2021 Montreal Grand Prix to remain on the schedule — for now
MONTREAL -- The Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada will be maintained for now on the calendar for the 2021 season, but it is not impossible that it will be cancelled soon.
On Thursday morning, Radio-Canada reported that the Montreal Public Health Department had issued an unfavourable notice to hold the event because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus. This information is correct, but does not mean the cancellation of the race, according to Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante.
"The fact is that the public health of Montreal has issued an unfavorable opinion to hold the Grand Prix, even behind closed doors. What we want is for the public health authorities to talk to each other and to make it official. I think it's the least we can do, out of respect for the various partners," Mayor Valérie Plante said in a conference call Thursday.
"In the end, whatever the decision is, and if it turns out that the Grand Prix is not coming back to Montreal this year, we will work to ensure that the Grand Prix continues to be presented in Montreal. We must continue our relationship with the Canadian Grand Prix. That's what we're working on right now," she added.
Plante refused to confirm the Radio-Canada report.
"I can't confirm it because we were also waiting for a decision from the Government of Canada and public health," she said.
"I want to tell you, let us leave the meeting, everyone will talk on the phone as we have been doing for the last few days to tie things up, and we will be able to confirm officially, yes or no, in light of the information we have."
Her provincial government counterpart, Innovation and Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, said that the partners on this file were trying to minimize the consequences of a Grand Prix cancellation.
"We are in discussions with the Grand Prix authorities in Europe," he said.
"Obviously, this is a public health issue. You have to understand that the federal government has a role to play in this as well for the quarantine. What I can tell you is that the Quebec government wants to maintain the Grand Prix from 2022 to 2029. The economic benefits are important for Quebec."
However, Fitzgibbon suggested that a conclusion to the saga could be reached very soon.
"Doing a Grand Prix behind closed doors is like opening a movie theatre and saying no one can come in. And there are costs attached to that. We are very sensitive to the government not incurring costs where the money could go elsewhere," he said.
"So, we are in negotiations with Formula One Management, with my colleague, the Minister of Tourism Caroline Proulx, in these discussions. We hope to have news within 48 hours."
As for whether a possible cancellation would result in a breach of contract with F1, as Premier François Legault suggested earlier this week, Fitzgibbon was reassuring.
"It's a contract. There is an agreement between the European authorities and the Canadian Grand Prix valid until 2029," he said.
"So, if the Grand Prix does not take place this year, it will be because of a force majeure. We are living in a very special situation, and health will take precedence over economics... We want to keep the Grand Prix. But we must also take care of our citizens and not put people at risk. This is what we will try to do over the next few days."
A statement Thursday night by Canada's federal public health agency said health rules will take first priority.
"The Government of Canada’s priority is to protect the health and safety of Canadians," said the agency.
"The Government understands professional sports events are important for Canadians and to the economy. [But] the resumption of sports events in Canada must be undertaken in adherence to Canada’s measures to mitigate the importation and spread of COVID-19."
Octane Management, which is headed by Francois Dumontier and is responsible for organizing the Montreal F1 event, would not comment on the matter.
However, it was possible to learn that Dumontier was surprised to learn that this news was leaked to the media before he was informed.
Earlier this week, La Presse newspaper reported that the event's promoter was seeking financial compensation of approximately $6 million for losses that could result from hosting the event in 2021.
Otherwise, the Canadian Grand Prix could be replaced on the calendar by the Turkish Grand Prix on the same weekend, June 11-13.
The Canadian Grand Prix was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021.