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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canadian Grand Prix to stay at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 10 more years

MONTREAL - Racing fans can expect the annual revving of high-speed engines at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for at least another decade, as the Formula One Group reached an agreement worth more than $200 million to bring the Canadian Grand Prix back to Montreal through 2024.

The Grand Prix's future in Montreal was secured with the help of substantial governmental investment: $62 million from the federal government, $50 million from Quebec, $62 million from Tourisme Montreal and at least $32 million from the City of Montreal.

Montreal mayor Denis Coderre was on hand at the racetrack on Ile Sainte-Helene for the announcement on Saturday morning, alongside ministers of infrastructure and transport from the provincial and federal governments.

"This is the place to be this weekend, and this is the place to be for the next 10 years," said Coderre, who worked on the deal for several months with Formula One. "The Canadian Grand Prix is part and parcel of Montreal. It is one of the big international events that builds on Montreal's outstanding reputation and ranks it among the world's great cities."

As a condition to the agreement's success, the City of Montreal also agreed to renovate the track, including making improvements to the team paddocks, the control tower, and the on-site medical centre, for which it will spend $25 million to $40 million.

Coderre promised work would begin this fall and would be completed in time for the 2017 Canadian Grand Prix.

"The importance of this showcase to Montreal is beyond measure," said the mayor. "If Montreal wants to present itself as a metropolis, and join the ranks of other great cities around the world, we have to maintain this high level of authority. It's our signature. It's part of our DNA. It is one of the big international events that builds on Montreal's outstanding reputation."

The deal is big. Montreal's Formula One weekend attracts visitors from around the world, and repeatedly rakes in roughly $70 million to $90 million a year. It is broadcast in 150 countries and watched by approximately 300 million viewers worldwide.

And it's not just great for the City of Montreal, says former-F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve. Beyond the dollars and cents, Villeneuve believes the track named after his father is simply one of the most exciting in the world from a racing standpoint.

"It's great for the teams and the drivers because it's a fun track," he said on Friday in anticipation of the announcement. "It's a good venue. Everybody likes coming here. They come in a few days early. It's party time all week. There's good energy."

Villeneuve ranked Montreal as one of the top-four racing destinations, together with Monaco, Melbourne, and Singapore.

"It's one of the few races that look different, where there's action," he said. "If you look at the modern tracks, you could be anywhere. They all look the same. And you fall asleep on your couch. It's one of those few that you need to keep on the calendar to keep Formula One special."

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve — all 4.3 kilometres of it — is known for its sharp hairpin turn after the pit area, early safety cars, its tight Senna curves, and the kilometre-long straightaway along the Olympic basin that allows for speeds up to 300 kilometres per hour.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who finished third behind Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in Saturday's qualifying session, says Montreal is one of his favourite races of the year.

"It's one of the few places in the calendar where the whole city really parties all weekend long and embraces the Grand Prix and really appreciates it," he said. "For us, that's a great feeling, to stand on the grid and have so many fans during the drivers' parade and when you race. Seeing the full grandstands makes your job extra special."

"It's a great track, the fans are fantastic, so enthusiastic," added Rosberg. "I'm very happy and I'm sure everybody else is that we'll be coming here more often in the future."

Notes: This year marks the 35th running of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. The race gets underway Sunday afternoon. … In 2009, Montreal was removed from the F1 season when the provincial government refused to pay more to renew the race. The event returned the following year.

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