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F1 may have 19 races in 2005
Alan Baldwin | June 30, 2004 22:32 IST
The Formula One calendar could stretch to an unprecedented 19 races next year to allow new Grands Prix and the survival of others such as Imola's threatened San Marino round.
International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley told Reuters on Wednesday that the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone had finalised dates for a draft calendar with 19 slots on it.
"Bernie Ecclestone has, as it were, booked 19 weekends but it's by no means sure that there will be 19 races," he said in an interview after a meeting of the FIA's world motor sport council.
"He would have to get our agreement for that, which would not be automatic. We have to give our consent for it to be more than 16 races. And you have to get the agreement of the teams.
"But it was sensible to block those dates so that you wouldn't then get, for example, a round of the world rally championship that conflicted," said Mosley.
This season has 18 races, more than ever after Canada was axed in a row over local legislation against tobacco advertising and then reinstated when compensation was agreed for teams to attend without branding.
Turkey is due to make its Formula One debut next year while Imola had been expected to bow out.
However, Ferrari are fighting to keep their home circuit, named after late founder Enzo and his son Dino, on the calendar.
Other countries, such as India, have expressed an interest in hosting a race while Ecclestone is keen on having a race in Russia and a second in the United States.
"It's possible that Imola will survive and it is possible that we might have a new race," said Mosley.
"There are two or three possibilities," he said when asked which might be a new race.
"The India race is a little bit like the Russian race, it's always a conversation but so far nothing very concrete," added Mosley.
"The approach we have is we say to Bernie 'you go and do a commercial deal and when you've done that, we'll have a look at all the sporting aspects'...so that we don't spend our lives talking to people who think they might be able to put on a Formula One race.
"A second U.S. race might be useful but on the other hand, in the United States Formula One is competing with a lot of other sports," said Mosley.
China is due to make its Formula One debut in September after Bahrain hosted the first race in the Middle East in April.
Ferrari's Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher said this month that he would have no problem with a 20-race calendar providing testing was spared back but some team bosses are against further expansion.
"We are all feeling the strain of what is going to be an 18-race series this year," said McLaren's Ron Dennis after back-to-back races in Canada and the United States.
"Eighteen races is a killer," said Minardi's Paul Stoddart at Indianapolis. "We don't do a lot of testing so I look at it from a purely race point of view and I look at people that are getting severely burned out and I fear 20 races, I really do."
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