Canadian GP plans on track
After a year's absence, the Canadian Grand Prix will return to the Formula One calendar in June after Bernie Ecclestone signed a new five-year deal. François Dumontier, the new boss of the event spoke to ESPNF1's Daniel Bastien about the challenges that lie ahead.
Daniel Bastien: Why was it so important to bring the Canadian Grand Prix back to the F1 championship?
François Dumontier : The comments made by the teams, the manufacturers, the drivers, by people in Formula One... It wasn't fake when people said Montreal is a destination extremely appreciated by all in F1. On the world scene, it's notoriety. You know, only 19 cities in the world have a grand prix, so we can be very proud and happy. As for the global visibility which Montreal receives through television coverage, I think that was a priority beyond the economic aspect of it all.
The Canadian Grand Prix has sold out year after year, why is there so much enthusiasm?
Indeed, that is what we have seen over the last several years : whether there is a United States Grand Prix or not, the Canadian Grand Prix has always been very popular and that is in great part due to our fans. I often say that we are lucky here in [the Province of] Quebec because we have fans that are connoisseurs and are passionate about motorsport.
How did you find the negotiation process with Bernie Ecclestone?
It went very well. I believe he was a fine negotiator, in good faith. Over the six months of negotiating I did not feel any form of slyness or ill will. I think he held the return of the Canadian Grand Prix at heart.
So his reputation is overrated in that regard?
I was ready and in the end everything went well. There weren't any big obstacles. There was a sincere and honest will on Mr. Ecclestone's part in returning to Canada. It was long but that's a normal process in view of the agreement's magnitude.
Ecclestone often demands improvements to venue's; is this the case for the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit?
Not for 2010. Obviously, no circuit is protected from that sort of thing in the future, but I can confirm that no demand of that sort was made for 2010. With the little time we have - we signed the agreement at the end of November - I do not have the intention of reinventing the wheel. We will keep things simple and functional.
Will there be an extra challenge accommodating the 13 teams?
We will have to deal with that. Garage-wise all is well because there was a time when there were more teams in F1, but we will probably proceed with some expansions.
During the last race in 2008, there were problems with the track surface breaking up and emergency repairs were completed after the qualifying session. Will that problem be sorted for 2010?
In fact the problem is sorted. After the 2008 Grand Prix we had worked on a solution for the 2009 grand prix, which did not take place. We had found a product used at other circuits around the world. There was no grand prix [in Montreal] in 2009, but we had a NASCAR race and that went ahead without any problems. We think that 43 heavy NASCAR's is a good test.
At the business forum in Monaco, there was talk of enhancing the entertainment factor for the races. Is that plan already up and running?
F1 has a few projects running. We saw F1 Rocks in Singapore which was integrated into the program, and at the final race in Abu Dhabi they created a section called 'Fan Zone'. I'm open to all that. When I speak of not reinventing the wheel, it's mostly about the (circuit's) infrastructures. I am not at all closing the door at organizing satellite events around the race to increase interest.
In regards to ticket sales, is it too early to say if there is any enthusiasm related to the return of Michael Schumacher and the possible return of Jacques Villeneuve?
The ticket sales have begun well but it's only been a week [that they have been on sale]. We can see the interest people have, but it's much too early to speak of an interest related to the return of Schumacher or Jacques. I am convinced that there are many Schumacher fans in Quebec and in Canada. As for Jacques, we saw his popularity when we held the NASCAR round, so we're following that closely. ESPNF1.com