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GP Week : Issue 203
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The visiting journalists trying to meet an awkward deadline (five hours ahead of Canadian time for Brits like me) at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve last Saturday were justifiably furious as the Media Centre's loudspeakers intrusively blasted out a press conference being conducted in the rather curious language that passes for French in the province of Québec. Perhaps we hacks should have been a bit more tolerant, because what was being announced was the ten-year extension of the contract ("with the commercial rights holder," as a certain Bernie Ecclestone was referenced at the very bottom of the two-page press release) for the country's Grand Prix. The parties who have promised the AUD183 million investment are the governments of Canada and Québec, the city of Montréal and Tourisme Montréal. Montréal first hosted the Grand Prix in 1978 and has rightly become a favourite destination for North American fans who enjoy the city's party-friendly atmosphere as much as they relish the exoticism of F1. The city's mayor, Denis Coderre, went so far as to describe Formula 1 as "one of Montréal's defining emblems." This was a bold thing to say in a city which is addicted to ice hockey, and an even bolder undertaking for a politician to make exactly three days after the provincial treasurer had revealed that Québec (pop 8 million) is currently running a record annual deficit of well over AUD5 billion. A minister in the national government then followed a well-trodden path for public officials who are about to sign a gigantic cheque with Bernie's name on it by trotting out the usual eyebrow-raising claims about the race's financial benefits for the region. "The economic spinoffs from the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada are estimated at $70 million (app AUD68m) and the event contributes to the creation or maintenance of nearly 1,400 full- time jobs in the tourism industry," he declared with a commendably straight face. Australian fans are of course familiar with this procedure. But the Canadians have taken it much further than their counterparts in Melbourne have ever been willing to do by revealing details of the sums that they will be raising from the tax payers. This, I learned, is a consequence of the Canadian public's insistence on 'transparency.' It makes a nonsense of the increasingly decrepit justification put out by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation that the price of Melbourne's race must be protected from public gaze by a requirement for 'commercial confidentiality.' The promoters of the Montréal race are not the first in the F1 business to publish the hard monetary statistics of their deals with the private equity company which owns the commercial rights in F1 racing and ultimately pays Bernie's salary. But the figures are not stable, because they increase annually in line with the percentage accumulator that Ecclestone has always favoured. Since last year there has even been a premium that he imposes for the honour of staging the final round. And you thought that the double-points innovation for 2014 was some sort of sporting wangle ... My research suggests that by far the 'cheapest' race on the F1 calendar is Monaco, which is well aware of its prestige value to the championship and pays a token sum, probably no more than a few million. Silverstone, the last remaining GP to survive without a cent of government support (it actually pays tax), also gets a concessionary rate, possibly as low as low as AUD20 million, in recognition of that fact. Amazingly, it attracts a race-day attendance hovering around 120,000 despite tickets being considerably more expensive than those at government- subsidised events in other European countries. Back in 2007, Singapore revealed that its original five-year contract would be costing AUD130 million (no figures were revealed when it was renewed in 2012), which came out at AUD26 million per year. Unless the Little Big Man has lost his touch, you can be sure that the price is now considerably more than that. Meanwhile, sources in Abu Dhabi have indicated that the cost of this year's race alone, topped up by Bernie's crafty ten million or so for being the double-points final, will be come out at around twice that. It would appear, therefore, that Montréal has done itself proud by negotiating an affordable deal in return for making a long-term commitment, all without the crafty little add-ons which push up the cost to unsustainable levels. In return, Formula 1 gets a long-term presence in North America, alongside the equally popular new event in Austin (Texas). When you consider that TV audiences are declining, and that the sport's commercial ringmaster is currently facing the possibility of a jail term, you might concede that keeping Montreal on board for another ten years is something which should make F1 grateful. It may well stand to the credit of a negotiator who is surely not a long way from doing his final deal as the ringmaster of our sport. ABOVe The new 10 year deal is anounced for the Canadian Grand Prix: (L to R): Yves La Lumiere, PDG (President Director General) Tourisme Montreal; Francois Dumontier, Canadian GP Promotor; Octane, Denis Lebel, Economic development agency of Canada for the region of Quebec and Minister; Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal; and Robert Poeti, Transport Minister Quebec. CANADA'S COMMITMENT SETS AN ExAMPLE OPINION OPINION MIKE DOODSON