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Kiss goodbye to Monza

The Italian Grand Prix at Monza is virtually certain not to happen this year because of an increasingly complicated web of problems around the classic event.

The Automobile Club of Italy has been very slow to make the necessary safety changes to Monza, and there is a strong feeling that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone wants to make an example of Monza to encourage other circuits to keep abreast of the necessary safety work.

There is also a school of thought that Ecclestone wants the promotional rights to the Italian race - one of the few races on the F1 calendar which he does not promote himself.

Now we hear of a third problem which could have much more profound effects than either of the aforementioned difficulties. This relates to the Inquiry into the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in May of last year. Maurizio Passarini, the magistrate investigating the case, is believed to be adopting a very hard line against Williams and will probably prosecute the team on manslaughter charges.

In expectation of this, FIA president Max Mosley last week faxed all the Formula 1 teams a copy of a letter he had sent to Rosario Alessi, the head of the Automobile Club of Italy, insisting that the ACI campaign for a change in the law to ensure that racing teams cannot be prosecuted in the event of an accident. Mosley is believed to be threatening to stop all international motor racing events in Italy until the law is changed.

A year ago, when Monza was threatened because safety work had not been done, Mosley had direct talks with the then Italian prime minister to come up with a compromise to allow the Italian GP to take place. This year the pressure will be on the Italian government from the Fiat empire (which owns Ferrari) to ensure that the Monza race happens because with Ferrari now very competitive the team could easily win at the fast Monza circuit.

Incidentally, while teams are still refusing to take part in 17 races, Japanese TV has now confirmed that it can do two broadcasts on successive weekends at Aida and Suzuka. Fuji TV will now lay the miles of cable and build the necessary scaffolding towers in advance at Suzuka so that only the cameras themselves need to be moved.

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