While not an ideal situation for Canadian motorsports enthusiasts, the grand prix in Montreal could still go ahead as a ‘ghost-race’ with no fans in the stands. Formula 1 is not likely to reduce the sanctioning fees, as the past year has hurt the sport economically. Besides, a profitable event at Istanbul Park in Turkey is the alternative to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
With many Quebecers struggling financially because of the pandemic, government money must be spent in ways that help most, yet the Canadian Grand Prix is that it is mostly funded by taxpayer money.
- The federal government is believed to provide $5 million.
- The provincial government is reported to provide $4 million.
- The municipal government also adds $1 million.
- A local ‘hotel tax’ helps to collect another $5 million through the non-profit Tourisme Montreal organization.
- Octane Racing Group, the race promoter, raises the remaining $6 million needed to put on the race, by selling tickets, food and drink, and of course, sponsors.
Without fans in the stands, there are no ticket sales, no concession stands, and really no way for Octane Racing Group to make up the difference, which is why news sources are reporting that Octane Racing Group has asked government partners for an extra $6 million to ‘balance the books’ and make the race a reality. The event is undoubtedly a huge economic benefit to the entire province, But speculation about whether there is the political will to put on a race that Montrealers and tourists can’t even attend due to the pandemic. Is it worth it?
The man in the eye of the storm is Francois Dumontier. He is both the race promoter (president of the Octane Racing Group) and he is also the man in charge of all motorsports in Canada, as president of Grouppe de Developement Sportif, the FIA’s official motorsports delegate in Canada. Inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2017, Dumontier is an industry insider with a passion for motorsports. If anyone can get a deal done to run the race, it’s him.
As to the question of whether governments should add millions more to help stage the race, Dumontier and most motorsports fans would say yes. However, the mayor of Montreal, Valerie Plante, was recently quoted by Le Journal de Montreal as pointing out that more public money may not be the best solution;
“We want the grand prix to take place in Montreal…but for me, on the issue of taxpayers’ money we must ensure that it is spent in a good way. We are in discussions with the government of Quebec and the federal government to see what the situation is. The important thing for me is that the Canadian GP stays here. If it isn’t possible again this year, it absolutely has to be here next year. We will discuss this with the other parties before making a decision.”Valerie Plante, Mayor of Montreal
A decision is expected by Friday, April 16th, 2021, but the fate of the race is as much about politics as much as it’s about money.