Formula One drops Canadian Grand Prix

The Canadian Grand Prix was dropped from the 2009 Formula One calendar on Tuesday.

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PARIS–The Canadian Grand Prix was dropped from the 2009 Formula One calendar on Tuesday.

FIA, the governing body of auto racing, ratified its calendar for the coming season and omitted the Canadian race, which was first held in 1967. It’s the first time since 1987 that the Canadian Grand Prix won’t be on the F1 schedule.

The inaugural Abu Dhabi GP replaces the Canadian race for the 2009 season, which will feature 18 races, the same as this year.

Contractual problems between Circuit Gilles Villeneuve officials and commercial rights holder F1 management are believed to have contributed to the decision.

When asked for comment, a Canadian GP spokesman said in an e-mail that he was travelling and expected to meet with the media Wednesday in Montreal.

It’s not the first time the Montreal race has fallen off the radar.

In 2003, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone announced the race had been dropped from the 2004 calendar because of an impending federal ban on tobacco advertising. But extra money was put up and the race went ahead.

The Canadian race was left off the calendar 21 years ago due to a dispute between local organizers and F1 over sponsorship.

The move leaves North America without a Formula One race for the first time in 43 years. The U.S. GP was dropped from the F1 schedule last year.

The Montreal race was popular with drivers and teams and a huge success with spectators. The event would usually bring in over 300,000 fans for the three days of racing. It was the city’s biggest week for tourism and estimated to produce more than $75 million (Canadian) in annual economic benefits for the local economy.

A problem in recent years has been the condition of the track, at an island park across from downtown Montreal. The asphalt has been pulled up by tires, making for slick, treacherous driving conditions.

At the Grand Prix in June, there was fear that drivers would refuse to race, but organizers repaired the track overnight and the event went off without any major incidents.

The Turkish GP, originally scheduled to be raced in August, takes Montreal’s June 7 spot to leave teams with a four-week break between the Hungarian GP on July 26 and the European GP at Valencia, Spain, on Aug. 23.

At the World Council meeting held at FIA’s Paris headquarters, FIA also gave president Max Mosley the power to negotiate directly with the Formula One Teams Association over proposed measures to cut F1 team costs in half by 2010.

Should negotiations with the 10 teams fail, then the FIA can “enforce the necessary measures to achieve this goal.”

Also, Marco Piccinini will leave his post as deputy president for the sporting side of the body a year early “to focus on other professional commitments.” Piccinini, whose successor will be elected at the Nov. 7 general assembly, was serving out his second term.

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