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Race promoter offers insight into F1 life under Liberty Media ownership

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Race promoter offers insight into F1 life under Liberty Media ownership
Apr 3, 2017, 8:44 AM

By Jeff Pappone in Canada.

By Jeff Pappone in Canada.

Armed with a contract extension that will keep the Canadian Grand Prix on track in Montreal until at least 2029, race promoter François Dumontier sees a bright future for Formula One under its new management, Liberty Media.

“It's the end of an era and the beginning of a new one,” said Octane Racing Group Inc. president Dumontier, who has promoted the Canadian Grand Prix since 2011.

Canada GP

“What Liberty is saying in the media is nice to hear: They want to move F1 toward a more democratic model, they want to create live events around the races, and they want to open it for fans, so they have good ideas. I don't think we will see anything change for 2017. We need to give them time and look at 2018 or 2019.”

The five-year extension to the existing deal that ended in 2024 was revealed a few weeks ago during the final pre-season test in Barcelona. This season is also significant for Canada because it marks 50 years since the country's first F1 race at the Mosport International Raceway in 1967. Three-times world champion Jack Brabham won the inaugural Canadian Grand Prix by more than one minute.

Pleased that he's now secured the race he called “an institution” through its 60-year anniversary and beyond, Dumontier stressed that keeping F1 in Montreal for the long term should go a long way help Liberty achieve its goal of more traction in the U.S. market.

Francois Dumontier

While there was a time when adding grands prix in the U.S. appeared to be a threat to the future of F1 in Montreal, Dumontier (above right with Canadian F1 racer Lance Stroll) is not only unfazed by the prospect, but he's also eager to lend a hand as Liberty shapes its plan.

“I told them that in North America, Montreal is F1's base and if we can be of any help or they want to use our expertise and experience, we will be there,” Dumontier said.

“The more you talk about F1 and see F1, it's good for the sport. I think they will limit it to two or three races maybe: We don't know what's going to happen with the Austin race (U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas) in the future, and Liberty have been talking about Miami and Las Vegas.” [Editor's note: the idea of the New Jersey Grand Prix, across the river from New York City resurfaced over the Melbourne weekend]

Canada GP pits

With the extension in his pocket, Dumontier's short-term focus shifts to the planned renovation of the garage and paddock areas at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Although construction was supposed to be completed by this summer's race, delays mean that the teams, which have long complained about the close quarters and aging infrastructure in Montreal, won't have much elbow room for a couple more years.

With the revised target of 2019 in play, Dumontier confirmed that the city of Montreal, which is responsible for completing the renovations, is poised and ready to get things done.

“It's tricky because they need to work on the plans between the 2017 and 2018 races, and then they have to start building after the 2018 race to deliver for 2019,” he said.

“It was part of a contractual issue, but we did agree — Bernie [Ecclestone], myself, and the city — to postpone the delivery of the garages to 2019 and we were all okay with it. It (Liberty's takeover) doesn't change the deal we had in place.

What do you think? How many races in North American time zones is the right number for F1? Leave your comments in the section below

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