F1 race could return to Montreal in 2010

CBC/Radio-Canada learned Wednesday that Formula One racing could return to Montreal as early as next year.

Formula One racing could return to Montreal as early as next year, CBC News has learned.

Montreal NASCAR race organizer François Dumontier and F1 president Bernie Ecclestone met on Tuesday in London at Ecclestone's request. They didn't sign a contract, but Ecclestone asked Dumontier if he wanted to organize an F1 race in Montreal.

The answer about a future Canadian Grand Prix is expected to come next Wednesday as the 2010 Grand Prix schedule is unveiled.

Both the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and French GP were dropped this season after organizers failed to meet Ecclestone's financial demands.

Istanbul took Montreal's spot on the circuit this year, but this month's race in Turkey was hamstrung by poor attendance.

Provincial Finance Minister Raymond Bachand said Thursday he's confident F1 racing will soon return to Montreal.

"It's common sense that Montreal should have a Formula One Grand Prix," Bachand said.

"You saw how many people were in Istanbul this month — 30,000 people. We get 300,000 for the entire weekend."

Bachand said the F1 has its own financial problems that need to be resolved before the race returns to Montreal.

He told reporters the federal and provincial governments are ready to kick in $5 million in financing while the City of Montreal is offering up another $5 million from a hotel tax to get the race back to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Federal and provincial ministers as well as Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay attempted to convince Ecclestone to keep the race in Montreal, even travelling to England to meet with him.

But the Canadian event was dropped in favour of a new race in Abu Dhabi, despite Montreal being popular among drivers and teams.

The Turkish Grand Prix was handed Montreal's dates for the first weekend in June.

The controversial Ecclestone was asking for payments of nearly $175 million over five years — too rich for Montreal organizers, who felt the demands were outrageous.

Bachand said the government has never stopped talking with Ecclestone, even after the Montreal race was pulled.

Bachand said organizers are not looking for a one-time deal. They want a long-term commitment and a minimum five-year deal.

The Canadian Grand Prix was one of the sport's best-attended events, drawing more than 300,000 spectators for three days of competition each year since 2001, with 120,000 at the track for the Sunday race alone.

The event drew an estimated $100 million per year in revenues and economic spinoffs to the city.

The Canadian Grand Prix had been part of the F1 calendar since 1967. The only year since then that it wasn't held here was 1987 because of a dispute between sponsors.

With files from The Canadian Press