Canada still fighting for F1 return

A Canadian Grand Prix delegation met with Bernie Ecclestone and leading F1 team principals in Budapest to try to find a way of saving next year's Montreal event, which looks likely to fall victim to the federal government's tobacco advertising ban

Canada still fighting for F1 return

Montreal race promoter Norman Legault, mayor Gerald Tremblay and Canadian justice minister Martin Cauchon were all at Hungaroring but, upon leaving, Legault remarked: "I said before coming that there was a 5 percent chance of saving next year's race and that is still the situation."

Two potential solutions involve compensating teams for the loss in tobacco revenue at the Montreal race, or engineering an exemption for F1. The first is thought to be unlikely, with in excess of $20 million involved, but noises from Canada suggest that the second could be a possibility.

There is talk of an exemption being applied to the three days of the Canadian race, at the track only, and only for those tobacco brands that are not on sale in Canada. That would mean that Ferrari (Marlboro), McLaren (West) and Renault (Mild Seven) would be able to run their tobacco branding but Jordan (Benson & Hedges) and BAR (Lucky Strike) would not.

Formula 1 is keen to have a presence in the North American market but that does not mean that it will treat Montreal as a special case.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis said: "We all look forward to going to Montreal and from the level of sponsor involvement we can see it's a favourite, so it's not a race that anyone would wish off the calendar. But you need to take a balanced, consistent approach. We've seen a reversal of the tobacco issue at Spa and the reinstatement of the grand prix. It would be a mockery if the teams and the FIA adopted a different strategy for Canada."

Mercedes Motorsport boss Norbert Haug, however, sounded an optimistic note: "I feel sorry for the Canadian fans because this was always a remarkable race. I think the government hasn't done itself any favours. The people in Canada are interested in F1 so it's just wrong. It doesn't help anybody but we have to support our sponsors. The Spa approach was the right one and we saw where it led to and, I'm sure Canada will head in the same direction."

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