OCTOBER 25, 2008
Saving the Canadian Grand Prix
Montreal's mayor met with Bernie Ecclestone this week in London to try to find a solution to the problem of the Canadian Grand Prix. Although the Canadians say that the problems are not financial, there seems to be little other possible explanation not only for kicking the race out of the World Championship, but also for being able to do it. F1 contracts work both ways. If people pay their bills, the F1 teams are bound to appear and thus the fact that the race was ousted without warning must mean there is a clause in a contract that has been broken. There are other explanations flying around such as the need for the Formula One group to reduce its costs by dumping any races above and beyond the 17 that are agreed with the teams in order to cut back on its expenditure and there may be something to this argument, but there still needs to be a good reason why Canada's deal could be terminated instantly.
The poor state of the Canadian dollar will not help matters as a weak Canadian dollar is not good when it comes to buying US dollars to pay for the race. The currency lost 18% of its value in the last three months and consumers in Canada are having to pay more for anything imported from aboard and so there is less money about to spend on things like F1 tickets. It does not help that Canada is currently being run by a minority government, following elections a couple of weeks ago, and making any bold gestures at a time of financial insecurity is never a good idea for a goverment that needs to think of its image. Having said that there is no doubt that the loss of the Grand Prix is a major financial hit for Montreal, the Quebec province and Canada as a whole. If the government will not leap in to save the day (and if that was going to happen it would have happened at the meeting) there is the need for a private promoter. Finding someone to do that is going to be hard because a promoter these days needs a reason to host a Grand Prix as the actual numbers involved cannot add up to a profit. The suggestion that Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte might get involved seems fanciful. Laliberte is an F1 fan but he has got rich by knowing how to make money and the Cirque du Soleil does not need the help of F1 to become a global phenomenon. The compnay has just opened a new permanent show in Tokyo and will open another next week at the Luxor casino in Las Vegas. There is a new touring show being planned and a plan for a second resident show in Macau, with plans for a new show in Los Angeles in 2010 and another in Dubai in 2011.