil moustache also suggests he’d been good for a bit of skulduggery too. Spy’s thinking midget submarines and trained attack squid.

Colin Chapman

If Graham’s rowing the logical step is to put Colin Chapman in charge of design. Lotus did produce boats for a while – though Chapman’s desire to make something so fragile it fell apart as it crossed the finishing line was rather more of a liability in the water than it was on a racing circuit. It’ll be lightweight though – which is an advantage because it means we’ll sink slower.

Keke Rosberg & Nigel Manswell

Rowing is very much a power sport, so we’re going to need some big lads on the paddles. The modern driver is fit as a fiddle – but a bit of a lightweight. We’re going to need beefy drivers who have a bit of heft, and where better to look than the 1980s, when drivers have to wrestle their way around a grand prix track in barely controllable cars with 1500hp and qualifying tyres that were basically a loosely coherent hydrocarbon mousse? There’s many you could pick – but we’re going to go for World Champions Nigel Mansell and Keke Rosberg. Nigel because there hasn’t been a more insanely competitive driver in the history of the sport, and Keke because he’ll look cool. And we want to look cool while we’re winning.



The strategists tell us it’s going to be a no-stop race, and are suggesting we start with the ultrahard paddles. The simulator has produced interesting results that suggest the strategy should be to row as fast as we can for as long as we can. We’re expecting McLaren to be strong again because they’re highly motivated to win anything at the moment, but we expect them to face a formidable challenge from Sauber. They were a dark horse last year and, rather like Swiss in Jeux Sans Frontières, they seemed to take the whole thing a bit too seriously. Toro Rosso, on the other hand, are more like the Italians in in Jeux Sans Frontières and don’t really need the big flappy clown shoes to fall over their own feet.

The big question is whether Mercedes and Ferrari will take part this year. If they’re in, we’d expect Ferrari to start strongly and then fade alarmingly, whereas Merc will probably build a longboat that’s awesome in a straight line but corners like an oil tanker.

Force India will have plenty of pace but start hitting each other with their paddles; Williams will have a few problems with the getting the bow and stern to go in the same direction at the same time. French explorers thought the St Lawrence River was the gateway to China, so the less said about Renault’s chances on the water, the better, and Haas’ raft will look suspiciously like Ferrari’s raft but about 0.6s slower.

The lads on the Good Ship Red Bull Racing will fancy their chances, ‘cos we think we’ll be awesome though the turn but might struggle for a bit of straight-line speed. The plan will be to get in front early and then make the raft very, very wide. The Team have been on a diet of raw meat all week, and have been told there’s absolutely no pressure – but they’ll be destroying the hopes and dreams everyone connected with the team if they lose. Go team.


*But not, y’know, stuff that we actually need.

*Though wounding them with harsh words is perfectly acceptable.