FUJI, Japan (Reuters) - Formula One may be damaged by the decision to axe the Canadian Grand Prix from next year’s calendar, BMW-Sauber boss Mario Theissen said on Thursday.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) this week issued a revised calendar, drawn up by the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, with no slot for the Montreal race.
With the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis already scrapped, the decision to drop Canada left Formula One without a North American race for the first time in 50 years.
”It’s the opposite of what we want to see,“ Theissen, whose team took their first win in Canada this season, told reporters at the Japanese Grand Prix. ”The North American market still is the biggest one, not just for BMW.
“It’s always been difficult to set foot into the U.S. but Canada especially. Montreal has always in a very strong position in North America.”
Theissen complained that dropping Canada made little financial sense at a time when the sport is looking at ways to cut costs to ensure its survival.
“The intention should be not to step out of this market but just the opposite -- to use Montreal as door opener for a future U.S. race as well,” said the German.
“I don’t know the reason (Montreal was dropped. I will figure it out.”
Canadian newspapers cited contractual reasons.
“For an organization like ours, which is to say a private promoter, the actual business model implemented by the owners (of Formula One) and F1 teams is no longer feasible,” the National Post quoted Canadian Grand Prix marketing vice-president Paul Wilson as saying.
“Given the financial pressure imposed by the indebtedness of the owners, combined with the demands of the teams, there is no choice but to impose cost increases that are unfortunately no longer feasible for our market.”
This year’s Canadian Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica said he was sad to see the race go.
“This was the latest news I heard this morning,” said the Polish BMW-Sauber driver. “Of course I’d like to race again in Canada as I won this year and last year we were also strong. Nick (Heidfeld) finished second.”
Honda’s Jenson Button said he was sad to see Canada go but would not miss the circuit much.
”I love the city. It’s a great city and it’s one of the best races to go to for the nightlife,“ said the Briton. ”We get a holiday now in the summer which is quite nice but it’s sad to see it (the race) go. It’s always sad to see a circuit go.
“The circuit itself -- it was breaking up quite a bit over the last couple of years and causing a lot of difficulties for us.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin