Canada GP contract delay over upgrade cost

A new deal for the Canadian grand prix could be delayed, as organisers discover the renovation of the ageing Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will cost more than expected.

Bernie Ecclestone has said he is happy to ink a new long-term deal for the Montreal race, so long as the track is brought up to standard with some renovations.

La Presse newspaper reports that the original estimate of the renovation was $25 million, but a source ‘very close’ to the discussions now reveals that the actual quote commissioned by the government has come back at $40 million.

The quote has reportedly forced a “reassessment”, and the delay of a definitive deal with F1’s chief executive for now.


Sauber team victim of Montreal robbery

The Sauber team was the victim of a robbery in Canada recently, it has emerged.

The Swiss newspaper Blick reports that a team van was broken into in the carpark of a Montreal shopping centre on the Wednesday before the race. Catering supervisor and truck driver Fritz Steinmann was shopping when the thief stole a laptop, mobile phone, passport, money and credit and ID cards.

“We were also the victims of a robbery in Canada three years ago,” Steinmann revealed.


Montreal close to new long-term F1 deal

Montreal is on the verge of securing a new long-term contract to host an F1 race until at least 2024, the Quebec newspaper La Presse reports.

It had already emerged that Bernie Ecclestone met at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve last weekend with race and government officials. F1 chief executive Ecclestone confirmed that the new deal for 2014 and beyond is almost complete, with only a few details left to resolve.

“The annual fee is done,” the 81-year-old said. “That’s not a problem. All they need is the ok for the building (work),” added Ecclestone.

La Presse said Briton Ecclestone is requiring that the Montreal organisers spend $20 million to upgrade the ageing pit and paddock complexes, and resurface the track within five years.

“We don’t need it to look like Abu Dhabi, we just want an upgrade,” he said. “We want a facelift. If they do here what they’ve done at Silverstone, that would be good. Canada is important to us,” he insisted.

Montreal’s new race deal will mean there will be three grands prix in North America, with Austin and New York joining the calendar.

“We have ten races in Europe so I don’t see why we can’t have three in North America,” Ecclestone argued.

However, he expressed disappointment with the controversy that marred this year’s running in Canada.

“I think it was all a bit misplaced,” said Ecclestone.

“(The cost of student) tuition here is the lowest in Canada, and certainly cheaper than in most other places in the world.”


Montreal promoter relieved after stressful F1 weekend

Race promoter Francois Dumontier admitted he was relieved after the Canadian grand prix was run without incident on Sunday.

The protesting university students and a heavy police and security presence around Montreal has been obvious this weekend. But according to the La Presse newspaper, Dumontier said the ticket sales decline was ultimately lower than expected.

“I am relieved,” he said. “I can’t deny that the last two weeks have been challenging — it’s already hard enough to organise a grand prix!

“We had a good weekend,” added Dumontier. “Despite the threats, the event was not disrupted. People could get in. I don’t have the latest figures, but it was a good day today because the stands were well filled.”

He said he hopes next year’s event is less stressful.

“I hope we can have a grand prix next year under normal conditions,” said Dumontier.

Although relieved and happy, he admitted the 2012 event will be a financial loss.

“For sure we will (record a loss) and that’s a shame as we are a private company,” he said.

But Dumontier also revealed that meetings took place over the weekend between race and government officials and Bernie Ecclestone, regarding the extension of the contract for 2014-2024.

“We have been talking for several months so it is ongoing,” he said. “There are no obstacles at the moment. He (Ecclestone) was here and so were some ministers so we took the opportunity to speak together.”


Alonso hails Ferrari’s unprecedented progress

Rather than rue a lost victory, Fernando Alonso hailed Ferrari after the Canadian grand prix.

The Spaniard and former championship leader was at the head of the Montreal field late on Sunday, until his Pirelli tyres gave up their grip. His team, however, persevered with the one-stop strategy, while Sebastian Vettel gave up, pitted and ultimately passed him, and Lewis Hamilton won with the clearly superior two-stop strategy.

The struggling Alonso was even passed by Hamilton’s fellow podium-getters Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez, and he ultimately finished just fifth.

According to Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo, the 30-year-old conceded that, in hindsight, making another pitstop would have been the better choice. But he hailed Ferrari anyway.

“I’ve never before seen a kind of progress as we have made this year, and this development (in Canada) was the most significant we have made for a long time. “At the beginning of the season we were struggling to get out of Q1, and now we are fighting for the first places on the grid and for victories,” added Alonso.


Tambay predicts ‘huge fight’ for Canada win

Sunday’s Canadian grand prix will be a fast and furious dash for victory according to former grand prix winner Patrick Tambay.

“The three teams that really stand out now are Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari,” the ex McLaren and Ferrari driver told French broadcaster RMC Sport.

In the top three grid positions in Montreal are Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. All three are right in the hunt in the drivers’ championship, and also in the top five for the championship are Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg, who are next on the Canada grid.

“We’ll see a huge fight today,” Tambay predicted. “It’s going to be a big battle between Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel, who absolutely want to stay in touch in the championship.”


Euro 2012 fever grips F1 paddock in Montreal

Canada is in the grip of F1 fever, but in the Montreal paddock, it is football fever that is rampant among the sport’s travelling circus. That is because Euro 2012, UEFA’s European football championship, has kicked off in Poland and the Ukraine.

On Saturday, Germany’s match against Portugal was set to kick off just minutes after qualifying. When asked a mundane question about his helmet design immediately after taking pole on Saturday, an impatient Sebastian Vettel smiled: “It (the answer) might take too long …”

Quipped Lewis Hamilton: “I think that’s the best and shortest answer I’ve ever heard him give!”

Fernando Alonso, in the post-qualifying press conference as well, also teased Vettel: “As Seb wants to go, I will give you a very long answer now, starting from my go-kart helmet …”

Ultimately, Vettel caught the kickoff and watched Germany win 1-0 from the comfort of Bernie Ecclestone’s marquee.

And Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports that Mercedes rearranged Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg’s media and briefing commitments in order to watch the match together.

Rosberg was seen sporting suitable black, red and yellow glasses, hat and inflatable hand.

“I will try to watch all of the games,” he confirmed.

Spain plays Italy on Sunday, which could be awkward for Spaniard Alonso, who is Ferrari’s much-loved number one driver.

“If Spain wins,” said the driver, “I think there may not be many people at my pitstop!”


McLaren pour scorn on Anderson’s ill-founded criticisms

Jonathan Neale, McLaren’s Managing Director, has responded to comments made by Gary Anderson who slammed the Woking based team for taking so long to repair Jenson Button’s car during practice for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Responding to Anderson, Neale concluded that the ex-Jordan and Stewart Grand Prix Technical Director (from 1991 to 2003) was out of touch with today’s F1 cars, which are more complicated and time-consuming to work on given how integrated and tightly packed their systems are in comparison with previous generations.

“You have to go back to FP1,” Neale explained. “As Jenson came out of the last corner on his final run he felt he had a lot of wheel spin, which turned out to be clutch slip.”

“After getting the car into the garage and taking it apart we found oil contamination of the clutch which causes the plates to slip. Clearly it was something we had to address. The oil was coming from the gearbox through one of the seals, which we would routinely change.”

“But the problem these days, if you take a modern gearbox on a Formula One car, they, and the powertrain in particular, are so integrated now. The packaging is so extreme that to take off a gearbox and put it on again routinely takes, on average up and down the grid, an hour and three quarters.”

“Bear in mind to even start a Formula One car from a laptop from cold these days takes an hour and a half. So it’s not as trivial as some might have you believe.”

Neale also revealed that the team had actually completed two gearbox changes – a second issue was found once the engine was started after the initial gearbox change.

“So we changed the seal in between FP1 and FP2, got the car back together, got the floor on, fired it up and discovered we then had a secondary issue which wasn’t knowable prior to that event,” Neale continued.

“So it all had to come off again and we had to do two gearbox changes. There wasn’t time to delve into the root cause, so we changed the back end of the car, which was another hour and three quarters.”

Wolff defends Senna after bad day in Canada

Team co-owner Toto Wolff on Friday defended Bruno Senna, after a bad day in Montreal for Williams’ Brazilian driver.

Senna, never higher than 17th quickest on Friday, had several off-track excursions at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve before crashing heavily at the notorious ‘wall of champions’. His questionable form threatens to intensify rumours Williams might replace the struggling 28-year-old with reserve driver Valtteri Bottas, who is managed by Austrian Wolff.

Wolff, however, defended Senna, insisting the driver does not need a dressing-down because “he is the one who is the most upset” about the crash.

“What happened to him also happens to many other drivers,” Wolff told Austrian television ORF. “Of course it’s a pity because the car was severely damaged, but when you are trying to find the limits, these things happen,” he added.

Wolff also said the crash does not mean Senna will have to face the rest of the weekend without Williams’ radical new rear wing.

“We have enough spares,” he said.

Senna was also involved in an incident with Sebastian Vettel on Friday, but it was the world champion who was officially reprimanded by the stewards. Senna waved a fist at the Red Bull driver after they brushed wheels at high speed on the approach to the final chicane. On German Sky television, commentator Marc Surer slammed Vettel’s manoeuvre as “dangerous” and “completely unnecessary”.


Weather fury in Montreal waits for Friday practice

Friday’s actual track action escaped the fury of the Montreal weather. The paddock, however, was swept with rivers of falling water as the skies above the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve opened with an anger just after the second practice session.

Veteran Blick correspondent Roger Benoit said it was perhaps the heaviest rain he has seen in Montreal.

“The track, the paddock, garages — everything was ankle deep in water,” he said.

O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio added: “The sound of the really intense rain on the roof meant no one could even talk.”

He said there was also “strong winds and lightning”, raising the concerns of the journalists in the circuit’s media marquee as television and timing monitors swayed “alarmingly” on the metal supports.

The rest of the weekend is expected to be dry.