MARCH 23, 1998
...but will China be added?
THE FIA World Council has finally managed to confirm a 16-race calendar for this season but there is no guarantee that this is the final change to the F1 dates for 1998. It is worth noting that back in September the original 1998 calendar featured 16 races without the French GP and it was always assumed that the French race would be back on again when the politicking was done. Since then however the Portuguese GP has fallen foul of local political problems and the calendar has been left with an extraordinary five week gap between the Luxembourg Grand Prix at the Nurburgring on September 27 and the Japanese GP on November 1. This makes no sense at all for Formula 1 and we suspect therefore that a seventeenth race will be drafted into the calendar as soon as all the teams have been coerced into agreeing.
While Bernie Ecclestone is known to be keen on the idea of a South African race being held at the end of the season, this makes no sense from a geographical point of view and it is much more sensible for F1 to visit China on October 18 and then have all the equipment shipped from Hong Kong to Nagoya for the season's finale at Suzuka. Another option would be to put Jerez back onto the F1 calendar two weeks after the Nurburgring.
The World Council last week made both these cases possible. China has moved up to be first reserve, ahead of South Africa. It should be noted that South Africa has been given the FIA Super Touring World Cup, a one-off race to establish a Super Touring World Champion at Kyalami on November 29, which looks like a way to make up for the disappointment of not being a Grand Prix this year.
The Jerez option has been made possible because the World Council voted to remove the ban on F1 races at Jerez, imposed in December, following explanations from the Mayor of Jerez, Pedro Pacheco, who had upset the FIA by presenting trophies at the European Grand Prix when it was not his job. Pacheco said there had been a misunderstanding.
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