LONDON (Reuters) - Canadian officials blamed the ‘unreasonable demands’ of Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Sunday for the failure of attempts to save the country’s grand prix.
The officials had hoped to persuade the Briton to reinstate the race in Montreal after it was axed from the calendar, leaving North America without a grand prix for the first time in 50 years.
Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, who said last month after meeting Ecclestone that he was hopeful a deal could be done, recognized that the talks had come to nothing.
“Despite our endeavors and those of the business community, the unreasonable demands of Formula One exceeded the taxpayer’s ability to pay,” he said in a statement on the city’s website (www.ville.montreal.qc.ca).
The statement said Ecclestone had made a final contract offer on October 28 demanding that an eventual promoter put up a government or bank guarantee of some $175 million over the next five years.
It said no private promoter was willing to take on such a level of risk, considering the limited revenue generated by the event.
Quebec economic development minister Raymond Bachand said officials had worked hard in recent weeks to save the race ”while staying fiscally responsible.
”We cannot meet Mr. Ecclestone’s unworkable demands,“ he added. ”Unless he eases his requirements and adopts a different approach, there will be no Grand Prix in Montreal in 2009.
Canadian public works minister Christian Paradis said the race was a loss for all Canadians but Ecclestone had made ‘unrealistic demands’.
“As I recently said; ‘yes to a Grand Prix, but not at any price,'” he added.
Canadian organizers denied last month that they had defaulted on payments owed to Ecclestone for past hosting rights, while recognizing a ‘commercial disagreement’ over the 2008 race.
The decision to drop Canada, with the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis already canceled this year, has dismayed Formula One teams by cutting off a prime market for their manufacturer owners and sponsors.
Editing by Miles Evans