It is expected to be known tomorrow (Friday) whether the Canadian government has won its battle to see the Canadian Grand Prix re-instated on the Formula 1 schedule next year – as a close ally of the sport's ringmaster and commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone suggested Montreal 'will quickly get back its place'.
The event was struck from the 2009 calendar when the official calendar was released earlier this month – sending shockwaves through the F1 paddock – and since then frantic efforts have been undertaken by different levels of Canadian government to come to a resolution to rescue it, culminating in a meeting between Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, Québec economic development minister Raymond Bachand and federal minister of international trade Michael Fortier with Ecclestone in London last week.
The race around the popular and nostalgic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Montreal's Île Notre Dame has been held every year since 1987, and should there be neither a Canadian nor US Grand Prix next season, it will mark the first time in half a century that the sport has not competed on the continent, clearly angering F1's manufacturers, for whom North America is a vital market for selling cars.
The only option to save the grand prix would appear to be for the Canadian government to appease Ecclestone by settling the debts reputedly owed by outgoing race promoter Grand Prix du Canada to his Formula One Management company – said to be in the region of $10 million to $20 million – and subsequently find a new organiser from the 'private sector'.
According to local newspaper Le Journal de Montreal
, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté and Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team owner George Gillett have both been mooted as potential investors, even though a spokesperson for the former has denied any intention of financial involvement. Gillett, by contrast, currently owns NASCAR's Gillett Evernham Motorsports squad, and was formerly on the board of the now defunct Denver Grand Prix Champ Car event.
“One cannot talk about figures until the discussions with Bernie Ecclestone are concluded,” insisted Fortier, speaking to Montreal newspaper La Presse
. “Before that can be done, all the options must be evaluated.”
“If a financially responsible option can be put in place, it is very possible that the grand prix will be held in 2009,” added Bachand, who nonetheless sought to underline that there is no guarantee a solution will be reached.
Philippe Gurdjian, meanwhile – the man behind the new Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and a close friend of Ecclestone – is confident the race will return.
“I am less concerned about Canada than about France,” he told French magazine Auto Hebdo
. “I can imagine Canada will quickly get back its place.”