FC Montreal

Montreal has to do better for next year's Grand Prix, F1 chief tells Plante


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On the heels of Terrasse-gate and meeting with Peel St. restaurant owners, the mayor says she’s open to making changes.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced June 15 that terrasses will be permitted on Peel St., but will have to be moved farther into the street. Photo by Dave Sidaway /The Gazette

The president and CEO of Formula One wrote to Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante Wednesday, saying that some aspects of Grand Prix weekend “fell short” and need to be improved for next year.

Stefano Domenicali penned a letter to Plante, of which The Gazette received a copy.

“As you know, the Grand Prix is the largest annual event in Canada and it is vital that we deliver to the standards that our fans and stakeholders demand, and as you know, some aspects fell short this weekend. As we look forward to next year, it is crucial that all parties involved improve coordination to allow the race to reach its full potential. I was pleased to hear your commitment to making changes to the event and my team look forward to discussing this further as part of the meeting next week that will bring together all interested parties to define the future direction.”

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The letter didn’t specifically mention any events that fell short. However, there were a number of problems over the weekend.

Some of the incidents — such as rain flooding facilities and a protest that snarled traffic on the bridge to Île Notre-Dame — made headlines, but others emerged only after the race was over.

The Quebec racing magazine Pole Position reported major communication problems between organizers and the Montreal police, which impeded the departure of thousands of people from Parc Jean-Drapeau after events on Friday and Saturday. Traffic caused some of the star drivers to arrive on the site late.

On Saturday, at the same time as racing fans were trying to get off the island, other fans who wanted to attend a Pitbull concert (which was eventually cancelled) were trying to get on, the magazine reported. On Tuesday, Pitbull apologized for the cancellation.

Given the heavy rain, there was flooding in several driving paddocks and a parking lot was transformed into a field of mud. There was also flooding into the media cabins where broadcasters were working, something that also happened in 2022 but was supposed to have been fixed.

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“I was ashamed,” Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx said Wednesday. “I was quite ashamed, and I have had some conversations with some people and we will have more in the coming days.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, Plante acknowledged it was a difficult weekend.

“I have to say this year it was a challenging weekend,” Plante said. “The weather wasn’t on our side. There was the Pitbull concert (problem), and there was an electrical storm that had an impact on (the métro).”

Plante said she is open to making changes so the event runs smoother next year.

“I had a great conversation face to face with the president of Formula One on Sunday,” Plante said. “We had an attendance record over the weekend, so not to minimize some of the problems, but I think it’s important to zoom out. We all have a responsibility — the city and the promoter — to fine tune some of the elements. We’re having that meeting next week (to discuss) what needs to be better improved in terms of mobility, construction, anything that can be improved.

“Because we love the Grand Prix here in Montreal. The president loves the Grand Prix in Montreal and understands we’re not doing it in a desert in Dubai. We’re doing it in a very dense environment with a lot of construction happening.”

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Plante made the comments on Peel St. after meeting with Chez Alexandre owner Alain Creton, the head of the merchants’ association, to present the city’s solution to keeping terrasses on the street.

On Friday, fire prevention officers ordered four Peel St. establishments to clear their packed terrasses of clients on the first night of Grand Prix weekend because of fire code breaches. Sandra Ferreira, director of operations at Ferreira Café, a popular seafood restaurant on Peel St. near de Maisonneuve Blvd., posted an emotional video on Instagram after she was ordered to suddenly evacuate her terrasse.

Plante announced Thursday morning that terrasses will be permitted, but will have to be moved farther into the street. Parking will be removed on the side of the street across from the terrasses to give cars space to pass without hitting the structures.

Creton said he accepts the city’s solution and welcomes a gesture by the city to waive fines for non-conformity to the fire code.

Plante would not commit when asked whether the city will waive the fines or compensate the business owners in any way.

Philip Authier of the Montreal Gazette contributed to this report.

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