Nov 25, 2009

Canadian Grand Prix announcement imminent?

It seems the Ts have been crossed and the Is dotted on the contract to remove the asterisk beside Canada's Formula One date on the 2010 grand prix calendar.

Sources close to the new promoter, Francois Dumontier of the Octane group, has agreed to a deal with F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone take control of the Canadian Grand Prix for the next five years beginning in 2010.

Dumontier's organization also runs the NASCAR Nationwide race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The deal appears to be the same one a source in the F1 paddock told me was done months ago.

At the time, the source said Canadian officials were in London in late July to offer F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone $75-million over five years to bring the race back.

That amount was considerably less than the offer rejected by Ecclestone last year when the city came to the table with a five-year package for $110-million in sanctioning fees as well as profit sharing and the proceeds from advertising and luxury boxes.

At the time, Ecclestone held to his demand of a guaranteed $175-million over five years. No deal was reached and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was silent in June during its traditional Canadian Grand Prix date.

But things have now changed with only three manufacturers left in the series – Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault – and the downturn continuing to eat away at sponsor involvement and corporate investments in racing programs.

And although Renault voted to stick around in F1 a few days after Toyota decided to pull the plug on its grand prix operation, many feel it's not long before the French manufacturer also departs the scene.

So a deal at this time for $75 million may be good for Ecclestone, who may be looking at a two manufacturer series before long.

In addition, the deal may have been drawn out to keep the promoters at Britain's Silverstone track from seeing what Ecclestone agreed to in Montreal as they negotiated a contract to host the 2010 British Grand Prix.

That reported 10-year deal is thought to be worth much more than the $15-million annual payment Ecclestone will get from Montreal.

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile's World Motor Sport votes to approve the final 2010 Formula One calendar next week.

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