Canadian GP cancelled due to COVID-19, contract to hold race in Montreal extended

MONTREAL — The Canadian Grand Prix was cancelled for the second year in a row due to COVID-19 health measures on Wednesday, but officials announced that a contract to hold the race in Montreal has been extended by two years.

The Formula One race was scheduled to take place June 13 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

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The event was also cancelled last year because of the novel coronavirus.

"It was done jointly, we obviously were attentive to public health in Montreal, who expressed some concerns, same thing with public health in Quebec and Canada," Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon told a virtual news conference on Wednesday. "So we decided as a government it was the best decision to be taken, to cancel the Formula One race."

On Wednesday, F1 officials announced the Montreal race would be replaced by one in Istanbul, Turkey. They cited the ongoing travel restrictions in Canada which require a mandatory 14-day quarantine that would be impossible to meet.

However, the governments of Canada and Quebec announced that the race will return to Montreal in 2022, and that an agreement has been reached with Formula One World Championship to keep the race in Montreal until 2031, two years longer than the current agreement.

Those two additional years, 2030 and 2031, will cost partners $25 and $26 million respectively.

While that's more than the $19 million that was to be paid for the 2021 edition, Fitzgibbon said the agreement will benefit Quebec's coffers, with the current economic spinoffs from the race around $100 million in addition to fiscal benefits for the province to the tune of $10 million.

Additionally, Ottawa and Quebec have also agreed to invest $5.5 million promoting Formula One in an effort to bring back tourists when sanitary conditions permit.

Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly said the ongoing vaccination campaign will help get the country to that point.

"We'll be one of the first ones in the world to be able to have international tourists here in our country and we'll be able to sell the fact we are a healthy and secure place to visit," Joly said.

The formal postponement came after public health officials in Montreal expressed concerns over holding the race due to the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Mylene Drouin, Montreal's public health director, said Wednesday her department hadn't made a formal recommendation to cancel the race, but doing so means one less event to manage for public health officials in the coming weeks.

The race's promoter, Francois Dumontier, was ambivalent about the cancellation.

"I understand the news, and I accept it, but you understand that I still have mixed feelings," Dumontier said. "I am disappointed with the cancellation for my team, for the many volunteers and all the stakeholders who make it so successful."

That said, Dumontier was happy with the two additional years added to the existing pact and was confident a 2022 edition of the race would be held.

"I think that we've got enough time in front of us to put up the event," Dumontier said. "By September or October, most Canadians will be vaccinated so if we can start working at that moment, we'll be in good shape and no problem to prepare for next June."

The Canadian Grand Prix made its debut in 1967 and, save for a couple of absences, has been a fixture in the Canadian sports calendar since.

The last time it wasn't held prior to the pandemic-related cancellations was 2009, when the event promoter and F1 couldn't come to an agreement over the rights to show the race.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2021.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly stated the Canadian GP has been a Montreal fixture since 1967, but it has also been held in Bowmanville, Ont., and Mont-Tremblant, Que.

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