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OCTOBER 21, 1996

FIA delays 1997 entry list and calendar

THE FIA World Motor Sports Council, which met last week in Paris, has delayed the publication of the 1997 Formula 1 World Championship entry list - which was due to be revealed on November 4.

Entries closed at midnight Sunday (Paris time), and although it is too early to be sure how many teams have definitely entered for next year's series, there is little doubt that we will ultimately see Arrows, Benetton, Ferrari, Jordan, Ligier, McLaren, Minardi, Sauber, Stewart, Tyrrell and Williams taking part in the 1997 series. This will give a total of 22 cars.

There is a very small chance that Forti and Lola will have made last-minute decisions to push ahead with their projects, but neither is considered to be very likely. In both cases the entry will need to be accompanied by a $500,000 deposit and information about the team's financial position.

In the case of Minardi, which failed to score a World Championship point in 1996, the governing body will need financial details to convince it to grant the Italian team an entry.

The question which arises from the change of publication date is why the governing body has made such a decision. It is only a year since the World Council decided that the FIA should publish its entry list 22 days after the end of the previous season. Traditionally the entry list comes out in early December but the early finish to the 1996 season should have meant that a list would appear on November 4.

The new regulation states that the entry will henceforth be made public on the first working day in December - Monday, December 2 in this case. This can be interpreted as a way of keeping to the December tradition or as a move to give the governing body extra time in which to settle the current political problems it has with McLaren, Williams and Tyrrell and avoid a situation in which teams are not included in the entry list.

The current political juggling may also be responsible for the delay in the publication of the Formula 1 calendar which the World Council decided to refer back to the Formula 1 Commission "for further consideration". This decision is probably based on the dispute over whether there should be 16 or 17 races next year. The idea of running 17 events had been opposed by the F1 Commission in its 1992-1996 form. This body should remain in force until December 31. In recent weeks, however, the regulations have been bent somewhat with the F1 Commission meeting in its 1997-2001 form, despite the fact that this body has no power until January 1, 1997. The difference between the two Commissions is that the 1997-2001 version does not currently include McLaren and Williams which were opposed to having more races.

The FIA is obliged by its own regulations to publish a final F1 calendar by January 1 which means that either there will be more fudging of the rules and we will have a 17-race calendar in early December or that the decision-makers are going to be busy on New Year's Day.