The 2012 Formula One season is becoming a reluctant victim of civil unrest in recent months. While riots raged and molotov cocktails sailed through the sky outside the circuit at April's Bahrain Grand Prix, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said, albeit in jest, that "there's no such thing as bad publicity" and then posed for a photograph with a clown. As you are well aware, civil unrest is no laughing matter and now protests on Canadian soil are taking their toll on one of the country's premier summer events.
Student protests in Montreal have already forced the cancellation of the Canadian GP's free opening day on Thursday, nixing the chance race fans had to tour the circuit and schmooze with their favourite racers. François Dumontier, president of the Canadian GP, said in a statement Sunday that the cancellation of the event was a reluctant but necessary move.
"Under these circumstances, cancelling the 'Open Doors' day was the only action we could take. Unfortunately, for the fans and our spectators, it was impossible to escape from such responsibility."
The cancellation marks the second blow in less than a week for the race. On May 31, reports surfaced that Anonymous, a notorious group of online hackers, had obtained and made public the personal information of more than 130 individuals who purchased tickets for the race. A statement on the event's official webpage assured fans that the hack was not "done against the official ticket sales website," however, ticket sales are rumoured to be down and the race is not expected to sell out.
Fueling the negative publicity surrounding this year's Montreal stop on the F1 series is Canadian racing legend Jacques Villeneuve who called today's Grand Prix drivers "babies" and "daddy's boys." Villeneuve, whose father Gilles died in a violent crash in qualifying at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix, is concerned with current racing strategies and feels they may lead to an increase in crashes. The track in Montreal where the race is held (Le Circuit Gilles Villeneuve) was named in honour of his father.
[Canadian Press: Villeneuve tears strip off Quebec protesters]
Later, Villeneuve took jabs at the student protesters as well, urging them to "go back to school." Could Villeneuve still be bitter at the youth of Montreal who failed to support his former restaurant and nightclub Newtown? Villeneuve was forced to sell Newtown in 2009 after profits plummeted. He also came under fire upon it's opening back in 2001 for using an English name which is a direct translation of his surname: Ville = town, neuve = new... clever, eh? Or is this just another attempt to hog the attention? Whatever the reason, his words were fierce — see for yourself:
The 2012 Canadian Grand Prix is a three day event with the race scheduled for Sunday afternoon. In sharp contrast to last year's soggy race won by Jenson Button, the forecast in Montreal is calling for clear skies throughout the weekend, but expect the controversy to continue to rain down throughout the weekend.