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A calendar for the year 2000

THE FIA World Council surprised everyone by producing a Formula 1 calendar for next season. The 2000╩World╩Championship consists of 17 races and begins in Malaysia in the middle of February. This will mean that teams will have to have their cars ready to depart for Kuala Lumpur by February 10 which will cut into the pre-season testing schedules. The season will end in the first week of October in Japan.

The Malaysian date is a little bizarre as it falls in the period when the country is usually being battered by north-easterly monsoons. Kuala Lumpur is somewhat protected from these but there is still likely to be hot and humid weather with the possibility of torrential downpours. The move to put Kuala Lumpur at the start of the calendar has upset Melbourne, which has enjoyed that privilege in recent years. The Australian race will be held on its usual March 5 date. This will probably mean that many members of the F1 circus will stay in Asia or Australia between races - although with teams likely to be flat-out getting the cars ready some crews may be flown home.

The calendar then takes the F1 circus to Brazil (March 19) before it returns to Europe for the San Marino GP on April 9. This is three weeks earlier than normal. An even more dramatic change will be the switch of the French GP from its traditional end-of-June date to May 7 while, as expected, the European GP at the Nurburgring is being slotted into the Spring races with a May 21 date.

Monaco will be very late next year because the traditional Ascension Day holiday is not until the weekend of June 4. Canada retains its usual date (June 18) but the British GP has been moved forward two weeks and will now take place on July 2, while its traditional mid-July date has been given to Austria (July 16). The Osterreichring race will be followed by a two week gap before the German GP at Hockenheim (July 30). Hungary (August 13) , Belgium (August 27) and Italy (September╩10). The United States GP at Indianapolis will be on September 24 and the F1 circus will then fly on to Japan for the World╩Championship finale at Suzuka in Japan on October 8.

There is no shortage of controversy about the dates. The early start has upset some of the F1 teams as it means that they will have almost no time for testing before the season begins and some may even be forced to decide not to build new cars in order to have everything ready in time. This is probably the intention and it may be that in 2001 the start of the World╩Championship will be even earlier, with a race in the first part of February.

The one obvious omission from the list of races is the Chinese Grand Prix. This is not really a surprise. The biggest supporter of a Chinese event is British American Tobacco and the recent disputes between the FIA and BAT have not done anything to convince the governing body that it needs to be involved in China.

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