Formula 1 Circus Departs Montreal
In the dual pre-election heat there was only one other story that seemed to matter in Canada on Tuesday. International Automobile Federation decided to drop Montreal F1 race from the 2009 calendar.
The news reached Circuit Gilles Villeneuve via news channels but, apparently, it wasn't that surprising. There were some alleged contractual issues between the Circuit officials and F1. These are very common these days in Formula 1, but they were probably not the main reason for Montreal's exit.
Once in a while F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone threatens to remove a particular venue off the list. Not enough spectators, aging facilities, horrible access to the race track for both teams and fans, sometimes there's glamour factor or boring race.
Montreal GP had always enough visitors to satisfy both Circuit officials and Bernie Ecclestone, in fact, it was the most watched F1 race in the world in 2005. That year, only Superbowl and UEFA Champions League Final between FC Liverpool and AC Milan attracted more viewers. For the past few years, the Montreal races were one of the most attractive, exciting and unpredictable, although sometimes only due to crashes and Safety Car periods. The circuit features legendary “Wall of Champions” named after a memorable 1999 race when three F1 World Champions, Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and the local hero Jacques Villeneuve, crashed there within 20 laps (Ricardo Zonta, at the time FIA GT Champion, crashed on the exact spot too).
On the dark side, circuit's facilities were aging and for the last two years circuit's surface was causing a collective headache across the paddock. The graining of the tarmac was so bad this year that the circuit officials were forced to resurface parts of the track the night before the race.
Also, the provisional 2009 race calendar featured 19 races and no summer break which teams have been begging for. Finally, there was no US Grand Prix this year and there will be no in 2009. That meant shipping 10 teams, all equipment and hundreds of people over the Atlantic just for the one race. These two reasons were perhaps the most important in FIA's decision to move Turkish GP to June and drop Montreal from the list.
After Jacques Villeneuve's retirement from F1 in 2006, Canada lost its last connection with top level motor racing and the only entertainment will be provided by second rate drivers in the US based Indy Racing League and Nascar.
(Written for World Business Press Online)
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