MONTREAL — The Canadian Grand Prix is bidding farewell to its 30-year-old garages this year, but no one is shedding a tear.
Once the Formula One race is over on June 10, the concrete garages at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will be torn down, to be replaced by a shiny new facility in time for the 2019 Grand Prix.
F1 authorities have been on promoter Francois Dumontier’s back for years to expand and modernize the garage and paddock areas at the track. Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone even made it a condition for extending the race contract.
Now, it’s finally taking shape.
“There were several comments from a lot of people involved in Formula One,” Dumontier said Wednesday. “The size of the garages were fine, but all the (other) installations were temporary.
“We wanted to have everything on a permanent basis so the teams will have more space in the garage area and in the hospitality area.
The roomier paddocks behind the garages are already in place.
“There was a need for a new image, to offer a building of the 21st century with all the technology included in the garages,” said Dumontier.
The new building will be three storeys high with garages on the ground floor. Spectator capacity in the new loges is to increase from 1,800 to 5,000 in a building mainly in glass and wood.
The Canadian Grand Prix celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, while this year is the 40th since it moved to its current track on Notre Dame Island across from downtown Montreal. The 1978 race saw Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve post his first F1 victory. The track was later renamed for the Berthierville, Que. native.
Ten years later, new garages and a control tower were built.
This year, a grandstand at the hairpin turn has been named for Williams driver Lance Stroll. Dumontier hopes to highlight the Montreal driver at his hometown race like the Belgian Grand Prix, which has a grandstand named for Max Verstappen.
Another change this year will see the grid girls, who held up banners on the starting grid before the race, replaced by Grid Kids — young go-kart drivers from across Canada. F1’s new bosses Liberty Media eliminated grid girls this season because they were deemed sexist.
“Over the years we heard many times that, during Grand Prix week, sexual exploitation and prostitution increased during that week and that some people thought we were encouraging that,” said Dumontier, who previously hired grid girls from a local modelling agency.
“It was not the case, but this year I met with many social groups and (government representatives) to talk about it and take that position that we are not encouraging that.”
Without providing figures, he said ticket sales were up this year and were approaching a sellout.
Race weekend will see two Canadians in action — Stroll and Force India prospect Nicolas Latifi of Toronto.
It’s been a tough season for Stroll, whose Williams team has struggled to keep pace. In his first Canadian Grand Prix last year Stroll picked up his first F1 points with a ninth-place finish.