The absence of the Canadian Grand Prix from the 2009 Formula 1 calendar is 'very sad' and 'a terrible loss' for Montreal, the sport's 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has stated.
The race – held around the evocative Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, named after the French-Canadian's late father, on the Île Notre Dame every year bar one since 1978 – was axed from the schedule as the result of an unresolved financial dispute between event promoter Grand Prix du Canada and F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management company.
Despite never having triumphed in front of his adoring home fans – in fact finishing just one race from ten starts inside the points, taking the chequered flag second to Williams-Renault team-mate Damon Hill during his maiden campaign in 1996 – Villeneuve expressed his disappointment that the grand prix will not be held this year.
“For Montreal, it's a terrible loss of business,” asserted the 37-year-old – who owns the Newtown Restaurant, in the heart of Montreal's trendy Rue Crescent – during the Canadian Motorsport Expo Québécois. “The whole weekend in town was fun.
“For the drivers, for the fans, it was always a great venue, exciting and fun. It is very sad. It was one of the most popular races of the season.”
The Canadian Grand Prix is estimated to have brought in between $75 CAN million and $80 CAN million to the city every year, and was first held more than four decades ago in 1967.