Canadian Grand Prix
Venue: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal
Race sponsor: None
Date: 7th – 9th June 2013
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, named after Canada’s favourite motorsport son, lies on the Île Notre-Dame in the Saint Lawrence Seaway and has firmly established itself as a favourite of Formula One teams and fans over several decades.
Mark Webber, speaking at last year’s race, eloquently outlined the general view of the event when he said: “It’s a sensational event – one of the top few Grands Prix of the year; fans-wise, drivers, mechanics, photographers, journalists, everyone loves coming here. The city really embraces the event, the restaurants go for it, the driver parade lap here is one of the best parade laps we do in the season. So there’s a huge amount of positive aspects which we’ve had here. For a long, long time, the Canadian Grand Prix has been held here in a very, very positive fashion.”
The circuit first hosted the Canadian Grand Prix in 1978 and has done so in all but two seasons since. Most recently, the 2009 event was removed from the calendar after the failure of promotional company Grand Prix F1 du Canada Inc, run by Normand Legault, to pay its annual race fee. The race returned for 2010, much to the delight of the Formula One paddock, with a new promoter in Octane Racing Group and a fresh new approach. The Canadian Grand Prix walks a financial tightrope at the best of times but in November 2009 Octane, led by president and chief executive François Dumontier, secured a five-year contract covering 2010 to 2014.
“I think we only realised how good it was when we didn’t go for that year,” says Mark Gallagher of a event which, before the return of the US Grand Prix in 2012, was Formula One’s only North American stop. “We went back in 2010 and everyone was just blown away by the reaction of the Canadian fans. It’s a super race, a fantastic venue.”
The Canadian and Quebec governments, plus the city of Montreal and its tourism o_ shoot, are providing an annual investment of some CAN$15 million to ensure the race happens, with the government of Quebec paying CAN$4 million and Montreal US$1 million. The Canadian government and Tourisme Montreal pay around US$5 million each. In return, the parties receive a 30 per cent share of ticket sales revenue.
Keeping the event on the Formula One calendar is a near-constant financial balancing act and with talks on a contract extension likely to begin after the 2013 race in June, tough negotiations are seemingly ahead. Jim Wright, for one, believes that the Grand Prix in Austin will have “absolutely zero” impact on Canada’s largest single-day sporting event, but suggests the proposed race in New Jersey, now pencilled in for 2014 after being postponed for 2013, may do given that “it’s a hop, skip and a jump from New York to Montreal”. He adds: “Time will tell but Canada has its own economy, a strong economy. I think it will continue to survive. It’s also a very different race and the timing of the race is superb for most TV markets, so long may it continue.”
Gallagher concurs and adds that the event itself has become something of a magnet for corporate guests. “From a commercial point of view, a lot of sponsors like it. It’s easy access from Europe, it’s quite a short flight. It’s great for the North American market, easy to get people to come there. It’s a great, multicultural city, great hotels and restaurants.
“Quite frankly, you couldn’t ask for more.”