SEPTEMBER 13, 1999
Belgian GP is off 2000 calendar
THE FIA has circulated all the Formula 1 teams with a new list of dates for the 2000 Formula 1 World Championship and this looks to be very different to the calendar published in July. The new calendar features 16 races, although the 17th slot - which was occupied by the Belgian Grand Prix - is open on the calendar. The Spa race has been dumped because of the problems this year with the Belgian government's tobacco advertising laws. The end of August date remains open at the moment - giving the Belgian authorities time to back down. This is not impossible as the Belgians are out of step with the rest of Europe which has agreed to a complete tobacco ban in 2006. Unfortunately the Belgian government will not want to be seen to back down to a sport and F1 is not going to back down because of the impact such a move might have over the European Union agreement.
If no compromise is possible the August date will go to either Holland or Portugal. Both the Zandvoort and Estoril circuits have undergone considerable upgrading and safety work in recent years and both are keen to get back onto the calendar. There might even be a bid from Jerez de la Frontera, in Spain.
The calendar issued in July started on February 17 in Malaysia. On the new calendar the Kuala Lumpur race has been put to the end of the year on October 22. The Australian GP has also been moved to fit in with the local public holiday so will now take place on March 12 rather than March 5. This means that the Brazilian GP has also had to move back a week to March 26. The other dates are much the same as published although we understand that there is a possibility that the British GP - scheduled for July 2 - could be switched with the Austrian GP (July 16) because the Silverstone race currently clashes with the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon - one of the biggest events for TV sport in Britain each year. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is not particularly bothered about the situation as Silverstone is causing him longer-term headaches because of its dispute with Brands Hatch over the location of the British GP. We hear that there will be a big meeting later this week at Williams Grand Prix Engineering to discuss Silverstone's strategy in its battle with Brands. The Kentish circuit formally filed for planning permission last week in the hope that this can be sorted out quickly and that the work can be finished for a race in July 2002. This is not going to be easy and we expect to see some delaying tactics used by Silverstone in the months ahead.
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