• ESPNF1 interview : François Dumontier

Back to an 'old-school' circuit

Daniel Bastien
June 8, 2011
François Dumontier runs the show in Canada
© Octane Management
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The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, where great moments in Formula One history have taken place, will soon host another round of the championship. ESPNF1 spoke with François Dumontier, the Canadian GP's big boss since last year. The long-term planning of a Grand Prix, Montreal's double DRS zone and Canada's place on the calendar were amongst the subjects discussed.

At what time of the year do you start preparing the following season's grand prix?
The Monday morning immediately after the GP. Even today, many people are under the impression that a grand prix can be prepared in three months. They ask me what I do for a living the other nine months of the year. But when I say that we begin anew the following day, I mean it. Next year's tickets go on sale that Monday morning.

It really does take a whole year to make it happen. People are surprised when they learn how many individuals have full-time jobs dedicated to this project. Management, ticket sales, sponsors, production... The number doubles a few months ahead of the race. About 300 construction workers begin in March, three months before the event. They work on the grandstands, fences, cementing, the paddock, etc. During the grand prix week-end itself, about 4500 employees take care of our customers.

That's a small village...
It's a lot of job creation. When people talk about events like ours generating economic returns, they think about hotels, restaurants, boutiques (and taxes). But there is a lot of job creation coming from the promoter and there are many contracts signed with local suppliers.

Canada's Wall of Champions has accounted for some high-profile retirements over the years
© Sutton Images

This track is usually very hard on tyres and it has been said that the chaotic 2010 Canadian GP inspired Pirelli. Since their tyres already have a short lifespan, should the race here be even more chaotic this year?
I don't like the term 'chaotic'. The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is often a turning point of the season. Things that happen here don't always happen elsewhere. To me that is part of Montreal's and the circuit's charm. I heard that Pirelli based its design on what happened here last year and I know that people who used to work for Bridgestone, people who know this place, now work for Pirelli. If tyre degradation makes for a better show, then why not?

The Pirellis tend to produce a large number of marbles. And this track is renowned for its marbles, especially at the hairpin. Such a combination could have quite an effect on the race...
Yes, I saw that there was quite a lot of accumulation at Barcelona and Istanbul for example. The drivers will certainly want to follow the normal trajectory. I don't think it will be a bigger problem here than elsewhere. However, most of the track here is narrow, just inside of the FIA's minimum requirements.

Is that good for the show?
Our circuit is old school. We are not part of the new Tilke-style circuits, which represent modern F1. And we don't want the same type of track everywhere, either. The Montreal track, with its long straights and intense braking zones... it's not boring.

"In the history of the championship, the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is the 7th most used in Formula 1. There is this legend, this history"
François Dumontier

The Canadian GP will be the first to have two DRS zones, some say it makes racing too artificial...
Sure, but when a driver moves close to another car to take advantage of the slipstream, without being artificial, it is nonetheless a 'tool' to be used. And the DRS can't be used anywhere at anytime, there are authorized zones. I'm not against this system.

With the United States joining the calendar in 2012, and Russia in 2014, lest we forget all the other countries wishing to join F1, will Canada have to fight back in order to keep its grand prix?
I don't think it will be necessary to fight very hard, in the sense that Canada is a sure thing for Bernie (Ecclestone) and Formula One. Politically, we have regular elections, things are stable. The grandstands are always full on race day. Spectators even come to watch the Friday practice sessions, which is certainly not the case at other grands prix. The time zone difference makes for great television ratings since the race takes place in prime time in Europe.

Lewis Hamilton won a thrilling Canadian Grand Prix in 2010 © Getty Images

Nonetheless, Canada lost its race in 2009...
I would say that things should not have come to that point. I also think that Bernie was not expecting it. There was a contractual dispute between two businessmen [Ecclestone and the GP's previous promoter] and I don't think he expected that it would come to that. We are a sure thing. We are an 'old' grand prix. In the history of the championship, the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is the 7th most used in Formula One. There is this legend, this history. We will see, but I don't think it will be necessary for us to fight for our place.

This is your second grand prix as the big boss. Is it easier this time?
The return of the Canadian Grand Prix, in 2010, was decided very late at the end of 2009. We were in reaction mode, we had to move quickly. This time we had a full year to prepare everything, to plan things, to look at things to improve. Is it easier? A little, maybe. But when you have a full year to do it all, you breathe easier!