By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Bernie Ecclestone is reportedly demanding that significant improvements are made to Montreal if the deal to stage the Canadian Grand Prix is to be renewed.
The current deal runs out after the 2014 race, and it appears Montreal will join the likes of Imola and Kyalami on the Formula 1 scrapheap should the improvements not be made.
That the facilities at Montreal are ailing is not in doubt – some, including the garages and control tower, are 25 years old.
Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay has appealed to higher levels of government for the necessary money in order to appease Bernie’s wishes.
A report in La Presse believes that Ecclestone wants a $15m (just over £9m) Canadian dollar overhaul of the circuit including repairs and a new paddock.
Whilst I understand the need to improve facilities, not every track needs to be shimmering like Abu Dhabi. The track has plenty of character by itself, with its’ unusual pit exit into the second corner, the famous ‘Wall of Champions’, and blasts through the leafy areas of the man-made island upon which it stands.
I would rather watch one race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – where F1 has raced for over 30 years - than five races around a more modern, sterile track like Valencia.
Montreal has witnessed some of the most dramatic racing in recent history, and has been the venue of both Lewis Hamilton and the much missed Robert Kubica’s first race wins.
Who could forget the 2011 race, which lasted over four hours due to rain delays and saw Jenson Button put in a stunning bottom-top drive to take victory after capitalising on Sebastian Vettel’s last lap mistake?
Not renewing the deal for the Grand Prix there would be a big mistake as with the forthcoming introduction of two races in the USA, Formula 1 finally has a chance to gain a foothold in the lucrative North American market.
More encouragement should be given to tracks like Montreal that continue to deliver good racing, healthy attendances and in a city which genuinely loves the sport.
Venues that consistently deliver on these sort of issues are the ones that should be helped financially by the powers that be, and have sponsors falling over each other to assist in the redevelopment in exchange for prominent advertising.
However, I fear I am preaching to the converted here and we all know that unless major upgrades happen at Montreal, the Canadian Grand Prix will be no more.
It is interesting that no-one in authority has suggested a race share in the vein of Barcelona and Valencia – perhaps with one of the European races, which are bearing the brunt of F1’s continued global expansion, instead preferring the more direct improve or on your bike message.
Whether this is just to save face after only a few years racing in Valencia, I’m not sure. One thing I am certain of though, is that F1 without Montreal would be much the poorer.
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