Oh, Ecc-le-stone! It's official. There will be no Formula One Grand Prix du Canada in 2009. This June, Montreal's famed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will not host Canada's largest tourist draw. For the first time in 50 years, the sport that is the...
It's official. There will be no Formula One Grand Prix du Canada in 2009. This June, Montreal's famed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will not host Canada's largest tourist draw. For the first time in 50 years, the sport that is the pinnacle of motor racing will not visit the North American continent.
The city of Montreal and the provincial government of Quebec were unable to meet the "unreasonable demands" of the Formula One Administration Limited as stated by Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay. "Unrealistic" and "unworkable" were also used to describe the demands.
Formula One Management (FOM) president Bernie Ecclestone responded on Montreal's CJAD radio, "Unreasonable compared to what?"
Owed $24 million from the previous promoter, Ecclestone offered to write off the loss. Ecclestone said negotiations stalled when payment for the 2009 race was not guaranteed by the promoter or the government. "What was offered them was less than what we get [from other promoters] anywhere else in the world."
Ecclestone continued, "Everyone in Formula One loves Montreal. What we offered them was fair-much more than fair. It was more beneficial to Montreal than anywhere else." To get the race back in Montreal in the future, the city must simply accept the terms of the contract.
When asked if the global economic situation threatened races in other host nations, Mr. Ecclestone responded, "We have long term contracts with countries" and "hell of a lot better" financing.
Like China, for example?
China may not host a grand prix after 2010, according to the AFP news agency. Deputy director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, Qiu Weichang, suggested that a decision about the loss-making event would be taken next year. "We're doing the assessment. By next year we should be able to give you an answer."
Poor attendance has plagued the Chinese Grand Prix since the inaugural 2004 event. The Shanghai Circuit, which cost $365 million to build, pays $33 million to host a grand prix. The current contract expires after 2010, and Ecclestone is courting the organizers to exercise the five-year option and keep the grand prix. "We will talk to them about it, and meet up and see how we can help them," Ecclestone told Financial Times.
While it seems that Asia is receiving preferential treatment, Formula One's manufacturers are pushing for a return to the United States in 2010, but probably not to Indianapolis. The North American market is concentrated on the East and West Coast, not the Midwest.
In an autosport.com report, Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry said, "Ideally we would like a site on either coast, which is a key market for non-American brands. And from our point of view, the sooner the better."
BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen added, "The USA is still the biggest market for BMW and we should be there. But we should be there successfully, so we have to find the right venue, the right setting and the right approach in order to make a point over there." Fry added that sources report Ecclestone is leaning toward Las Vegas as the likely USGP venue.
The 2009 calendar jumble scratched not only Canada but France as well, with Ecclestone saying "Never again" to the rural Nevers Circuit. Recent talks of hosting the race near Paris at Euro-Disney collapsed when Lagardere Sport decided it was not economically viable. The project had the backing of F1 champion Alain Prost.
Ecclestone at first sought a Paris night race after complaining that the old French circuit was in the middle of nowhere.
Added to the calendar is Abu Dhabi, which hosts the final round of the championship and will attempt to outdo Bahrain's 2008 attendance record of 43,000 spectators.