With Canada is the midst of a devastating third wave of the COVID-19 virus, it was announced this week that for the second year in a row, the Canadian Grand Prix would be cancelled. The decision to cancel the race comes amid rising health concerns by Canadian officials in Montreal.
The race, scheduled to take place at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 13th, was also cancelled last year as the pandemic took hold on the country. The announcement, which was made via a virtual news conference by Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, stated,
“It was done jointly, we obviously were attentive to public health in Montreal, who expressed some concerns, same thing with public health in Quebec and Canada, so we decided as a government it was the best decision to be taken, to cancel the Formula One race.”
In response to the announcement, and the travel restrictions imposed in Canada that would not be possible to meet, F1 officials announced the race would be held in Istanbul, Turkey. However, when making the announcement, Canadian health officials stated that the race would return next season. In addition, it was reported tat an agreement has been made that will extend the Canadian GP remain in Montreal until 2031.
While the extra two year extension to the original contract is good news for Montreal, it comes at the cost of $25 million to host the event. This is an increase of $6 million that was expected to be paid for 2021. However, the three-day event generates an estimated $100 million in added economic benefits, let alone $10 million for the province of Quebec.
In addition to the two year extension, Quebec and Ottawa have agreed both to invest $5.5 million to promote the event to help increase tourist interest once safe to do so. To help the country reach that point, Federal Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly, said the country is in the middle of an aggressive vaccination campaign.
“We’ll be one of the first ones in the world to be able to have international tourists here in our country and we’ll be able to sell the fact we are a healthy and secure place to visit.”
The formal decision to cancel came about after Montreal and its health care professionals expressed concerns relating to the current state of the pandemic in Quebec. While the public health director stated that a formal request was not made by her department, the cancellation means one less thing for health officials to manage. The Canadian Grand Prix’s promotor, Francois Dumontier, has mixed feelings about the cancellation of this years race, In response to the announcement, Dumontier stated,
“I understand the news, and I accept it, but you understand that I still have mixed feelings. I am disappointed with the cancellation for my team, for the many volunteers and all the stakeholders who make it so successful.”
In addition, Dumontier stated he was pleased to see the current contract was extended two years to make up for the impact the cancellations have had to the event and the city of Montreal. Adding to his comments, Dumontier said,
“I think that we’ve got enough time in front of us to put up the event. By September or October, most Canadians will be vaccinated so if we can start working at that moment, we’ll be in good shape and no problem to prepare for next June.”
The Canadian Grand Prix has been a fixture on the F1 schedule since 1967 and prior to 2009’s cancellation over broadcasting rights, the race has been held every year since. In other F1 news, the governing body of Formula 1 announced he would begin debuting sprint qualifying races at three of its grand prix events.
The sprint qualifying races, expected to be held on Saturdays, will be at least 100 kilometers and will replace the days usual qualifying session for the following days F1 race. Two of the three races will be at European venues, while the other will be held at a non-European event. FIA president Jean Todt, while speaking about the announcement stated,
“I am pleased to see that Formula One is seeking new ways to engage with its fans and enlarge the spectacle of a race weekend through the concept of sprint qualifying.”
The change will be good news for punters looking to gain an advantage with Canadian bookmakers as qualifying sessions for those races will move to Friday. It will also mean a reduction in time teams have top prepare their cars for the tracks and that could mean a change in the usual top three finishers.