On tap this week:
• Renewal of GP imminent
• Up and down for Wickens
• Quote of the Week: Brabham remembers
• Mercedes owes Haug
• Maldonado helps his old team
• Stepney's successes
Racing fans holding their breath for a new contract to keep the annual Formula One race in Montreal can exhale.
Word on the street is that a new contract to continue the Canadian Grand Prix will be announced before the 2014 edition at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The existing five-year contract expires when the chequered flag flies in Montreal on June 8.
Although government funding still needs to be secured , race promoter François Dumontier already has a new contract with Formula One Management (FOM).
The Octane Management boss confirmed last week that he and F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone signed a deal, but the terms were not announced. Dumontier was looking for a 10-year extension for the race, which has been held at the Île Notre-Dame track since 1978.
Dumontier also met with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre last week to continue negotiations for the lease of the track . Coderre indicated a few weeks ago that he was confident that an agreement would be reached before this summer’s race.
That leaves just one thing to be ironed out: Financial support from the federal and provincial governments as well as a commitment from Tourism Montréal. All three must kick in some cash to keep FOM happy.
When the extension was signed in 2009, the three agreed to pitch in a total of $15-million annually to help keep the race in Montreal. But that deal was struck at a time when Montreal was the only F1 stop in North America and the auto manufacturers in the sport were pressuring Ecclestone to ensure Canada was on the calendar.
With F1 owners CVC Capital Partners looking for a 10 per cent increase in fees for new contracts and a successful grand prix taking hold in Austin, Tex., the Canadian governments may need to up their contribution to keep the race and the estimated $100-million in economic activity it brings every year to Montreal.
By the Numbers: In the opening Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) race of the 2014 season at Hockenheim, Canadian Mercedes driver Robert Wickens passed 13 cars in the first 11 of 42 laps, moving from 20th on the starting grid to seventh by one-quarter distance.
With new rules now requiring just one pitstop in races this year, as opposed to the two in 2013, combined with his poor qualifying performance, the Guelph, Ont. native started the race on the softer and faster “option” tires, while most of his rivals were on the harder and slower “prime.” The decision looked to be brilliant in the early going, with Wickens scything through the field with ease.
Unfortunately, the speed advantage tipped away from Wickens after he had to change to the prime. In the second half of the race, 11 of the 13 cars Wickens overtook in the first few laps paid him back, pushing the Canadian back to 18th at the chequered flag.
The Hockenheim winner was BMW’s Marco Wittmann. His Canadian teammate Bruno Spengler, who was the 2012 DTM champion, finished sixth.
Not one Mercedes car cracked the top-10 in Sunday’s race. The best the marque could manage in qualifying was 14th. It might be a long season for DTM drivers for three-pointed star.
Quote of the Week: “I came past the start finish line on another flying lap and I saw yellow flags and debris on the track between the Tamburello and Villeneuve corners. I knew immediately it was Roland’s car.
“I saw purple on the bits lying on the track and I was concerned because the car was travelling at near 300 kilometres per hour. As I went towards the accident, I grew very concerned as it looked massive. I started to fear for Roland and the closer I got, the worse I felt. His car ended up in the middle of the Tosa corner, so everyone had to go around Roland’s car.
“Marshalls were on the scene and I was keen to see if my teammate was alright. I wish I hadn’t. As I went round the car and looked, I immediately saw something didn’t look right. The position of his head was different and disturbing, I felt sick and had a strong sense he was gone.”
– former F1 driver David Brabham, recalling the events 20 years ago last week (April 30) that took the life of his Simtek teammate Roland Ratzenberger during qualifying for the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Related Photo Gallery: Looking back at Formula One great Ayrton Senna
Random Thoughts: Former Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug joined a German television station last week as a colour commentator for broadcasts of the hugely popular Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series.