Everyone I know was delighted to hear last Friday’s news that the Canadian Grand Prix will return to Montréal’s le Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2010. A five-year contract has been agreed thanks to a combined annual investment of CDN$15 million. The Government of Canada and Tourism Montréal will both contribute CDN$5m, while the Government of Quebec will pay CDN$4m per year and the City of Montréal will add a further CDN$1m to the annual pot. In return, the four partners will receive 30 per cent of the revenue from ticket sales.
The Canadian GP delivers more economic impact to the country’s tourist industry than any other sporting event. The race produces CDN$89m in annual income to businesses in the city of Montréal and the province of Quebec, including 75,000 overnight hotel stays. One quarter of the race’s 300,000 spectators come from outside Quebec.
Since its debut in 1978, the GP has run every year save 1987 and last year, both times because the race promoters were unable to make a deal with Bernie Ecclestone. Now the national, provincial and city governments have stepped up to underwrite the costs to help safeguard the race’s future. There’s no other venue in Canada capable of hosting or bankrolling a modern Grand Prix, so we can only hope the next five years prove profitable for all concerned.
With Canada back on the Formula 1 calendar, what chance that the United States will follow? The financial aspects of the equation are much more difficult in the USA because there’s zero possibility of the federal or any state governments putting up a dime to support a race. Ecclestone’s financial demands will have to be met entirely by commercial support and that will not be easy to find in a country where F1 is such a marginal sport, with relatively tiny fan interest and negligible media coverage.
I’ve reported a few times in this space that Long Beach GP founder Chris Pook has been working hard to create a new United States GP. Pook refuses to reveal any details about the venue other than admitting that it’s in California. In recent years, Chris has become a successful property developer and it’s believed his latest F1 site will be part of a new development somewhere in the Golden State.
This week Pook (below) confirmed that he’s getting close to a deal with Ecclestone. “We continue to make progress towards a 2011 date pursuant to Mr Ecclestone’s instructions,” he said.
With so many competing forms of motor sport in America, from NASCAR to Indycars, ALMS, Grand-Am and NHRA drag racing, there are no race tracks or street circuits that could begin to pay for an F1 race. And with much more conservative management replacing Tony George in control of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there’s equally little likelihood of F1 returning to the Hoosier State.
It’s down to Pook to make it happen in California. Let’s hope he can pull it off.