Montreal’s Journey with F1 in North America

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Indeed, Montreal is commemorating the 45th year since its first race, which also brought about the inaugural triumph for Gilles Villeneuve, a local hero.

The circuit, later renamed in honor of the Ferrari icon, has been a consistent feature on the F1 calendar, barring financial hitches in 1987 and 2009, as well as the COVID-impacted years of 2020 and 2021.

Notably, during periods of waning interest in the US, between 1985-’88, 1992-’99, and most recently, 2008-’11, Montreal stood as the F1 beacon in North America.

US fans, sponsors, and corporate guests had to journey across the border for their annual dose of Grand Prix excitement.

The previous year saw the race rebound impressively following the COVID hiatus, demonstrating that the Canadian GP can flourish even with two concurrent races in the US. Even before the end of the prior season, this year’s event was completely booked.

Ticket holders from that time have an additional perk: Lance Stroll now possesses a vehicle that can potentially rank high if his fortune finally turns around.

The driving force behind Montreal’s race is Francois Dumontier, the president and CEO of Octane Racing Group, the promotional entity.

In April 2021, the once-independent company was bought by Bell Group, a telecom titan that also owns TSN and RDS, the country’s English and French F1 broadcasters.

Since 1994, Dumontier has been affiliated with the Canadian GP, serving as its promoter since 2010.

The former promoter, Legault, and Dumontier negotiated the race’s return in 2010. Financial support was consolidated from federal, state, and city governments, making the event a feasible business venture.

Each of the aforementioned entities contributes financially to the race hosting fee that goes directly to the F1 organization.

The city of Montreal owns the venue, and Octane leases it. However, the fact that it is a temporary venue, reverted to public park use post-race, entails significant costs associated with annual construction.

The city’s ownership has traditionally complicated circuit facility upgrades, while the severe Quebec winters have consistently posed challenges for completing work.

Despite previous criticism for lagging infrastructure, the race constructed a new pit complex in 2019, which received positive responses from F1 and its teams.

Dumontier highlights that this significant step forward is not the end, with more improvements anticipated.

Though secure with eight years remaining on its contract, Montreal must remain vigilant of emerging competition and evolving standards for newer venues.

Dumontier confirms he still attracts many US fans, despite competition from other events. He asserts, “I’m a fan of having more races in North America.”

The Drive to Survive series has further amplified Montreal’s popularity, boosting ticket demand. While acknowledging that F1 operates in cycles, Dumontier remains optimistic about the present and future of the sport in Montreal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Montreal F1 history

When was the first race in Montreal?

The first race in Montreal took place 45 years ago.

Who was the local hero who achieved victory in the first race in Montreal?

The local hero who won the first race in Montreal was Gilles Villeneuve.

Which periods saw Montreal serving as the F1 hub in North America?

Montreal served as the F1 hub in North America during periods when US interest was low, specifically between 1985-’88, 1992-’99, and 2008-’11.

Who is the driving force behind Montreal’s race today?

Francois Dumontier, the president and CEO of Octane Racing Group, is the driving force behind Montreal’s race today.

Who owns the venue where the Montreal race takes place?

The venue where the Montreal race takes place is owned by the city of Montreal.

What recent improvements have been made to the Montreal race infrastructure?

A significant recent improvement made to the Montreal race infrastructure was the construction of a new pit complex in 2019.

How does Montreal fare with the competition from other events in the US?

Despite the competition from other events, Montreal still attracts many US fans according to Francois Dumontier.

More about Montreal F1 history

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F1Fanatic92 June 15, 2023 - 1:32 am

Gilles Villeneuve, a legend in his own right. hats off to Montreal for keeping his legacy alive.

Janine_L June 15, 2023 - 3:18 am

Oh i love the grand prix in Montreal. Best city in the world during race weekend!

vroom_vroom June 15, 2023 - 5:45 am

Why don’t we have more races in Canada?? They clearly have a passion for the sport and a successful history. more please!

NorthStar June 15, 2023 - 6:18 am

Really like how Dumontier is dedicated to improving the fan experience. can’t wait to see what changes are coming in the next few years.

Mark_Peterson June 15, 2023 - 7:39 am

Amazing read! never knew Montreal had such a rich history in F1. keep the good content coming!

SpeedDemon77 June 15, 2023 - 3:36 pm

I was there at the 1st race back in 78, incredible to see how it’s evolved over the years. montreal sure knows how to put on a show!


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