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A curious calendar

THE FIA WORLD MOTOR SPORT COUNCIL - which met on Tuesday of last week in Paris - issued a rather strange provisional calendar for the 1997 Formula 1 World Championship. It included only 13 races and some of the dates were decidedly odd.

The most notable of these is the Australian date - March 2. The Victorian state authorities - which run the Melbourne event - recently announced that the race would be on March 9, to coincide with the Moomba holiday weekend and festival. A race a week before the event seems to be rather pointless and is obviously not what the authorities want.

The only explanation, therefore, is that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is forcing the issue to get the Australians to agree to some of his demands. There is no difficulty in putting the race back a week because the provisional calendar has a two week break between Brazil (March 23) and Argentina (April 6). This is not something the teams want as it was proved this year that a 10-day South American double-header can be achieved simply, efficiently and less expensively than two races with a weekend between them.

The main body of races are much as expected with the traditional San Marino (April 27), Monaco (May 11), Spain (May 25), Canada (June 15), France (June 29), Britain (July 13), Germany (July 27), Belgium (August 24), Italy (September 7) and Japan (October 19). The races missing from this year's calendar are the European, Hungarian and Portuguese GPs. The available dates are August 10, September 21, October 5 and November 2 - although a race in November would mean that the start of the 1998 season would have to be put back because Ecclestone has an agreement with the teams that they can have a minimum of 18 weeks in the winter to build new cars.

We expect to see Austria be given the August 10 date while Estoril and the Nurburgring are expected to be scrapping over September 21. October 5 could go to a Far Eastern race such as Indonesia or China, and Las Vegas has been mentioned in connection with November 2.

Our sources suggest that not too much should be read into the provisional calendar as it is little more than a framework to get the attention of organizers which are dithering.

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