© Sutton Images
After a year's absence, the Canadian Grand Prix will return to the Formula One calendar in June. François Dumontier, the new boss of the event, spoke to ESPNF1's Daniel Bastien about the challenges that lie ahead.
Why was it so important to bring the Canadian Grand Prix back to the F1 calendar?/B>
Montreal is an extremely popular destination for F1. The comments made by teams, manufacturers, drivers and the fans show us that. Globally, it's about reputation. Only 19 cities have a grand prix, so we can be very proud. The international exposure Montreal receives through television coverage is the most important thing, even beyond the economics.
The Canadian Grand Prix has sold out year after year, why is there so much enthusiasm?
That's what we've seen over the last few years … whether there's a United States Grand Prix or not, the Canadian Grand Prix has always been very popular and that is in great part due to our fans. I often say that we are lucky here in Quebec because we have fans that are connoisseurs and are passionate about motorsport.
How did you find the negotiation process with Bernie Ecclestone?
It went very well. I think he was a fine negotiator and acted in good faith. Over the six months of negotiating I did not feel any form of slyness or ill will. I think he held the return of the Canadian Grand Prix close to his heart.
So his reputation is overrated in that regard?
In the end everything went well. There weren't any big obstacles. There was a sincere and honest will on his part to bring F1 back to Canada. It took time but that's normal in view of the agreement's complexity.
Ecclestone often demands improvements to older venues. Is this the case for the Gilles Villeneuve circuit?
Obviously, no circuit is immune from that sort of thing in the future, but I can confirm that no demand was made for 2010. With the little time we have - we signed the agreement at the end of November - I can't reinvent the wheel. We'll keep things simple and functional.
Will there be an extra challenge accommodating 13 teams?
We'll have to deal with that. Garage-wise all is well because there used to be more teams in F1 … but we'll probably move ahead with some development.
During the last race, in 2008, there were problems with the track surface breaking up and emergency repairs were completed after the qualifying session. Will that be resolved for 2010?
It is sorted. After the 2008 Grand Prix we worked on a solution for the 2009 race. We found a product used at other circuits around the world but then there was no grand prix. However, we did host a NASCAR race and that went ahead without any problems. We think that 43 heavy NASCARs are a good test for the circuit.
At the business forum in Monaco, there was talk of enhancing the entertainment factor for the races. Is that plan already up and running?
F1 has a few projects running. We saw F1 Rocks in Singapore which was integrated into the programme, and at the final race in Abu Dhabi they created an area away from the circuit called Fan Zone. I'm open to all that. When I speak of not reinventing the wheel, it's mostly about the infrastructure. I am not at all closing the door at organising events around the race to increase interest.
In regards to ticket sales, is it too early to say if there is more excitement surrounding the return of Michael Schumacher, as well as the possible comeback of Jacques Villeneuve?
Ticket sales have begun well, but it's only been a week [that they have been on sale]. We can see the interest, but it's much too early to say if it's related to the return of Schumacher or Jacques. I am convinced that there are many Schumacher fans in Quebec and in Canada. As for Jacques, we saw his popularity when we held the NASCAR round, so we're following that closely.