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It’s not F1 trying to get extra money, it’s the promoter

Written by Norris McDonald

Let’s get something straight: Formula One is not asking for an additional $6-million to show up in Montreal for the Grand Prix du Canada  June 13.

It’s the Montreal organizers of the race who are asking for the money.

I don’t know how people, particularly Canadians, can so easily fall for sleight-of-hand distractions like this. We’re seeing it right now with the vaccine supply. The federal government has screwed this up and the provinces are getting blamed for it. Pretty good, if you can get away with it.

F1, which is owned by Liberty Media, charges $18.5 million per year to put on a show these days and that money comes from Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal. Liberty will get their money this year when and if they arrive in Montreal. But maybe they already have it, and if that’s the case, what happens to it if there’s no race?

If there is no race – as was the case a year ago when the Grand Prix had to be cancelled because of the pandemic – what happens to that money? Is it refunded to Ottawa, etc. Is it in escrow somewhere? We’re talking about $18.5 million here; we could be talking about as much as $37 million when we add in 2020. Where is it? Who has it?

The Grand Prix du Canada is promoted by Groupe de Course Octane Inc., whose president is Francois Dumontier. At one time, Dumontier wanted to promote all major-league professional racing in Canada – the Honda Indy Toronto, the Edmonton Grand Prix (champ cars) as well as the Grand Prix – but ran into problems out west and a subsidiary of Groupe Octane that ran the Edmonton race was forced to declare bankruptcy.

He lost money on the Grand Prix a year ago when he paid to build the grandstands around the track called the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, planning – as has always been the case – to pay his bills with receipts from the 100,000-plus race weekend attendance.

So he was in the hole after last year’s cancelled race and is faced with the same dilemma as this year’s race approaches. He needs help to put up the grandstands, issue refunds to people who either can’t or don’t want to attend this year’s race, and to clean up any other odds ‘n ends that require capital.

So he’s the guy trying to get $6-million to handle those expenses and to pay himself and his staff salaries.

So, to repeat and to make clear, F1 is not trying to get another $6-million out of Canada and Quebec taxpayers. It’s Octane.

But that’s just the money end of this thing. Will the federal and Quebec governments waive the requirement to quarantine when F1 arrives in the country? While the drivers and other F1 personnel can keep their distance (special buses to and from hotels, for instance), what about the people who will have to travel to the track to deliver food and empty the toilets? What about the marshals and tow-truck operators needed to run the race? And what if someone falls ill and makes everyone on the plane back overseas sick?

And, finally, you can bet that if the red carpet is laid out for a Grand Prix in Montreal, the screams from the Honda Indy, the Blue Jays, the Raptors, and so-on will make whoever makes the decision to give the race a green light wish they’d never heard of F1.


NASCAR: Cup race at Richmond, FOX, TSN, 3 p.m. Sunday.

INDYCAR: Grand Prix of Alabama, NBC, Sportsnet, 3 p.m. Sunday

FORMULA ONE: Grand Prix/Imola, TSN, 8:55 a.m. Sunday