NOVEMBER 4, 1996

A logical calendar?

THE decision by the FIA World Council not to issue a 1997 calendar has led to a variety of rumored calendars circulating in F1 circles.

THE decision by the FIA World Council not to issue a 1997 calendar has led to a variety of rumored calendars circulating in F1 circles. Almost everyone is now expecting there to be 17 events - the same 16 races as this year with an extra race taking place in Austria. China's wish to be included in the calendar should not, however, be ignored as the FIA is as keen to get into China as China is to get into the F1 World Championship.

Unlike previous years, races must be at least two weeks apart because of the need to transport FOCA Television's elaborate satellite equipment between races.

The original calendar - published after the World Council meeting in June - had the Australian GP taking place on March 2. This was ridiculous because the Melbourne authorities had tied the race in to the Moomba holiday weekend and festival, which takes place on March 9. The March 2 date was also impractical as all the Melbourne hotels are booked out because The Three Tenors - Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras - are singing in the city that weekend.

Last week the Australians launched plans for the 1997 event and the date was firmly March 9. This means that Brazil cannot take place before March 23 and Argentina not before April 6. However the 14-day pattern does not suit the rest of the calendar because Monaco must take place on May 11 as it is tied to the Ascension Day holiday. Working backwards from Monaco would put the San Marino GP on its usual April 27 date and would push Argentina forward to April 13. This would mean that Brazil would take place on March 30 - three weeks after Melbourne. Such a pattern would make life easier for the TV crews.

In June the main body of races after Monaco was pretty much as one would expect Spain (May 25), Canada (June 15), France (June 29), Britain (July 13) and Germany (July 27). The other dates given were Belgium (August 24), Italy (SeptemberÊ7) and Japan (October 19).

The three 1996 GPs missing from the June calendar were the European, Hungarian and Portuguese events. A seventeenth event will also have to be fitted in. There are only four available dates (August 10, September 21, October 5 and November 2) and with weather conditions needing to be taken into account Ecclestone's courses of action appear to be very limited.

Consequently logic dictates that the available date in August should go to Austria, as it would be unintelligent to schedule a race in the Austrian mountains in October or to put a second German race within two weeks of the first. The Nurburgring would be best-suited to the September date. This leaves the October 5 date up for grabs between Budapest and Estoril. The weather in Portugal would be a lot better.

Japan could then take its October 19 date and the season could finish off in China on November 2. If the Chinese are not ready Hungary could take the October date with Estoril taking November 2.

An early November finish, incidentally, would give F1 teams the necessary 18 weeks before the start of the 1998 season on Moomba weekend in Melbourne.

Logic and F1 calendars are not always compatible so we will have to wait until December to be sure of the 1997 dates. One can only hope that Ecclestone will be better organized for the 1998 season.