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McLaren ends F1 victory drought in Canada...on the water

Mark Sutton/Sutton Images

McLaren-Honda has finally enjoyed the champagne of a podium ceremony after winning in Canada... at the return of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve's popular raft race on the waters outside the paddock.

The raft race was a regular feature of the Canada in the late 1990s but had stopped in more recent years, only to be rejuvenated by Formula One's new owners Liberty Media for this year's event. The returning race took place on Saturday evening, several hours after qualifying.

Entries included seven teams, a fan raft and two Formula One Management rafts, one piloted by motorsport director Ross Brawn and the other by commercial chief Sean Bratches, and a raft for the Canadian GP organisers. Only Mercedes, Ferrari and Force India declined to take part in the race, which gave every entry the same building equipment and an hour to construct the raft before getting underway.

McLaren, whose 'McHonda' effort was bolstered by Stoffel Vandoorne's race engineer Tom Stallard, an Olympic rowing silver medallist, romped away to win the event ahead of Toro Rosso and Sauber. While the race team might be struggling to even finish in the points, the victory gave the team a reason to celebrate and capped a wildly enjoyable event in the paddock. The McLaren F1 team has not won a race of any sort since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Afterwards, Eric Boullier joked the win meant Fernando Alonso had to stay after declaring on Thursday he needs to see a McLaren victory by September in order to stay in 2018. Amusing quirks of the race included a soaked Christian Horner manning the Red Bull entry and Haas' raft carrying a cardboard cut out of team boss Guenther Steiner dressed as a navy captain.