It’s like sitting on a financial time bomb, and the only person who knows what the timer’s set to is Formula One Group CEO Bernie Ecclestone.
King Bernie says Montreal’s lack of progress on promised improvements to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve facility on the Montreal waterfront may put the future of the Canadian Grand Prix in doubt.
Read that to mean he’s after an even higher sanctioning fee.
When Montreal renewed its contract for the Grand Prix in 2014, the city promised to upgrade the garages, control tower and medical centre at a cost of over $32 million, in time for the 2017 race.
When asked if he was optimistic the improvements would be ready for next year’s GP, Ecclestone said, “I doubt it. We’ll see if the 2017 Grand Prix gets the green light if the renovations aren’t complete. If they’re not finished, the city’s contract with F-1 could be in doubt.”
Ecclestone added, “with contracts, normally it’s got terms set out for what people are supposed to do – both sides. It’s been forgotten a little bit from the city’s side.”
Ecclestone is renowned for his flippant remarks that keeps people guessing what he really means, but the contract regarding renovations prompted an immediate reaction from Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.
Mayor Coderre admitted work on the upgrades is behind schedule, but that’s because Ecclestone himself is partly to blame for disagreements with the event promoter.
“When the promoter and Ecclestone don’t agree on how things should be done, that’s what causes delays.”
Despite the unsettling words, The Mayor assures fans Montreal’s 2017 Grand Prix will happen, and the City is holding up its end of the log.
Montreal has hosted the Canadian GP every year since 1978 – except in 1987 and more recently in 2009.
The Canadian Grand Prix was dropped off the 2009 schedule over a contract dispute over financial arrangements with former race promoter Normand Legault.
Local officials led an effort to revive the event, but failed when they could not meet Ecclestone’s very steep price.
The proposal was $75-million over 5 years, much less than the offer rejected by Ecclestone initially. It is also thought the deal included a promise to pay Ecclestone the money he was owed under the previous arrangement.
The City offered Ecclestone a 5-year package for $110-million in sanctioning fees as well as 75 % of the first $10-million in profit and 25 % of the rest.
In addition, the estimated $20-million from the race’s advertising and luxury box revenue would have gone to Ecclestone.
His counter-offer of a guaranteed $175-million over 5 years to keep Montreal on the F-1 schedule was too hefty for the city and the race was pulled.
F-1 manufacturers need races in North America to help them sell cars here and Ecclestone knows that despite his bluster.
The manufacturers have stated a successful race in Montreal in Canada helps to increase the sport’s fan base in the United States, a critical portion of their global sales target.
Ecclestone’s shadow-casting on The Canadian Grand Prix again could lead to a repeat of the same situation.
If Bernie’s price goes up again, would the City of Montreal simply tell him where he can jam his race?
I hope it never happens, but that’s more than possible.
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