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One of F1's most popular venues poised to upgrade for the future

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One of F1's most popular venues poised to upgrade for the future
May 30, 2015, 6:25 PM

It may be one of the most popular race tracks on the F1 calendar for paddock insiders and fans alike, but the cramped paddock and aging garages at ...

It may be one of the most popular race tracks on the F1 calendar for paddock insiders and fans alike, but the cramped paddock and aging garages at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will soon be a thing of the past, writes Canadian sports journalist and friend of JAonF1.com, Jeff Pappone.

A new 10 year contract has given the promoters confidence to invest for the future, to make the 14-turn, 4.36-kilometre Montreal track the best F1 venue it can be.

Long a sore point with the teams, who otherwise love the event and the city of Montreal, the cramped conditions of the paddock, squeezed in next to the former Olympic rowing lake, should be alleviated by construction set to begin once the chequered flag falls in June 2016, according to race promoter François Dumontier.

Canadian Grand Prix

“It's more than maintenance, but most of the work will be dedicated to the garage complex and the paddock. We won't change anything this year or in 2016, but it's planned that the city will deliver new garages for the race in 2017,” he said.

The Octane Racing Group Inc. president also stressed that the plan to make more room for he teams to work will not mean any modifications to the circuit: “We will not touch it — I was clear on it last June — this is a unique track and a challenging track, and you don't change a winning formula.”

Montreal F1 pit garages

A feasibility study on what can be done with the garages is the only work so far, but Dumontier expects the wrecking ball to swing as soon as the paddock is torn down following next year's Canadian Grand Prix. The garages are also the foundation for the tony Paddock Club, which should enjoy some fringe benefits from the more modern facilities.

Unfortunately for the race organisers, the process stalled in the spring after the city had found some irregularities in contracts awarded by the Parc Jean-Drapeau administration related to the infrastructure project to mark the 50th anniversary of Expo 67. In early April, the Parc Jean-Drapeau general manager quit his job following a report by the city's inspector general, which included one of the contracts for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve upgrades.

Canadian Grand Prix

Although none of the issues are related to the Octane Group that promotes the race, the architectural mock-ups for the project that were supposed to be available in April have now been delayed. Nevertheless, Dumontier remains hopeful that the controversy won't interfere with the 2017 target for the new garages.

The planned upgrades to the venue were part of the agreement to renew the race for 10 years signed with F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone on the eve of the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix. That long-term deal with also bring additional benefits to the race.

“The improvements that we will make to the garages that will help the teams is only a part of it,” said Dumontier.

“This is the first time we have a firm 10-year contract and we can now build on it — we have not had a title sponsor for the event since 2003 with Air Canada — and now can work with and offer a business or company that wants visibility a long-term plan to develop something more strategic thorough the event.”

Canadian GP
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Series Formula 1