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Montreal to benefit from push to consolidate F1 circuits?
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Jun 2013   |  7:33 pm GMT  |  75 comments

The Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal is in discussions with Bernie Ecclestone’s company about a new contract to retain the race for 10 years, according to a Reuters report today.

And the news highlights the push by F1’s commercial rights holder, backed by CVC Capital Partners to secure long term contracts with host venues.

Although CVC’s senior partner Donald McKenzie said recently that the proposed floatation of F1 may need to be postponed once again to 2014, getting a full calendar of events on long term contracts is a key component of the sale; circuit hosting fees are at around $700 million per year, a similar level to Media Rights sales as the major revenue streams for the sport.

So is a Concorde Agreement binding in the FIA and the teams; this remains unresolved at this time despite the old one expiring six months ago.

New races in New Jersey, USA and Sochi, Russia are due to come onto the calendar next year and a race in Bangkok is on the horizon, once a suitable location has been found which complies with local environmental legislation. Mexico looks likely to get a race in the next few years.

“All new agreements now being signed are for 10 years,” said Montreal promoter Francois Dumontier.

“I believe they want to consolidate the good grands prix. Montreal is such a race, undoubtedly. We saw as much (this year) with the full grandstands and the comments made by the drivers and teams.

“F1 has a project to enter the stock market. Ten-year contracts have a certain value when entering the stock market.”

However finding the right price point for the circuit hosting rights is always a delicate business. CVC’s business model for the sport since its acquisition seven years ago has put a big emphasis on rising circuit hosting fees, but in many locations which do not enjoy substantial government backing, ticket prices have risen as a result to levels the public is finding it hard to meet, particularly in Europe. Silverstone is seeing a slow down in sales this year and ticket prices have been cited by fans as a reason.

Sources within the circuit promoters’ world suggest that the recently formed Formula One Promoters Association, is likely to seek to strengthen its position in the coming years, much as the teams have attempted to do with mixed success via FOTA.

The Canadian Grand Prix is always one of the most popular events within F1 and one of the best attended races of the year, along with Silverstone and Barcelona.

Although the track itself is fit for purpose, this year’s event highlighted the lack of infrastructure at the circuit with largely temporary facilities now looking somewhat obsolete, as if F1 has outgrown the venue in its current guise.

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As my handle suggests I’ve been following Formula 1 a long time and I was at Monza for that historic race in 71, fortunately I was a guest in the pits for all of practice and along the long straight for the race. It was fantastic.

I’ve been to other F1 races since as a spectator and a marshall, the last time for qualifying in 2010 but I won’t be going back anytime soon.

Despite the improvements at Silverstone, The run off areas place the average fan far too far away from the action and the cost is out of all proportion to the benefit.

I now watch every face on TV, half, free on the BBC and I have an extra £30 satellite system for German TV for the rest with radio commentary by a certain James Allen.

LeMans, on the other hand, puts on the greatest race in the world and it’s a real bargain. Entrance ticket, under £50 for the whole event including practice, qualifying, a pit walk and the race with access to all areas.

Grandstand tickets are not expensive but largely unnecessary as my off road motorbike gets me around the circuit to all the best spots, day and night.

We camp at Maison Blanche, less than £100 for a pitch for four including parking, right by the exit from the Porsche curves and a 5 minute walk to the pits straight.

The constant commentary from the superlative Radio LeMans keeps us right up to date with the action as well. No wonder that 80-100,000 Brits make the annual pilgrimage,

Why is it so cheap ?

The Absence of FOM and CVC, that’s why.


Spot on!


Even with Vettel leading all laps of the Grand Prix we had a wonderfull Grand Prix last weekend, I can’t really say this of the other venues when Vettel effectively won at corner two.


I think this comes at an odd time, before the first race in New Jersey. No doubt Montreal’s popularity is at least partly due to the fact that up to now, it was the only race within 1500 miles – and that also explains why the grandstands were full for the whole weekend, with fans travelling from afar staying for the whole weekend.

I think North America can sustain another F1 race (and the sponsors would love to show more presence in this market). However, Montreal’s commercial value to F1 will clearly depend on the success of New Jersey, so it would be odd to sign a new 10 year deal at this stage.

Racing in Montreal has been fantastic over the last few years, of course – but that’s not the main criterion.


The most interesting bit in all of this is FOPA; I don’t recall that the promoters have ever tried something of this kind.

For the non-subsidized races, the move is overdue. People speak of Bernie’s “divide and conquer” tactics with the teams, but he’s surely been more successful with that regarding the promoters: To uniformly accept contracts that permit them to recover ticket costs and eke out profit by charging premium ticket prices has always boggled me. The costs to the circuits are so high that pegging their business solely to the number of fans in the seats can’t work.

It’s an archaic business model that became obsolete the moment Bernie took power over F1’s commercial affairs and pushed television rights to the forefront of the business, if not before. The problem is that it doesn’t scale from club-level FFord and small-bore sportscar meetings up to that of F1 or other top series. For an promoter to accept a tickets-only business plan at this scale is, at best, overly optimistic and naive. At worst, it smacks of amatuerism.

Granted that if the promoters show some backbone they risk retaliation, i.e., Bernie and CVC will simply take up another government supported venue. But the promoters may be in a stronger position than otherwise simply becaue there’s no Concorde Agreement. And, at some point, sponsors will express their displeasure if reliable, established markets are ignored in pursuit of new race venues. So this may be the ideal time for FOPA to get going in earnest.

How about a piece on that organization, James? What chance do they have to force change to the system? And who came up with the idea? It sounds almost like something Tony George would do.

As you can tell, I’ve been out of the loop for a bit! I hadn’t seen anything on FOPA before this article.

Final note: Any venues that get shut out of CVC’s plans could always use FOPA (or some form thereof) to promote another series. Formula 2 in its most recent form just died, but rumor has it that it will back in other guise at some point. And the FIA has gained steam on a proposed Formula 4. It seems to me that FOPA (maybe the non-subsidized venues will be the “ex-Formula One-Because-We-Can’t-Afford-It-Promoters Association” by then),could get in on the ground floor of these two series as and when they come forward.

They don’t have to compete with F1 any more than F2 races did of old. They do need a business plan that is fan-friendly. Maybe they should start with such smaller steps before they go up against Bernie & CVC.


The tracks are in a much weaker position, because there are so many race tracks that would love to host a race. Since only a few contracts per year are up for renewal, there will always be enough new tracks to fill in any gaps. Only Monaco is important enough to negotiate their terms freely, which is why they don’t pay a hosting fee at all.

If you had the teams and the tracks, of course, you could very easily set up your own F1 series – but Ecclestone makes sure that situation does not arise, because one of the two is always bound to him by contracts. That’s what divide and conquer is all about.


Who cares about facilities? It should be the track that counts!


Having now been to a couple of races around the world now, (Australia, Canada and Japan), what Bernie and CVC fail to factor into their equation is what other races and events are on to support the main event and to keep the fans entertained during the whole of the weekend. Australia has a mass of activities on around the track, and their own special breed of motorsport (V8 Supercars). Japan, while a great track and provides a great race and spectacle, it is hard to get to and nothing much else happened over the weekend. Canada has a few support races, and the town was fantastic in the evenings with a great vibe.

So what’s the point? Hey Bernie, CVC, secure races that are able to entertain the fans in other ways if you want to keep jacking up race ticket prices!


Been to Monaco, Monza and Montreal. Of the three Montreal is the best. Monza would be on par, only that it is such a huge trek from Milan.

Montreal has a super metro. 28 minutes from hotel room in Montreal to seat at the hairpin.

Plan to go back to Montreal next year. Super city. Super people. Super circuit


It’s great that Canada has signed long term – it is a good circuit. But the one thing that F1 should do better is try to get circuits that are not wet all the time or work harder at getting the timing right. I cant understand how people like the wet weather racing- its horrible on TV, and even worse on track, sure it’s spices the championship up – but what’s the point if you don’t see it!- and worse still when you do they are at 2/3 pace.

As for pricing they should make Friday / Saturday a bit more affordable and have pit walk throughs on the Friday as this will attract new fans along with meet and greet sessions. It’s just another business that is “slapping” it’s “customers” during very tough times- Im just wondering how long it will last if it keeps going this way.


In Montreal, on F1 weekend, the track is open to all on Thursday.

There is no fee whatsoever. It is free to all, including pit walk through’s, walk the track etc …


Ahh nice – I didn’t know that. Explains why it’s so successful.


More than happy to pass on the info … yeah they have been doing that for quite some time now.

And that is on top of what gets set up downtown.

This year two streets were blocked off, on Peel and on Crescent, with f1 stuff at booths, an F1 simulator for you to try and a pit stop simulation where you take part in a pit stop, changing tires and so forth …. lots of evening fun !!

Mind you the rain didn’t help this year !!

Mark in Australia

What’s the situation with the Melbourne GP? How is it viewed on the callender?

It definitely has mixed support here in Australia, but I’d love to see it remain on the callender. Not sure the Victorian government would go for a 10 year extension.


If they won’t, we’ll have it back 😉

Mark in Australia

I’m in Adelaide. There is NO chance it would ever come back. No infrastructure and the bogans have Clipsal.

I do fear Australia will lose its place. Especially with so many Asian rounds on the callender and also on the horizon.


Yeah, sadly you’re right.

When I said we’d have it back that was half optimistic, half jest.

Tornillo Amarillo

James, does exists FOFA?

Formula One Fans Association… Tickets and TV subscriptions are expensive enough.

Also I don’t know if governments around the world have other priorities than paying F1 events just “to be” on TV one weekend and encouraging business with tourism. Maybe host governments have also to constitute an association, eh?


Great news for Montreal. I attended this years race paying just over $100 USD for three day general admission and got a great spot overlooking the hairpin. I would have liked a grandstand seat but the good ones were in the $400-500 range. I just checked the price for general admission at the British Grandprix is $250 USD! Ridiculous! C’mon guys lets get the prices down and give F1 back to the fans who want to attend races!


$700 million a year just to host a GP?

Did I read that right?

It seems to me a ridiculous amount – no wonder some circuits are struggling.

I read that years ago Bernie used to leave the circuits with his fee in cash in a suitcase. If true, that’s one big suitcase 🙂


$700m is the combined figure for all the GPs on the calendar


Aha, that makes a bit more sense…if still slightly insane.

Ta for clearing that up.


Circuit hosting fees aren’t the only costs associated with hosting an F1 race – you also have to factor in security costs, pro rata costs for maintaining the track, and costs for supporting infrastructure.

In the example of the Nürburgring, the annual cost to the tax payer is about 17M€ (22M$) – that’s almost double the hosting fee, which is reported to be a relatively modest 13M$. Of course, there are also benefits from additional tax revenue, but they don’t nearly make up for it.

With their very high fixed costs, F1 circuits are a difficult business, especially the purpose-built ones that only host one large event per year. Financially, there is only one thing worse than being on the F1 calendar: not being on the F1 calendar.


James do you know why the Hungaroring in Budapest is still on the calendar? It’s a boring track in a boring location with very limited overtaking.



Hungry is rarely actually boring. On paper it really absolutely should be. But in all the time I have been properly following F1, something usually makes Hungary interesting. As such, it is now a race I always look forward to. Sods law says this year’s race will be terrible, but have a look back over the years and see the stuff that has happened there.


Because it pays the fee

Because it serves the Finnish and East Europan markets


I went to the Montreal race for years and decided not to go this year because of the cost. I can afford the prices but I feel abused whenever I go up there. Ticket prices are high but only the tip of the iceberg. The hotels are an absolute ripoff and charge about 4 times the normal rate per night with a four day minimum. At the end of the day CVC is just a bunch of financial grifters, (it’s called pirate equity for a reason) who is bleeding the circuits dry. The races don’t make much economic sense for anyone but the commercial rights holder, i.e. CVC. And just look at the live timing app that used to be free but now cost $30 per year.

Me, I am done with giving them any more money other than the few dollars it cost to watch on TV which is a sunk cost anyways.


I went to Silverstone in 2010 (which was a dry year) and it was a fantastic weekend. It was expensive but I certainly felt that the ticket price was worth it. Having grandstand seats at Luffield was brilliant.

I can’t remember the exact cost but I wouldn’t be surprised if that weekend cost over £750 with hotels and meals etc; probably more with merchandise.

As I say it was totally worth it, but taking a family of three would have been unaffordable. Going on race day only and not staying overnight would have been fine.

Silverstone’s problem is the parking and traffic, not the ticket price in my opinion. I wouldn’t want to drive up from Hampshire on race day with family in tow and have to sit in traffic getting in and out of the circuit then drive back again.

I suppose there is always the camping.

Valentino from montreal

This is my story , part 2 …. concerning the Montreal F1 GP …

I have a friend who works at the Montreal Airport Pierre Eliot Trudeau in Dorval ….His job is : Airline aircraft carrier fuel and maintenance …. His job is to re-fuel all the private Jets and do some general maintenance on those million dollars ” toys ” when they arrive in the hangar … He’s met any international ” star” you can think of … Montreal is a hot spot for the Hollywood elite after all … He met also most of the F1 drivers these last 15 years … Including MSC !!

When Schumacher use to drive for Ferrari , he had a Ferrari waiting for him on the runway , parked right next to his private Jet … When he drove for Mercedes , instead of a Ferrari waiting for him in the hangar it was always a V-12 Black Mercedes convertible …. When Schumacher’s jet would land , MSC waited in his jet for the customs officer to arrive with the ” papers ” … Schumacher would wait in his Jet , sign the documents , get out of his airplane , with the Red Carpet rolled out on the runway , get in his Ferrari / or Mercedes and leave the airport by himself , without a chauffeure or limousine … Dressed in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat , Schumacher’s personal Airline pilot ( who was always the SAME pilot , of Italian nationality ) would always tip each of the employees working on his Jet , a sum of 100$ U.S ..

After the Canadian GP , apparently Schumacher would go to Guy LaLiberte’s ( cirque du soleil owner ) private mansion for some partying and ” who knows what else ” , according to my friend … MSC would arrive back at the airport early monday morning and he’d take off back to Europe …

My friend was nice enough to make him ( Schumacher ) autograph me one of his frames that I had given him to sign .. A laminated 16″ x 24 ” frame of Schumacher in his 1996 Ferrari , in the rain in Spain … Schumacher himself signed it as follows :

” To Valentino , all the best , Michael Schumacher “

… This was signed and autographed during the 2004 Canadian GP week- end !!

So this said frame is hanged in my new-born son’s bedroom ….

Thank u Michael for all the memories : ))


I’m told Guy LaLiberte’s post GP party is one of the highlights on the F1 calendar. I spoke to someone who attended one and the stories…


That new born wasn’t conceived around Canada last year by any chance.. Sorry Im not implying anything

Valentino from montreal

BTW its all hear say !! …. Im no way implying anthing !!

Go Michael !! 7 – 91


In my opinion, only Monza, Spa, Australia, silverstone, Interlagos, Japan are the “must haves”, the rest are filler.


Australia? Why Australia? Why Australia over Canada?


I stand corrected… I like Montreal as well. The circuit not so much but the combination of the city, the race events and the circuit deserve a permanent place in F-1.


+ Montreal



It’s off-topic, but do you know what is exactly in job description of drivers’ physios? It always confuses me, as their duties seems to vary depending on the driver. For example, VET has his physio with him practically everywhere he goes, no matter what he does, while some other drivers’ physios are never seen or heard. Why such a difference in approaches?

I would very much appreciate if you write an article on the matter. Physios’ work always goes unnoticed, though they play a huge role behind the scenes, imo.


I’ve been wondering about this, too. I think physio-driver relationships are very important to some drivers. They are one of the constants in drivers’ lives. I actually have a theory that Vettel’s somewhat unremarkable performance(compared to Mark) in the first half of 2012 had to do with the fact that his physio of three years left him after 2011, so Vettel was out of his comfort zone, since he was uncomfortable with his new one, Heikki. It was very obvious that they didn’t understand each other. Then they started getting along better and Vettel’s performance improved a lot. This year, it’s obvious that now Vettel has a great relationship with his physio, and Vettel is easily the most consistent top driver. In my opinion, physios aren’t there only to keep drivers in great physical shape. They are also largely responsible for the drivers’ psychological state, at least those physios who spend 24/7 with their drivers.


Good idea.

As you say they have a varying degree of involvement and some are part of the driver’s lives 24/7 pretty much


James/JAOF1 members, let me take this opportunity to ask a question that i’ve been intending to ask for a while now.

The news media here in states have been hollering about a “great recession” in Spain,Portugal and Italy. Indeed, the Spanish and Italian job reports of around 25% unemployment which paints a pretty grim picture ( 25% unemployment is what US had during the 1930s, and it was called as the great depression era.)

Yet, the Italian and Spanish motorsport races looks packed. Has the media noticed a significant drop in attendence or interest since the start of recession for these races ? Is there any truth in 25% unemployment numbers ? if yes, then how can folks afford to spend money on such “luxuries” as attending races when the economy is down in dumps ? Thanks !


It’s also important to remember that a lot of fans travel to these races from the neighbouring countries which (generally speaking) aren’t doing too badly, such as Germany. I do think that the 25% are pretty accurate though, we are starting to see a lot of Spanish people in England due to the sever lack of jobs.


Yes, less people in Barcelona this year, certainly.

The situation is very difficult in those countries, Greece being the most extreme.

I also felt Monaco was subdued this year because of the Euro crisis


Any idea if the MotoGp is stealing any F1 thunder with four Spanish races and Lorenzo, Pedrosa & Marquez all fighting for the chanpionship and also the influx of spaniards through the support categories.


My impression is that there is not much crossover between Moto GP fans and F1 fans


I would be interested to know how much Monaco pays to host a GP compared to other circuits, particularly with those that payer the higher fees.


Monaco do not pay any hosting fees. i think they might be the only venue with this unique arrangement


It’s funny hey, the richer you are, the more free stuff you get.


Subsidised by the likes of Silverstone, and people wonder why ticket prices are so high.


it’s so important for F1 to have highly populated races , canada is one . It needs to stay . It’s not good for F1 if the tv audiences see swathes of empty grandstands ala china , south korea etc . Bernie puts such emphasis on appearance ( paddock layout etc ) that he must appreciate the value of full grandstands . Its such a shame when they dont want to put the helicopter up because its a thin crowd .


No question that Montreal, Spa, and Interlagos have always been the best circuits of the last 3 decades. One standout reason is they have always had overtaking & the risk of accident without DRS or serious injury respectively.


They also have the changeable weather factor in common…


Good to see Canada Locked into F1 for foreseeable future !!! Great track ! And the weather always mixes it up!



What is the capacity of the stands in Montreal circuit? And how many fans were at the race one week ago? More than 100 000? I know that this season only in Australia there were more than 100 000 spectators.


I can speak to this, I’ve attended every Canadian GP since 1999 so I’ve seen the crowd in that slice of the race’s existence. I believe the current race day attendance is around 115,000. I normally sit in the large grandstand on the exit of the hairpin. During Jacques Villeneuve’s time in F1, the grandstand was maybe 20 rows taller and the general admission areas were even more packed than they are now. I’d guess peak race day attendance was around 130,000 or so during that era.

One of the interesting things about the attendance in Montreal is that it is at least 75-80% full on Friday for FP1 and FP2, and by qualifying on Saturday it’s more like 90% full. Many circuits only see full or nearly full grandstands on Sunday; Montreal traditionally sees it every time the F1 cars are on the track.

Fingers crossed that the race remains there for the next 10 years, the city is wonderful and the race is always exciting (with the possible exception of this year).


Thank you for your comprehensive answer, Dan. I quote it on my blog.


That is also my impression, especially the detail on Friday


Prior to the inauguration of the Austin (TX) event, for many years Montreal was the only race that North Americans (especially progressive, sophisticated, euro-friendly Americans living in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic of USA) could hope to attend. Not surprising that the race built such a strong fanbase.

My friend still recounts w/ pride the time Flavio used the urinal next to his in a club post-race lol…

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