Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Montreal Can't Compete on Formula 1 Level

Watching this week's Formula 1 race from China reminded me why Montreal is no longer able to compete as a venue, irrespective of the fact that the race here was one of the most popular on the racing calendar.

Take a look at the picture above of the beautiful Shanghai International Circuit, which is the most expensive Formula One circuit, costing upwards of $US240 million. (Soon, a new track in Abu Dhabi will far outspend that number).

It seems that certain emerging economies have decided to invest in Formula 1 in order to showcase their new economic clout and to make a statement that they have arrived into the big leagues. The races held in these countries lose millions of dollars each year for organizers, but that doesn't seem to matter at all.
While the economies of these nations have been hammered badly by the world economic downturn and the fall in oil prices, it doesn't seem to make a difference, the facilities have already been built and paid for and the venues enjoy long-term contracts with F1.

Here an aerial view of the magnificent facility in Bahrain;

and the one in Singapore.

But the grandaddy of them all is this Abu Dhabi facility called the Yas Marina Circuit. It's scheduled to open later this year and is rumored to cost over 1.5 billion US dollars!

It may be true that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal looks minor league compared to the above, but it does offer a cosmopolitan western city to host the event, something these new venues cannot provide.

Montreal's only hope of hosting a race again depends on the pressure brought to bear by the racing teams and their advertising sponsors, that the racing schedule include a return to North America. The caché of Formula 1 racing has suffered badly by the loss of the Canadian and French Grand Prixs.

Even though Montreal can never compete on an economic level, there are hopeful signs that racing will return. Bernie Ecclestone, Formula 1's mercurial head honcho may be forced to grant a race in Montreal even if it means accepting much less money than from the other promoters.

At any rate, the city should stand firm in it's negotiations. They should be mindful of one of Bernie Ecclestone's favourite quotes;
"You can have anything you like, as long as you pay too much for it"

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