There is 'not enough time' to secure the future of the Canadian Grand Prix for 2009, it has been warned, but race organisers have insisted they 'will do everything possible to save it' in the long-term.
It was announced last week that the race around Montreal's historic and popular Circuit Gilles Villeneuve had been axed due a contractual dispute, understood to be based on outstanding debts owed by promoter Grand Prix du Canada to commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management Company.
The move has been received with widespread sadness in the F1 paddock, with manufacturers in particular concerned that the absence of both Montreal and Indianapolis means there will be no North American event on the calendar next year for the first time in more than half a century.
Frantic rescue efforts are being made behind the scenes by both teams – in the guise of FOTA, the Formula One Teams' Association – and various levels of Canadian government, but Nick Fry suggests a rescue deal is far from imminent.
“I do not think we will be able to save the 2009 race,” Honda's CEO told French-language newspaper La Presse
. “There is not enough time.
“On the other hand we must find a solution for 2010 and the years beyond. Within FOTA, we must make it a top priority to have at least two North American races on the calendar.”
Those sentiments are echoed by the opposition Vision Montreal leader Benoit Labonté, who suggested shelling out $20 million in public funds – even if the line must be drawn 'at a certain point' – in order to keep the race would reap ample dividends, with the grand prix bringing in a reputed $75 million to the city each year.
“[The race] is in my borough,” Labonté told local newspaper the Montreal Gazette
. “Ask the bar owners downtown how much is enough [to keep the grand prix in Montreal], and they'd give you a much higher figure.
“The objective reality of this event is that annually it brings $75 million of foreign money to the city – money that would not be spent in Montreal if this event doesn't occur. That's the first basis for calculations.”