Formula 1’s Canadian Grand Prix could still be held on its scheduled date, albeit likely behind closed doors, though crucial decisions over entry measures and financial implications remain under discussion.
Formula 1 is currently due to compete at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, located on Montreal’s Ile Notre Dame, from June 11 to 13.
It is due to be Formula 1’s first visit outside of Europe or the Middle East since the pandemic began in March 2020, with last season’s Montreal round among many to be cancelled.
However the ongoing entry restrictions into Canada have complicated the situation because of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period – which Formula 1 is unable to serve due to the presence of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix the previous weekend.
“As far as holding the event closed off, as such, there is a way of holding it, in terms of public health, with very specific measures,” said Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda during a press conference held on Tuesday.
“There are discussions ongoing between Quebec and Canada, there will be evaluations made in order to be able to do a risk analysis to see if there is a way of having a closed-off F1 [event] without causing any prejudice to public health. But the rest is being discussed by the federal government.”
Formula 1 teams have operated in bubbles since resuming activity in July 2020, with the strictest example being in Abu Dhabi last December, when a secure biosphere was created for the entire paddock on Yas Island.
On that occasion the whole paddock flew on chartered planes from Bahrain, where the previous event was held, and spent the week in specifically assigned hotels to ensure there was no interaction with local citizens.
However that was insufficient for authorities in Australia, with Melbourne’s round postponed from March to November, while China’s event – initially scheduled for last weekend – has been indefinitely pushed back and is unlikely to be rearranged.
If Formula 1 is granted an exemption regarding quarantine then organisers still have to consider the financial implications of a grand prix being held without spectators.
Canada’s Formula 1 event is financed across several government levels, as well as from private sources, but there will be limited economic benefit under current measures, particularly if spectators are not permitted access to the venue.
Local media has recently reported that the event promoter has requested additional funding from authorities in order to cover expected losses.
“We are told [that] because there won’t be any spectators there would have to be a compensation from the government, and we already have given quite a lot,” said Quebec Premier Francois Legault.
“The worry we have is if we don’t have the grand prix in 2021, what will happen in 2022, between 2022 and 2029, because let’s not forget the grand prix is the event where there’s about the most real economic [benefit] as that is money that comes from foreign lands and is spent here in Quebec.
“Of course we always make sure that the help that is given [to the event] is less to the real economic advantages in Quebec, and there’s no conclusions on that right now.”
Of the upcoming events no spectators will be allowed access to Imola or Baku due to restrictions in respective territories.
Under current measures, which remain fluid, a limited number of fans are due to be granted access in Portimao, Barcelona, Monaco and Paul Ricard.