Montreal back on F1 schedule

Grand Prix F1 du Canada Inc. and Formula One's governing body have reached a settlement in the financial dispute that forced the cancellation of the 2009 Canadian Grand Prix.

Race draws estimated $100 million a year in revenues, economic spinoffs to city

Formula One fans: Start getting excited about a return to Montreal.

Grand Prix F1 du Canada Inc. and F1's governing body have reached a settlement in the financial dispute that forced the cancellation of the 2009 Canadian Grand Prix.

In a news release, local promoter Normand Legault said Montreal is back on the F1 schedule.

"Negotiations with [F1 president Bernie] Ecclestone are going well," said Quebec cabinet minister Raymand Bachand. "The negotiations are actually over, but we haven't signed anything yet but we're very confident."

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 in Montreal, a fixture on the F1 circuit since 1978, drew an estimated $100 million a year in revenues and economic spinoffs to the city.

Earlier this year, Canadian municipal, provincial and federal government officials travelled to London to persuade Ecclestone to reinstate the race, but he refused.

Money was the reason the Canadian Grand Prix was left off this season's calendar. Formula One Management could not come to terms with Montreal on a fee to be paid for the rights to host the race, so Ecclestone looked elsewhere.

Istanbul took Montreal's spot on the circuit, but June's race in Turkey was poorly attended.

"Formula One does not like playing to empty seats,"'s John Pudy wrote in August. "Montreal is a guaranteed sellout, and it is more than a race; it is an event."

A lot has happened inside the F1 world since Montreal hosted its last race.

Honda departed the series, and BMW has announced it will leave at the end of the year. The remaining auto manufacturers involved in the series have gained a stronger voice and battled with Formula One over many issues, including rule changes and the sharing of revenues.

The return of Formula One to North America is critical to these manufacturers, and they have been pressuring F1 to return.

Companies such as Mercedes, Ferrari and Toyota sell a majority of their cars in North America and have no way of leveraging their investment in F1 in this key market. A return to Montreal is critical to keep peace in the series and also gives the manufacturers a better business case to remain in Formula One.

"You saw how many people were in Istanbul [in June] — 30,000 people," Bachand said. "We get 300,000 for the entire weekend."

With files from The Canadian Press