Canadian Grand Prix not dead yet, says Montreal mayor

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay emerged from a meeting with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in London on Thursday optimistic that the Canadian Grand Prix will be put back on the race calendar for 2009.

There's no deal in place to save the Montreal's Formula One race — not yet, anyway.

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay, Quebec Economic Development Minister Raymond Bachand and federal Minister of International Trade Michael Fortier met with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in London Thursday.

The Canadian delegation and F1 chief met for 2½ hours, and although no agreement was reached that would put Montreal back on next year's race calendar, Tremblay maintained an optimistic tone.

"We've had a constructive meeting. We have a better understanding of the issues. We still have a lot of work to do, to evaluate all the options, but it is still possible to hold the Grand Prix in Montreal in 2009 and in subsequent years," Tremblay told reporters after the meeting.

Tremblay is expected to give an update on the situation at a news conference in Montreal at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Nancy Durham of CBC News told Newsworld there is talk that Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, who happens to be friends with Ecclestone, could step in and rescue the race by injecting some cash into the coffers of the Montreal race organizers.

Earlier this month, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) announced that the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal would be removed from the 2009 F1 season.

The race was dropped amid claims, since refuted by the Montreal authorities, that the organizers had defaulted on payments to Ecclestone over the past three years.

Important to Montreal

Losing the Grand Prix would be an "enormous" economic blow for Montreal, Tremblay told Radio-Canada.

The event generates more than $75 million in tourism and creates "important economic spinoffs," he added.

This isn't the first time the Canadian event has faced removal from the F1 schedule. Five years ago, Ecclestone said the race would be dropped in 2004 because of looming legislation to stop tobacco advertising.

However, event officials were able to raise the necessary funds to keep the race alive.

The Montreal race has included several great moments, but none more memorable than the 1978 version, when Quebec native Gilles Villeneuve took the checkered flag.

Born in Richelieu, Que., Villeneuve, who died during a qualifying session for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix, remains the only Canadian to win the event.