With the 2010 Formula One World Championship schedule to be released next week, it’s crunch time for promoters looking to get a Grand Prix on the calendar. After a year’s absence from the rotation, Canada looks to make a return to Formula One. But another group is might want its hands on a big race in Montreal.
Francois Dumontier is leading the effort for F1’s return to Montreal. Dumontier is the promoter for the annual combines NASCAR Nationwide Series and Grand-Am race weekend. He met in London with Ecclestone about returning a race to Montreal.
The Canadian GP was dropped from the calendar along with the French GP. The season-ending Abu Dhabi GP is the only new race on the 2009 schedule. The mid-June date that was previously held by Canada was filled this season by Turkey. Unlike the Canadian race which can draw spectators in the 250,000+ range over a weekend, this year’s Turkish race was estimated to have a total paid attendance of around 40,000.
The Canadian federal and the Quebec provincial governments have pledged $5 million to bringing the race back to Montreal. The local government is rumoured to be putting up $10 million of support over five years. That’s a small percentage of what is needed to pay for the sanctioning fee to host a race. Based on last 2008 figures, an average race sanctioning fee is about £16 million or around $30 million Canadian. There is always the possibility of a lower fee because the teams are eager to get a race in the North American market.
Interestingly, there appears to be another group interested in holding a race at Montreal. FOTA is believed to be interested in bringing its potential breakaway series to Canada. As mentioned above, Montreal was among the favourite stops on the calendar for both drivers and team members. However, if both F1 and FOTA go for Montreal, a conflict will arise. Because of current Montreal noise bylaws, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is allowed to play host to only two race weekends per year. With NASCAR occupying one weekend, that leaves room for only one race.
A decision on Canada’s potential return to F1 is not expected until next Wednesday when the schedule is released.
UPDATE: With the announcement of the FOTA breakaway series, it’s worth clarifying something. Montreal bylaws allow for only two race weekends at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. That means that there is likely to be a showdown between the FIA and FOTA over who will run a race in Montreal. I would expect FOTA to make a hard push to get their hands on a race at either Montreal or Indianapolis as a North American stop in their series. As FOTA is made of largely car manufacturers, it would be in their best interest to have a couple of races in the North American market.