F1 and Canadian Grand Prix race promoter maintain radio silence amidst media reports that 2021 event has been cancelled.
The Canadian Broadcasting Company was one of several media outlets reporting tonight that the race has been cancelled for the second successive year, citing fears overs the estimated 2,500 members of the F1 'bubble' arriving in Montreal in June without quarantining.
"It's pretty soon," Dr. Mylene Drouin, Montreal's public health director told CBC. "The teams would arrive in less than seven weeks, so the population wouldn't be vaccinated, and we will still be in mitigation mode for the variants."
However, Montreal Mayor, Valerie Plante, while admitting that the race could be cancelled, insisted that officially the race is still on.
"I can't confirm it because we were also waiting on a decision from the Government of Canada and public health," she told a news conference today. "I want to tell you, let us leave this meeting, everyone will speak on the phone like we've been doing these last few days to secure things, and then we'll be able to officially confirm, yes or no, based on the information we have.
"The fact is that Montreal public health issued a notice opposing the holding of the Grand Prix, even behind closed doors," she continued. "What we want is for public health departments to communicate together before we make anything official. It's the least we can do, out of respect for the various partners.
"In the end, whatever the decision, and if it turns out that the Grand Prix is not coming back to Montreal this year, we will work to ensure the Grand Prix continues to take place in Montreal. We need to maintain our relationship with the Canadian Grand Prix. That's what we're working on right now."
"We're not the ones taking the decision," said Annie Dufour, a spokesperson for Montreal public health. "We can simply give recommendations and revaluate levels of risk. Obviously given the fragile epidemiological state in Montreal, we shared our hesitation over the holding of the event.
"We expressed our concerns regarding the gathering of several thousand people, some who did not quarantine after coming from Baku (the Azerbaijan Grand Prix precedes Canada's). But all these decisions are taken at the governmental level. We're not involved."
"We are speaking with the Grand Prix authorities in Europe," Quebec Minister of the Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon told The Toronto Star. "Obviously, this is a question for public health.
"You need to understand that the federal government has a role to play here regarding the quarantine. What I can tell you is that, indeed, the Quebec government wants to keep the Canadian Grand Prix from 2022 to 2029. The economic benefits are important for Quebec.
"This year is a very difficult year because of health restrictions," he continued. "Hosting a Grand Prix behind closed doors, it's like opening a cinema and saying that nobody can come in. And there are costs associated with it. We are very sensitive to the government not incurring costs when the money could go elsewhere. We are negotiating with authorities at Formula One Management, with my colleague, the Minister of Tourism Caroline Proulx, in those discussions. We hope to have news within 48 hours."
Asked about the fact that cancellation of the event would mean a breach of contract with F1, he replied: It's a contract. There's an agreement between the European authorities and the Canadian Grand Prix that's valid until 2029. So if the Grand Prix does not take place this year, it will be because of a force majeure.
"We're living a very special situation, and health takes precedence over the economy. So the fundamental question, if the Grand Prix is cancelled, and I'm saying if, how can we ensure to keep the Grand Prix until 2029? We want to keep the Grand Prix. But we also need to take care of our citizens and not put people at risk. That's what we will try to do in the coming days."
Despite the ongoing silence from Formula One Management, it's understood that plans are already underway - assuming the Montreal race is cancelled - to head to Istanbul, where the Turkish Grand Prix could be held on the same weekend currently scheduled for Canada (13 June).
Check out our Thursday gallery from Imola, here.