The much-missed Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal looks more likely than ever to return to the F1 schedule in 2010, following a meeting between the circuit's NASCAR race organiser François Dumontier and the top flight's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone earlier this week.
The event was axed from the calendar this year after Ecclestone and erstwhile race promoter Normand Legault's Grand Prix du Canada company were unable to come to a financial agreement, with a dispute over revenue the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive claims is owed to him for previous editions.
Its absence, however, has been lamented both by the manufacturer teams – for whom North America, without a grand prix at all for the first time in half a century, is a hugely important market in terms of car sales – and drivers, with the iconic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Île Notre-Dame one of F1's most popular and enjoyable tracks, and one that has invariably drawn strong crowd numbers. It did not go unnoticed that the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul – which took Canada's place in 2009 – attracted just 36,000 spectators when Montreal was frequently able to boast weekend numbers of upwards of 300,000.
There is a universal desire within the paddock, however, to get the race re-instated, and the meeting between Ecclestone and Dumontier in London – understood to have been at the former's request – could be the first significant step in that process. According to CBC News
, Ecclestone asked Dumontier if he would be willing to organise an F1 race in Montreal, and Québec's Provincial Finance Minister Raymond Bachand has expressed his optimism that the Canadian Grand Prix will soon return.
Bachand affirmed that the federal and Québec governments are prepared to contribute CDN $5 million in an effort to ease negotiations along the way, and with the publication of the 2010 calendar expected on Wednesday (25 June), there is not long to wait to find out. The only question remaining is whether the race would form a part of the F1 schedule, or whether it would act as a venue for the new FOTA-led 'breakaway' series should Ecclestone jump ship too.