Finally a 1996 Formula 1 calendar!

THE FIA World Motor Sport Council meets in Paris, France, on Thursday and is expected to announce a provisional calendar for the 1996 Formula 1 World Championship that evening.

To date there have been a variety of draft calendars leaked, featuring as many as 18 races, but F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone recently confirmed that there will definitely be only 16 events.

The major change from the existing calendar will be the switching of the Australian Grand Prix from its normal November date to become the first race of the season in March. This is a result of the race switching from Adelaide to the city of Melbourne. The organizers want a date in March to coincide with the local Moomba Festival, and the race's sponsor, Fosters, is backing the switch to avoid a clash with its other big sponsorship event in the city every year - the Melbourne Cup horse race.

The circus will then head to South America for a Brazil/Argentina double-header at the end of March. Originally there was an April date for a Pacific Grand Prix at Aida but we understand that Hajime Tanaka, the man who owns Aida, is struggling to keep the track financially viable as Japanese fans do not seem to want to travel to the track.

Races at Imola, Monaco and Barcelona will follow before the circus heads across the Atlantic to Montreal in mid-June prior to the traditional events in France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy and Portugal (although the Estoril race will be canceled unless new facilities are built).

The season is expected to finish with flyaway events in Japan and Indonesia, although we continue to hear that there are problems with Indonesia. The circuit is ready and there appears to be support from the government, although there may still be problems over money and the political situation in Indonesia.

Indonesia annexed Eastern Timor in 1976 - a move which has not been recognized by the United Nations - and there has been a violent rebel insurgency ever since. A resettlement program has also led to racial clashes and massacres. Only last week, in fact, two people were killed during rioting in the city of Dili.

Indonesia and Portugal (which used to control Eastern Timor) have no political links, which could be a problem for F1 because of driver Pedro Lamy - not to mention FIA Deputy President Cesar Torres.

Although there has been little public comment on the subject we believe that efforts are continuing to stage a race in Las Vegas on November 10 next year. These efforts are being backed financially by Bernie Ecclestone.

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