Canadian Grand Prix - epilogue


The Canadian GP at le Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montréal is one of the world’s most popular motor sport events. The race always draws big crowds throughout the weekend and its popularity was emphasized this year when the crowd was as big as ever on Friday and Saturday despite cool weather and persistent drizzle. Friday’s crowd was as big as many race day crowds and more than 300,000 spectators jammed the grandstands over the three days.

Going back to Gilles Villeneueve’s inspirational victory in the inaugural race on Île Notre-Dame in 1978 Montréal’s Canadian GP rapidly developed a tradition of passion and enthusiasm. The track is a permanent circuit built in a park in the middle of the St. Lawrence River and it provides both character and considerable visual appeal. There are no fast corners but plenty of tight turns and long straightaways rewarding cars with good braking and low-speed turning ability rather than straightline speed or high downforce.

After missing 2009 because an agreement couldn’t be reached with Ecclestone, the Canadian GP returned to the F1 calendar in 2010. The new contract ran through this year and was agreed to at a bargain rate of US$15 million. At the time there was no United States GP and it was believed it was necessary for F1 to race in Montréal in order to have a presence in North America.

But since then times have changed. The Circuit of the Americas in Austin made a successful debut last year and appears to have earned a firm place on F1’s calendar. The Austin promoters are said to pay Formula One Management $35 million per year, substantially more than Montréal. Also, Leo Hindery declared last weekend that his race in Weehawken, New Jersey – directly across the river from Manhattan – will take place next year in June the week after Montréal. It’s believed that Bernie Ecclestone is prepared to make a less demanding deal for Weehawken so that F1 can put down roots in the New York metropolitan area.

“We didn’t have the capital investment in place to make it this year,” Hindery said. “We worked hard but we couldn’t do it. But with tremendous gratitude on my part, Mr. Ecclestone and Charlie Whiting stuck with us. The burden was on me. The fault for not having the race this June was mine. We weren’t ready and now we are and we’re thrilled. We’re going to race in June next year and every June thereafter following this wonderful event in Canada.”

All this means there’s more pressure on Montréal promoter François Dumontier to pay a steeper fee. Dumontier has been trying to negotiate a long term deal for as many as 10 years. “The only thing I can say right now is we are currently discussing the contract,” Dumontier said before the start of Sunday’s race. “Things are going well, but we need some more time. I think in the next two weeks we will be there. I think our party is doing it in the right way. There’s no major fight or drama. I think both parties are negotiating in good faith.”

I asked Dumontier if the race’s tremendous popularity provided him with any leverage in his negotations with Ecclestone. “It has plenty of value for us but I don’t know about Bernie,” Dumontier remarked.

Most everyone will tell you that Bernie is interested only in the money rather than any emotional commitment to a fine race in a great city that attracts a superb crowd. I’m one of those who loves the Canadian GP in Montreal. It’s one of my favorite races of the year and I hope Dumontier and Ecclestone can make the long term deal Dumontier is pursuing.

Motor Sport is very sad to hear about the death of an unnamed Canadian Grand Prix marshal on Sunday evening. The marshal was helping to recover Esteban Gutiérrez’s Sauber after the race, but tripped over while picking up a dropped radio and was run over by a crane. He was taken to hospital, but succumbed to his injuries yesterday evening. We would like to send our deepest condolences to his friends and family.

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