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AUGUST 24, 2001

Three races face the axe in calendar shake-up

THE pressure to secure Formula 1 races in new markets and to ensure that the very latest safety and communications facilities are in place at all the Grands Prix has led to Bernie Ecclestone's announcement that three of the current races will be canned by 2003.

All three events will come from the European calendar, with the San Marino, Austrian and European Grands Prix at the head of the queue forming for the drop zone, with Britain being forced to up its game or risk substituting for one of the popular German or Italian races.

"In order to integrate new races into the calendar - beginning with the Russian Grand Prix in Moscow, the first of which should be at the end of Spring 2003, and then a race in the Middle East - we must necessarily eliminate European dates," Ecclestone told French newspaper L'Equipe. "At least three in the short term because we hope to limit the season to 16 races."

Currently China, Bahrain, Turkey, Dubai, the Lebanon, Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates are pushing to become new hosts in the Formula 1 calendar, with existing facilities such as Zandvoort in the Netherlands and Laguna Seca in the USA seeking dates as well.

As a result Ecclestone has previously declared himself against staging two races each season in both Germany and Italy, although Germany is the biggest European market for the competing manufacturers and the most fervently supportive of Formula 1, therefore may yet see the Nurburgring event survive at least until the end of Michael Schumacher's career.

"I do not want to get rid of European races for the pleasure of getting rid of them but we have to. The only thing that is certain is that two or three European races will be shed," he added.