F1 supremo Ecclestone hopes for Belgian GP return in 2004

LONDON: The dropped Belgian Formula One Grand Prix could return to an expanded calendar next year despite the arrival of new races in China and Bahrain, according to Bernie Ecclestone. 

The Formula One supremo told Britain’s weekly Autosport magazine he hoped the Belgian government would reverse anti-tobacco advertising legislation to allow Spa-Francorchamps back. 

“We are okay (with the number of races for 2004),” said Ecclestone. “The only thing we may have to do is put one back if we want to run in Spa and if I can convince the teams to have 18 races.” 

Asked whether he would like to see Spa back, he said: “Yes. There aren’t any tracks like that any more.” 

Spa, one of the most historic and atmospheric of grand prix circuits, was dropped for 2003 after Belgium moved to ban tobacco advertising from next August. 

Ecclestone has since told Austrian Grand Prix organisers that this year’s race will be their last, partly due to a European Union ban on tobacco advertising from mid-2005, with the two new races coming in. 

With Spa and Spielberg remaining off the calendar, the new grands prix can be accommodated without having to expand the championship from 17 to 18 races. 

Ecclestone also told Autosport he had made up his mind about dropping Austria after that country’s health minister led the campaign to impose the EU ban, although the legislation was not the sole reason. 

“Maybe if he had stood up properly and said ‘Listen, this is completely mad to do this’, I could have then said to the teams, ‘It means for a year that we have got to have 18 races, but the good news is that we have got more support from (against) the tobacco legislation’,” said Ecclestone. 

“And we would be happy. As he wanted to come out and screw us in the end, then why should we worry about them?” – Reuters 

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