Montreal mayor pins hopes for Grand Prix return on future, not 2009
Mayor downplays reports of possible Montreal return to F1 schedule
Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay says negotiations are still on track to bring the Grand Prix back to Montreal — but he doubts it will happen this year.
Reports over the weekend suggested Formula One organizers were reconsidering their decision to cut Montreal from this year's racing schedule because of apparent delays with the inaugural Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Tremblay said the possibility of a quick Montreal return had not come up in any of the negotiations between his officials and the International Automobile Federation (FIA), the governing body that oversees F1.
Tremblay said if F1 wants to add Montreal back to the Grand Prix schedule immediately, he would be open to the idea. However, he said he would want more than just a one-year commitment.
"If they want us to hold a race, yes, we'd be very interested, but not only for 2009," said Tremblay.
"We'd be negotiating a long-term agreement to make sure that the race is held in Montreal for a long time."
The promoter of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has denied rumours of any construction delays or financial problems with the race, which is slated for Oct. 30 to Nov. 1.
Racing journalist doubts Montreal will be back soon
FIA caught Canadian officials off guard in early October by releasing a schedule for 2009 that didn't include a stop in the city.
The Turkish Grand Prix was moved from August to June 7 to replace the Montreal race. The lucrative race in Abu Dhabi was also added.
To get back on the schedule, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone wanted Montreal to agree to a new financial arrangement including higher annual fees.
Organizers in Montreal put together a $110-million, five-year counter offer with money from provincial, federal and municipal governments. Ecclestone refused, deciding to focus his attention on new opportunities including the Abu Dhabi debut.
Journalist Dominic Fugère, who has covered F1 for the Journal de Montreal, said there were initial issues with the Abu Dhabi project.
"There were concerns about the circuit itself. It's been a major undertaking over there. The track goes through a hotel, so you can imagine the scope of the work that has to happen," said Fugère.
With Abu Dhabi race organizers expressing confidence in their ability to be ready for the race, Fugère doubts the 2009 schedule will change.