F1 Business Diary 2015: the Canadian Grand Prix

One year into a new ten-year deal signed with Formula One last year, organisers of the Canadian Grand Prix are counting down the days - and there are good 365 of them - before circuit renovation work can begin in earnest.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal will continue to host an annual Grand Prix until at least 2024, after striking a ten-year deal with Formula One last year, but this year's race was the penultimate in the circuit's current guise.

As part of the CAN$187 million deal, the city of Montreal will invest CAN$30 million in upgrade work to several ageing parts of the venue. At this point, only a feasibility study has been undertaken, but a complete overhaul of the cramped pit and paddock facilities, which back onto the rowing lake built and used for the 1976 Olympic Games, is set to begin in the immediate aftermath of next year's Grand Prix – that is if a considerable hurdle in the process can be overcome. City authorities are stalling on the project after finding irregularities in contracts awarded by the Parc Jean-Drapeau, the picturesque setting for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, for work to mark the 50th anniversary of Expo 67. Although the Octane Group, which promotes the Canadian Grand Prix, is not implicated, it will have to take a watching brief as the Montreal authorities dig into the case.

The good get better and the worst get worse

As Mercedes cruised to another one-two, Lewis Hamilton finishing ahead of Nico Rosberg, whose pursuit of his teammate was apparently toned down by engineers eager for him to save his brakes, McLaren's season ploughed to a new low. The team's second double retirement of the season, and Fernando Alonso's anguished observation across the radio that they “were looking like amateurs”, at least means that the only way must surely be up now for a team getting used to a new relationship with engine manufacturer Honda. McLaren chief operating officer Jonathan Neale gave an honest, if battling take on the team’s travails in an interview with the BBC, and reports suggest that Honda president Takahiro Hachigo will be at the next race in Austria – where the team expects significant upgrades – to gauge the ‘progress’ of the relationship thus far.

To the Manor born

A better race weekend for the Manor Marussia team, going one better than McLaren by bringing at least one car – under Will Stevens – to the finish line (in 17th and last), and even better one off the track. The team announced its first sponsorship deals in Montreal, carrying the logo of British television personality Chris Evans’ returning ‘TFI Friday’ show, and rolling out a new partnership with Airbnb. The global online private room and property rental company – thriving, apparently, in Montreal in particular – has taken a higgledy-piggledy approach to sports sponsorship as it has fuelled its recent meteoric rise. Big deals with the Rio 2016 Olympics and the Copa America in Chile have been supplemented by agreements with Basketball Australia, the Chicago Bulls, and the New York Marathon. Airbnb’s model, which cuts out the middle man to allow private individuals to rent accommodation to and from other private individuals, is gaining popularity across the world. And there isn’t necessarily anything to stop Manor Marussia making use of its new partnership to rent out a race seat or two….

Mo money, mo problems

As last year's extension to their Formula One contract testified, the promoters of the Canadian Grand Prix have succeeded by dint of their ability to galvanise support from various governmental strands – with funding coming from the Montreal tourist board as well as provincial and federal governments. As this piece from outgoing SportsPro supremo David Cushnan reveals, race organisers in the sport’s traditional European heartland are not quite so fortunate. With the second annual edition of the Black Book Race Forum set for 30th June, the debate is set to centre on the evolution of the financial models that make Formula One possible (or not).

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