Canadian Grand Prix No More

Whoever decides which tracks live or die in F1 must have their head in their ass. To not have any F1 event of any kind on the North American continent should be a mortal sin. This is the first time in 43 years that F1 will not feature on this continent.

On Tuesday, F1 brass announced that the Canadian Grand Prix was going the way of the dodo bird. Essentially, they chopped its head off, stuffed it into a blender and hit puree. This came as a shock to everyone, especially THE PEOPLE WHO RUN THE CANADIAN GRAND PRIX!!!!!!!!!! They had to find out about this decision just like everyone else. When the calendar came out for 2009, their stop on the world F1 circus was gone. What had happened? Zut Alors! This is simply outrageous, and I will detail why.

First off, North America, and in particular the US, is the largest car buying market for most of these manufacturers. Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Nissan (through Renault). These are the names of the companies that invest so much time and energy – not to mention money – into this arena, and their largest customer base can no longer watch a race in person without spending a fortune? This is pathetic. This is wrong. This is the new F1.

Second, the television viewing audience for this race is huge. I read one statistic that listed the 2005 event as the third highest watched TV program of the entire year, in the entire world. It was behind the Superbowl and the UEFA Championship match. How can the F1 brass avoid numbers like this? I have no idea to be sure, but there must be something else that is peaking their interests (probably more stupid street races – which Montreal technically is – and money from the Middle East). If US viewers ever wanted to see a race at a reasonable time, they could only watch this one to see a truly live F1 race event. Staying up till three in the morning gets old after a while.

Thirdly, for the last couple of years, this race has generated the most excitement and the best passing opportunities in F1. With race organizers wanting the drivers to pass more so that interest in the sport grows, the best place they had to say “Now here is a race with some passing,” was in Montreal. There are plenty of opportunities for passing down the straights and into tight corners, and the drivers actually seem to try more in Canada. Remember when Takuma Sato passed Fernando Alonso on the front straight last year in the much lamented “Super Best Friends” Super Aguri Honda? Now where was that again? Monaco? No. Spain, maybe? Uh uh. It was on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada. The crowd went wild. I went wild. Everyone who saw the damn pass went wild. And yet, we won’t see something like that again for a long time. Or remember the time when Lewis Hamilton didn’t see a red light and crashed into Kimi Raikkonen? Again, Canadian GP. Plus, the last two years saw this GP give us two new F1 winners in Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica, bouncing back after his horrendous crash in 2007. What other race can claim that? None of them.

So now where do US fans – and now Canadian fans – go to watch a quality F1 race? The answer is the TV. Or not at all. If they don’t want to be on our continent, then they can stay out of my living room. What did we, as North Americans, ever do to Bernie Ecclestone and the FOM and FIA? Did we not get them a good enough Christmas gift, or console them when they would call at three in the morning just to have a shoulder to cry on? I just don’t know where this came from. They will cite cost cutting measures, and if that is true, then look out both Brazil and Australia, because you are the two next races to go. The F1 race in Montreal was the perfect escape for a weekend because it was not too far away, and without a US GP, it would have been packed for years to come because it would have been the only F1 fix most of us in the United States could afford.

Speaking of the city itself, Montreal is a great place to go. You get some French, you get some English, and you get some fantastic race fans. For Americans, it was like going to Europe without leaving the continent. Plus, the city would throw parties the entire weekend. The streets had fantastic car shows at night and the food is outstanding. The city is easy to navigate too. They have a subway system that runs straight to the track and then downtown so getting to and from the race was easy. Plus, the view from the track over the Saint Lawrence River was great. The skyline looks fantastic and everyone was friendly. Montreal was a great venue for F1 and it will be sadly missed by me and many other F1 fans.

What may be missed as well is F1 itself. Oh, did you not hear? Apparently Max “I didn’t do it” Mosley has recently made it clear that he does not think F1 can survive much more than a year. WHAT??!! If that is the case, then maybe it is because you are trying to get a foothold in Asia and the Middle East where they have lots of money now, but not a sustainable future in the sport. You should have stayed in North America. If F1 goes under, I – along with everyone else – should blame you and Bernie for ruining the best racing series in the world. With all this talk of gearboxes and engines being the same for every team, I can’t imagine why people start to lose interest. There will be no more F1 if you continue to run the show. You took away a great North American race once again, and F1 will suffer because of it.

            My first live F1 event came on the Ile Notre Dame on a Friday in June. The weather was perfect and Michael Schumacher eventually won the Grand Prix. It was exciting and the perfect way to spend the weekend. But now it is gone. Thank you for the memories Montreal and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, you will be sadly missed.

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