It appears the door has not been entirely closed on the possibility of the Canadian Grand Prix returning to the Formula 1 calendar in 2009 – as long as a new race promoter is found.
That was the message delivered by Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, Québec economic development minister Raymond Bachand and federal minister of international trade Michael Fortier following a meeting with the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone in London yesterday (Thursday).
Shockwaves were sent through the F1 paddock when the event – held since 1987 around the iconic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Montreal's picturesque Île Notre-Dame – was axed last month when the FIA surprisingly revealed the provisional 2009 calendar without any North American outings for the first time in half a century.
The subsequent disappearance of the French Grand Prix, however, has potentially left a slot free again – and it is a slot the country's politicians are eagerly chasing, subject to the resolution of a financial disagreement between outgoing race promoter Grand Prix du Canada and Ecclestone's Formula One Management Company
“We've had a very good, constructive meeting with Bernie Ecclestone and we have a better understanding of the issues and the challenges we are facing,” Tremblay is quoted by international news agency Reuters
as having revealed after the meeting.
“We still have a lot of work to do to evaluate all the options, but I think the signs were encouraging and it is still possible to hold the grand prix in Montreal in 2009 and in subsequent years.”
The dispute is believed to relate to significant unpaid debts from the 2008 event, though Grand Prix du Canada marketing vice-president Paul Wilson has issued a statement rebuffing any suggestions of the company defaulting on payments in 2006 and 2007.
“It is true that we have a commercial disagreement regarding our monetary obligations,” he acknowledged, “but only for 2008. This is the result of an historical difference within the contractual understanding between the two parties.
“We were working hard to resolve the matter in order to meet our 2008 obligations when Mr Ecclestone, without notice, surprised everyone by unilaterally dropping the Canadian Grand Prix from the 2009 FIA schedule on 7 October.”