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Quebec premier hopes to reach deal to keep F1 race in Montreal

The Canadian Press

6/9/2013 5:49:32 PM

MONTREAL - Quebec Premier Pauline Marois says she hopes to reach an agreement that will keep Formula One racing in Montreal beyond 2014.

Marois had a brief face-to-face chat Sunday with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve during the Canadian Grand Prix.

She said negotiations between different levels of government and Ecclestone have gone smoothly.

"Until now, things are going well and I hope we will conclude an agreement," Marois said after the five-minute huddle in the paddocks with Ecclestone, Quebec Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau and Canadian Grand Prix promoter Francois Dumontier.

"And when I met Mr. Ecclestone I said to him: 'We have to conclude a win-win agreement.' I think he agrees with me."

The city's contract with F1 expires after the 2014 race. But talks have reportedly been slowed because the federal government is hesitant to increase its portion of the $15-million annual contribution to Ecclestone.

Marois said she wouldn't publicly discuss details on the negotiations for an agreement-in-principle with F1.

She did say Canada's only F1 event is an important part of Montreal's economy and is a good way to promote the city on the international stage.

A recent media report indicated an agreement-in-principle to keep the race in Montreal until 2024 was imminent.

On Sunday, Dumontier said such a prediction was premature and added that a deal could be reached in the coming weeks.

"I remain optimistic, negotiations are moving forward between all parties and the tone is favourable," Dumontier said.

During negotiations, Ecclestone has also asked for millions of dollars worth of renovations to the paddocks and control tower at the aging Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

On Saturday, Ecclestone told Radio-Canada, the CBC's French-language network, that he wasn't in a hurry to renew the contract with Montreal.

"I don't need the money, so it's not that desperate," Ecclestone told the network when asked how badly he wanted the race to return to Montreal.

"I like Montreal but as far as the race is concerned it's not desperate, it's not the only race in the world."

On the track, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel lauded the atmosphere at the Montreal events shortly after he cruised to his first victory there on Sunday.

"To me, this race belongs 100-per-cent on the calendar because us drivers really appreciate seeing grandstands sold out, all of the people enthusiastic, the whole town living the Grand Prix," said Vettel, a three-time world champion and this season's Formula One leader.

"Yesterday, (the weather) was not as good and there were a lot of fans. Today, it was fantastic."