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Expect Italian hysterics this week

THE FIA World Council meets on Wednesday and one of the major items on the agenda will be the Italian Grand Prix - and whether it will happen in September or not.

The Italian national sporting authority has agreed that it will carry out the necessary safety work on the Monza circuit but is having trouble convincing the environmentalist-friendly Italian government to give the go-ahead. The FIA gave the Italians a deadline of this week to guarantee that the work will be done or else the Italian GP will be cancelled. It is quite likely, therefore, that the big news in mid-week will be that the Italian GP is off again. The same thing happened in August last year when the FIA cancelled Monza. This sent the Italians into panic mode and three days later, after the personal intervention of the then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a compromise was reached. At the time the FIA noted that the agreement was for 1994 only and that Monza had to do safety work for 1995.

The problem at the moment is that the Italian ministry of the environment has not authorised the work and local opposition is objecting to the chopping down of 146 trees - some of which are several hundred years old.

The FIA is refusing to back down this, time and the pressure is therefore on the Italians to do the necessary work as Ferrari will be a strong favourite to win on the fast sweeps of Monza. Italian fans would love that, but there are bigger things at stake with Ferrari being owned by Fiat, which is controlled by Gianni Agnelli, one of Italy's most powerful men. His influence in government and that of the Benetton family - which owns the Benetton F1 team - will be brought to bear to make sure the race takes place.

If nothing else, the businesses in Monza and Milan stand to lose millions of dollars in revenue if the F1 circus does not come to town.

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