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Another dull calendar?

BERNIE ECCLESTONE called the Formula 1 team owners together on Saturday at Hockenheim to discuss the matters of the moment and give them an idea as to the 1998 World Championship calendar. We believe that there will be very little change from this year's list of dates but that the series will expand to 17 races - with Malaysia filling the gap between the end of the European season in September and the Japanese GP in October.

Despite rumors of new races in the Far East and South Africa it seems that none of the events will be ready in time except Malaysia, which will probably happen either on October 10 or October 17. The rest of the dates will be much as they are this year with the season kicking off in Australia on March 7 and then moving to South America before returning to Europe for the San Marino GP at Imola on May 2. It is expected that Monaco and Spain will have to switch dates with Monaco on May 16 and the Spanish GP on May 30.

Malaysia had been campaigning for an early-season date but the equatorial climate in the region means that there are two monsoons each year: one between November and March and the other between June and September. Although there have been serious economic problems in Asia, the Malaysian government wants to use the race to show that Malaysia is back to normal. The problem is that it is unlikely that the country will be ready to host the race in March next year although the $75m circuit next to the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Sepang is well-advanced.

Ecclestone is sending his emissary Philippe Gurdjian to Kuala Lumpur to help the locals get the necessary organization together.

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