Bernie Ecclestone has responded to suggestions made by organisers of the deposed Canadian Grand Prix that his demands were 'unreasonable' – insisting he is anything but, and explaining that he never wanted to lose the race in the first place.
The event – held around the iconic Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Montreal's Île Notre-Dame every year since 1988, and on all-but one occasion over the past three decades – has long been a popular fixture on the Formula 1 calendar, both for the invariably dramatic races the track produces and also for the vibrant, multicultural nature of the city in which it takes place. Equally, however, in recent years it has also been plagued by repeated uncertainty over its future.
Though frantic political efforts were made to come up with a rescue package to save the 2009 edition from the axe, they have ultimately been unsuccessful [see separate story – click here
], as not even close to the $175 million over five years – plus the entirety of all advertising and attendance revenues – that Ecclestone was reputed to be asking for could be raised.
The F1 ringmaster was offered $110 million over five years plus a cut of the annual profits, whilst there is still an ongoing dispute between Ecclestone and outgoing race promoter Grand Prix du Canada over an outstanding $24 million the former claims is due to him from previous editions.
Despite a cartoon in a leading Montreal newspaper depicting the Formula One Management chief executive being tortured, Ecclestone is adamant that he loves the city and its race and hopes it will one day be re-instated on the schedule – indeed, revealing he was even ready to drop another grand prix to pave the way for a Canadian return next season.
He also dismissed claims made by Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay that his financial exigencies were 'unreasonable', stating that Canada pays one of the lowest fees of any grands prix worldwide for the honour of welcoming F1 and describing the talks held as 'good, nice, beautiful'.
“Unreasonable compared to what?” the 78-year-old fired back in an interview with radio station CJAD
. “We do business worldwide and nobody else thinks we're unreasonable. We've got a queue of people that want races, so we can't be unreasonable.
“Everyone in Formula 1 loves Montreal. I said [to organisers] you can come to my office, pull any contract out of that drawer for all the overseas races, take any one of them, cross out the name and put your name, and that's what we'll do.
“What was offered them was less than we get anywhere else in the world. Of course we would [want the race back] – we didn't want to lose it.”