As it is often case in Formula 1 the money and greed prevailed, the sport and fans are the loosers. Following the news coming out of Montreal on Sunday the chances that the Canadian GP may reappear on 2009 F1 calendar when its final version is released in December are now close to zero. Finding themselves far away from meeting demands from Bernie Ecclestone the organizers of the Canadian GP ended the talks aimed at keeping the Formula 1 race in Montreal.
Québec province’s Minister of Economic Development, Raymond Bachand:
“Whenever the Grand Prix of Canada needed help from the Government of Québec, we were there. We worked very hard over the past few weeks to ensure there would be a Grand Prix in Montréal, while staying fiscally responsible. We cannot meet Mr. Ecclestone’s unworkable demands. Unless he eases his requirements and adopts a different approach, there will be no Grand Prix in Montréal in 2009.“
In simple terms, Ecclestone demanded a guarantee of over USD140 million over next 5 years, all that Montreal was able to offer was USD89 million covering the period till 2013 plus 75% of the eventual revenue. Nothing more than that would aparently make economical sense for Montreal or Quebec. So, as Mr. Blachand said “unless Mister Ecclestone changes his mind before the final calendar on December 1st, it’s over.”
I spent the last weekend in Macau and the situation in that place can be compared to the situation in F1 these days. All the good that was there about old Macau has been ditched. The entire economy is now revolving around the gambling industry all aimed at (almost exclusively) at the gamblers from Chinese Mainland. They found a new source of revenue, they went for it (fine) but forgot about everything else (wrong). There have been whispers around that even the future of the 55 year old Macau GP is in doubt because it is bad for the gambling business. This would be as shortsighted as dumping Canadian, US or British GP is in Formula 1 terms. Macau officials may be waking up now. The restrictions imposed by Chinese authorities on the Maindland Chinese gambling and money laundering trips to Macau hit the casino business badly. The troubles that the Las Vegas Sands Casinos hit meant 11,000 jobs lost in Macau only last week (population 500,000). How glad they must be now that at least for one weekend in a year they can continue to have the place packed with visitors no matter how the gambling goes … They received the wake up call, let’s hope they will wake up.
It may sound ridiculous but the future of Canadian GP (beyond 2009) as well as future of other traditional Formula 1 Grands Prix may as many other things in today’s world also rest on China.
Usually Bernie Ecclestone does not care if F1 Grand Prix organizers can’t put the cash together to host or to continue hosting Formula 1 race. He has enough interested parties waiting in the line. But look how different was his reaction to the news about Shanghai reconsidering the future of Chinese GP:
“We have a contract until 2010 with an option for five years after that. We will talk to them about it, and meet up and see how we can help them.”
How often it happens that Ecclestone publicly states his willingness to help money bleeding GP organizeres ? How often it happens that he actually cares ?
In case of China he may not have other option. We do not know yet if Shanghai organizers or city officials or whoever really think about possibly scraping the Formula 1 race once the current contract is over. We do not even have an idea if the guy who voiced his opinions has any say in this matter.
But… China rarely admits to any sort of failure. Even a suggestion that China may admit they can’t afford to meet Ecclestone’s outrageous demands and that the whole F1 project was a failure would send a very dangerous message (for Ecclestone) to all the governments prepared to pay anything Bernie asks in order to bring the F1 to or keep them in their countries.
If China can’t afford something with their cofferes overflowing with cash and pretty much zero need to explain or justify the expenditures to the public, who can ?
Shanghai dropping the race could, should and hopefully would serve as a wake up call to many lining up with cash in front of Ecclestone’s door. News like this may make people to start talking commercial sense and ecomomical reality also in Turkey, Bahrain, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi … Remember, the only direct revenue the race organizers get is the revenue from the ticket sales. The attendances at all the new F1 venues are notoriously low, the multimilion dollar grand stands are half empty …
Such a wake up call is not what Ecclestone wants, that is probably why he reacted so quickly to the “future of Shanghai GP” news and in the way he did. But this may be tricky situation for him. He can’t afford China axing Formula 1. But his “willingness to help” one circuit may also start the domino effect …
China dropping the Formula 1 could be the best thing to happen for the sport in the long term. Whether thing like that can actually happen is entirely different story however. But we can have dreams, can’t we