Formula 1's drivers and teams alike have been unanimous in their sadness at the loss of the Canadian Grand Prix in 2009 – the first time in 20 years that Montreal will not welcome the top flight, and the first time in more than four decades that Canada will not have an F1 race at all.
With more than 300,000 spectators attending the grand prix weekend on an annual basis since 2001 – 120,000 of them on the Sunday – an estimated $100 million per year in revenue and economic benefits for Montreal as the city's biggest event and higher-than-average television viewing audiences due to its prime-time slot in Europe, the announcement that the race around the evocative Circuit Gilles Villeneuve had been abruptly axed from the calendar and Turkey had been moved into its early June date to allow for a month-long summer break came as something of a shock to all involved.
“I've obviously spent a few years racing in Montreal,” remarked Honda star Jenson Button. “I love the city; I think it's a great city and one of the best races to go for the nightlife – it's a lot of fun. The circuit itself was breaking up quite a bit over the last couple of years and causing a lot of marbles and difficulties for us.
“It's always sad seeing a circuit go, though. We get a holiday now in the summer which is quite nice, but it's sad to see it go, for sure. I don't know the reasons behind it but I will miss the city, Montreal, probably more than the circuit.”
“I think it's very sad news as well,” agreed Williams rookie Kazuki Nakajima. “I raced there only once this year, [but] our car has been very competitive every time there, so it's a bit of a downside for our team for next year.
“Even though the circuit was breaking up and there were a lot of problems, the race itself has always been very exciting. As Jenson said, it's good to have a summer break, but at the same time missing Canada is probably not the best thing.”
“It's a shame we've lost Canada,” added Toyota's Timo Glock, who paced the opening day of practice for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji [see separate story – click here
]. “For me, I had really good memories every time.
“I scored two points in my first Formula 1 race in Canada, I was on the podium in Champ Cars and this year again I had a really good result in position four. It was one of the best races on the calendar, and it's a shame we will be missing it.”
Montreal's disappearance from the schedule means there will be no North American outing at all next year – for the first time in more than half a century – and it is a move that has clearly not been well-received by the sport's teams, with the United States being one of if not the most significant marketing arena the world over for major car manufacturers like BMW, Honda and Toyota.