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Threat of protests prompt Canadian GP organisers to shelve fan event
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Jun 2012   |  1:46 am GMT  |  115 comments

Organisers of the Canadian Grand Prix have cancelled the traditional open pit walk for fans on Thursday morning at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the wake of threats of protests over the race weekend.

The province of Quebec, in which the largest city is Montreal, has been gripped by student protests against a planned tuition fee hike since February and on Saturday street demonstrations in the region took place for the 40th consecutive day. More than 2,500 people have been arrested since the onset of protests with tensions having risen further recently following the government’s passing of a law aimed at restricting the right to protest.

Some protest groups have suggested they might use this week’s F1 race as a platform from which to further air their grievances and that has now prompted race organisers to act, the circuit on Sunday announcing that the ‘open house’ pit lane access that is normally made available to fans on the Thursday of the meeting had now been shelved.

A statement on the circuit’s website read: “With regret, the Grand Prix du Canada announces today the cancellation of the popular ‘’Open Doors’’ day, originally scheduled for the morning of Thursday, June 7. Following a serious examination of the situation, made necessary by public disruption threats and the difficulty to measure their precise validity, the organizers came to the conclusion that it is necessary to restrain the access to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve and precisely the F1 pit lane, on the day preceding the first sessions on track.”

Canadian GP president François Dumontier was quoted by the local Montreal Gazette as saying he was “extremely sad” to have had to cancel the free event and apologised to fans who had planned to attend.

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Having been to Montreal and having snuck in the paddock on Thursday before free day I can appreciate why they cancelled it. There is plenty of ways to get on the island through the Casino and hide.

I think the best solution is to – have the pit walk ticketed on Thursday and Friday. F1 is always taking the p*** to find more revenue and improve their image with fans.

A win-win I say….


I once helped a team that was quite low-budget. The team couldn’t afford a ticket for one guy at the Toronto Indy… he talked his way through the gate, somehow slipped into the paddock, picked up some tools and walked through the grid, across the track and into pit-lane for the race, all while wearing shorts! I probably had the most dumbfounded look on my face when he strolled up to me in pit-lane, only 10 minutes after calling saying he was stuck at the gate.

F1 might be a little more strict, but people can definitely get into places where they shouldn’t be.


I support the students, and I support the grand prix.

Naming the protestors as petchulant little brats does little more than cement their opinion of us as a privileged class of grand pix go-ers…

I’m passionate about formula1 – but I shall not allow that passion to be converted into animosity.

Bottom line is – Don’t take it personally. This is a consensus protest over human rights at large. The whole thing is a shame…


I think it’s a great shame for the fans to miss out on the Thursday. On my second trip to Spa I made sure I got there on the Thursday (only did Quali/Race before) and it was probably one of the best days of the weekend for me.

Got so close to all the drivers, the cars, and got a fascinating view of the garages and pit wall areas. The teams were very open, and you could even have a chat with the HRT guys if you didn’t want to brave the scrums at the front-runners!

Also saw the TV crews doing their pre-race footage including DC interviewing Sutil around the track, Karun Chandok taking his bike out for a ride, and being amazed when Rubens just walked past me after taking a walk round.

The Thursday is the day I’ve actually felt a real part of the weekend, it’s a huge shame for people attending Montreal to miss out and I only hope other races don’t suffer this.

Obviously there are political issues involved, but I’m coming purely from a fan’s perspective.

Craig in Manila

Don’t see why the organisers couldn’t limit the pit-walk to only those attendees who were holding a paid ticket for the Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

By doing so, it would’ve kept the vast majority of the protesters out, let the true race fans in, and kept the PR damage to a minimum ?


I guess with Hockey season now over – and no Canadian teams in the Cup finals to riot about anyway – these have to find *something to yell about.


What a sad sad day when our racing becomes political.


Every race has been politicized before it’s even taken place. I’m nearly 100% positive that every single race on the calendar has been at the center of some sort of political debate over it’s life time. Most of the time it’s about local government paying the near extorsion level hosting fees, but many times the very existence of the race was a political ploy of some sort to start with.

Graham Passmore

To all the regretably mis-informed who loyally follow James every day for the best F1 insights available on the web. Cancellation of this popular yearly feature of our race here in Montreal is unfortunate and, in my opinion, politically foolish. It demonstrates fear of the mob, something a society never should show. The present Quebec government was duely elected by the majority of Quebecers on a platform that clearly included a planned raise in university tuition fees to bring our province more in line with the rest of Canada. Voting is not mandatory in Canada and university students of voting age traditionally have a poor turnout at the ballot box. “They’re all the same, working for the banks” attitude. To winge and cry now that government is putting into action the platform a democratic majority installed them for is immature to say the least. Most of us over the age of 45 would rather they just shut up and do what their elders tell them to do. When they mature, they can use a future election to vote in a party that will rescind any increase. Until then, let government use all powers at its disposal to muzzle this unruly mob of anarchists. Almost exclusively French may I add. We English are raised better. Let us enjoy our motor racing in peace.


Yes, we English are raised to just accept that either university educations are reserved solely for the wealthy, or come with a hefty dose of debt.

Nothing like starting your career $20-30k in debt, right?!

Tornillo Amarillo

I was in the free Thursday once and I don’t think you can see too much activity there.

However is sad to miss it this year, but please don’t forget we missed the whole weekend 2 years ago because government money was not enough to confirm the race, and after that now it is secured for some years to come.

These protesters are pacifics and I think they are right not to accept fees hikes, no reason to do that, Canada is so rich.

And it was plenty of room to negotiate, but the provincial government has no idea how to do it, so it’s his fault.

Everybody in the world wanted to use Internet to organize protests for being protagonists like in Serbia, the Arabian Spring, etc., and the Quebeckers found something to say about the school fees, that is worthy and better than having protest against taxes on the famous Montrealer plate called “Poutine”!


Going ahead with the Bahrain GP set a bad precedent. Protestors now know their voice can be heard by threatening demonstrations at GPs. Sport and politics have always gone together as much as sport would like to believe this isn’t so. Lets see on which GP weekend we see a similar situation next before the end of the year.


Am I the only one who feels this is something of a knee-jerk reaction from the organisers, putting it mildly? I would have thought it would be fairly straightforward to put in place tighter security on the access points (the circuit being, after all, on an island). They could even have (shock horror) spoken to the ringleaders of such protest groups and made an arrangement such as static protests near the entrances but not within the circuit itself. I wouldn’t have thought either would be beyond the capabilities of the organisers or the city authorities, but I suppose that’s placing too much faith in people’s ability to compromise…

Really disappointed by this, as you can probably gather.

Justin Bieber

I understand your frustration David. The problem is that its not that simple to manage. The main student association are not planning to protest on the island itself, it will be done on the street of Montreal, probably during the evening. what the organizer are afraid of is the anarchist and anti-capitalist groups who have used the student protest as a cover to cause mayhem in the city. They are the one trowing Molotov cocktail to police and trowing smoke bomb on the subway. They could very easily infiltrate the crowd on Thursday and once inside, who knows what they could do. the situation is unfortunate but I think it was wise of them to cancel to protect the GP.


Hugely gutting for me. I am flying out to Montreal on Wednesday with 2 friends for my first ever F1 race, having watched F1 since 1994 back in the UK.

I’m really looking forward to the event, and hope that none of this stuff affects things. I’ve saved hard to be able to do this, I hope the protestors understand that sports fans have nothing to do with their fees. I know it’s not easy as I was at Uni only 4 years ago.

Hope the rest of the event goes perfectly! 🙂


Wish you the best in Canada. I started watching F1 since early 70s and the first race I attended was 2008 in Singapore, wished its was Spa tho.

Justin Bieber

Everything will be fine, just make sure you arrive early on race day..


The students protest (realizing fringe groups are helping fuel this calamity) will have little effect on the goveernment position. The money from the race will still come to the area. The governments decision to ban protests is archaic and it too will have no effect on the outcome of this issue. This will leave a bitter taste in those of us who scrimp and save to attend a once in a lifetime spectacular event. All I can say is that if those in government that made the decision to ban protests are products of the Quebec education system and the students supporting the disruptive bans are from the same education system they should not raise tuition fees. In fact they should issue refunds and shut down the system and encourage the true students to seek a quality education program elsewhere and learn constructive crisis management and not terrorism.

My apologies in advance to all of our quests to Canada as I am Canadian and immeasurably embarrassed by these negative actions.


Classic example of the Streisand effect. By making such a noise about the danger of a student protest and announcing the pit walk to be canceled, the promoters have reached the students’ goal of making people aware of their situation. Job done. Can the pit walk now happen again?

Tornillo Amarillo

Barbara Streisand…?


+1 including F1GP


Whatever support I had for these students is gone now.

On Gilles Villeneuve’s 30th anniversary of his death at the circuit named after him we have these spoilt kids ruining the weekend for everyone.

While the students are at it maybe they should protest to be refunded for whatever education they have already received because it obviously hasn’t helped increase their intelligence any.


Exactly. Our entertainment is more important that their struggles to have an education that doesn’t come with a hefty slice of debt.

We need to make sure they’re not spoiled anymore and ensure they have at least $25k of debt by the time they’re done university! That’ll teach them important life lessons, right? Or maybe it’ll help keep the riffraff out of university and keep it untarnished for the rich kids.


If you want to take the so called higher moral ground then consider it’s not just about our entertainment. If Canadian GP isn’t a success who suffers?? How much money does it bring into the area?

That is why I said they have no intelligence because they have chosen a very poor strategy to put their point across.

The problem is as usual it’s probably a minority who have caused the problem and have enraged a lot of people who otherwise would have been sympathetic to their cause.


“The protests, which have been going on for several months, have hit tourism hard say those for whom Formula 1 week is normally the busiest of the year.”


…just as the actions of a few students that claimed they will disrupt the GP, or might actually follow through with it, shouldn’t be cast upon the whole group.

There are lots of peaceful protesters. It’s like saying that the police during Toronto’s G20 were totally justified in every arrest and case of kettling, just because some members of the Black Bloc caused some real damage.

All protesters should be painted with the same brush, right?

Don’t kid yourself. Lots of people are still going to the GP, still renting hotel rooms, and still buying food and drink in the city. Note that no-one above said “I feel it’s too dangerous to go to Montreal, so I cancelled my ticket”. The only disappointment has been that they can’t get the free Thursday.


Its a real Shame. I have been to 16 GP in Montreal and this is the first year I was able to schedule my trip so I could do the pit lane walk trough and it is now cancelled. Being Canadian myself I could go off on a rant against the students for there loose spending habits but I wont. I would like to say that the organizers of these protests should be smart enough to realize that the GP brings a lot of money to the city/province and they should keep there distance. They need to think about the dollars being spent over the race weekend and the tax collected. Every where you go, be it a bar, restaurant or souvenir shop you are taxed. My ticket was taxed and I know that when I spend money at the track everything there is taxed, so that is all money that the provincial government is collecting and can put back into the education fund. Every time the students stop someone from doing something this weekend that puts a check mark in the governments lost dollars need to raise tuition column.


make sure you buy your merch on friday, prices go up everyday and especially on sunday!


I don’t condone using sport as a political tool.

However, I agree with those who state that the two are inseparable – especially when the sport in question enjoys global media focus.

Ironically, Amnesty International doesn’t deem Quebec’s student ‘grievances’ to be worthy of mention:-

Bring Back Murray

While its a shame that the pit walk has been cancelled, I guess we should be grateful that the Canadian GP is on in the first place, despite past financial problems. One of the fast, flowing classic F1 tracks with real history to it. You don’t have to mess around with DRS, KERS or tyre combinations to get good racing on this track!

(Used to love playing it on Geoff Crammond’s F1GP!)


And people worry about Bahrain and Brazil…

Justin Bieber

Its a different kind of worry.

In Bahrain and Brazil, people worry about their safety. In Canada people worry about being late for the race by getting stuck in traffic.


It’s Montreal.

They WILL get stuck in traffic.

Tornillo Amarillo

No traffic in a Sunday race: you can get to the island only by Subway (or swimming).


Sorry if my post’s thong-in-cheek tone wasn’t clear.

Anyway, I partly agree with you. It is different. In Brazil and Bahrain it’s about people worrying about their safety. But in Canada, it seems to me, who ain’t there, it’s about the government worrying about protests. What an epic traffic jam that’d be to abort an event on Thursday so that people wouldn’t be late for the race on Sunday. 🙂


It is a sad situation.

I read somewhere else that there will be an attack on the F1 web sites by the group Anonymous.

I feel sorry for Fake Charlie Whiting from Montreal. He was so looking forward to this Thursday.


Government’s passing a law aimed at restricting the right to protest….

Wow, this is Canada!

While global sport F1 tries to stay aside of politics, once again (like in Bahrain) I only learn about bad things going on somewhere just when F1 gets there!

F1 better recognizes itself as a platform with global impact beyond sport and starts taking a stand in a world where the influence and power of corporations and media by far exceeds those of governments. If it does not, F1 will not just become a political playball but end up being seen by fans and society in general as a propaganda tool for the ruling elites the people is trying to overcome.


well said 🙂

Robert in San Diego

What a sad sad day when our racing becomes political.


Racing has always been Political. To have a South African GP or not. Re-instating the South African GP after majority rule.

The Hungarian Grand Prix came about before the Iron Curtain fell because Hungary wanted to show it was close to normal (Hungary opening its borders was what led to the fall of the wall).

Turkey only bought a GP to promote its push to join the EU.

China bought one to show itself as a dynamic modern country and not and opressive communist regime which murders its people or enslaves them to make goods for capitalist west.

Bahrain’s motives were similar.

How many of the new countries have produced a sponsor , never mind a driver ? How about a rule which says to get added to the calendar you have to sponsor in team which hasn’t finished in the top 3 of the championship in the last 5 years ?

The choice of where the Circus goes always has a political dimension, and we shouldn’t be surprised when those with a Political agenda try to use the circus for their own ends.


while i agree with the beginning of your post the bit about the sponsors is just wrong. Bahrain is the majority shareholder in McLaren; where do you think Mubadala and Etihad are from? Almost all of toro rosso’s sponsors are based in Abu Dhabi. Air Asia is a malaysian company, as are Petronas and Naza. Aabar is based in Abu Dhabi as well and those are just sponsors i can think of off the top of my head. And the requirement about a team outside the top 3 is just preposterous, people want to sponsor winning cars and be associated with winners; they don’t care about being egalitarian with their sponsorship deals.


Hear hear.


Well said.

I feel that most internet warriors feel that F1 and sport in general exists in a bubble (or maybe even a box in their living rooms), that has no bearing on anything else.

Sport provides focus, be it to Bill 78 in Montreal, authoritarianism in Bahrain, or racism in Poland/Ukraine.


politics is EVERYWHERE!!!


OMG Now we have to Cancel MOntreal too!

Riots, protests, hunger strikes, arrests, suspension of our God-given rights to free Pit Access! This is too much.

Cancel the race.

rob in victoria bc

This won’t do it, not even close, but if only, if only, Bernie would have Canadian GP in Vancouver.

Justin Bieber

Vancouver is not in a good time zone for a GP


Seemed to work for Long Beach… last I heard, the proposed Las Vegas GP wasn’t shot down due to timezone problems.


One bad apple spoils it for the whole bunch! Not fair for those of us that plan a year in advance for the opportunity to see the pit lane activity. Why cancel this segment and not the equally protest-vulnerable P1 and P2 sessions on Friday, as well?

Justin Bieber

you need a ticket on friday..


You don’t need a ticket to get on the island and cause a rukus. By stopping the pit walk they the organizers have just knuckled under to extortion. The problem will only escalate from here.


I presume because the “open day” lets fans (and potentially evil students) into pit lane, where they could sabotage equipment or plant a bomb – seems unlikely but I guess that’s the perceived risk


P1 and P2 are not free events, they are ticketed. Therefore not as vulnerable.

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