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FIA throws Canadian Grand Prix a lifeline
- Date is subject to satisfactory financial agreement with the competing teams

London: Formula One’s governing body threw the Canadian Grand Prix a lifeline on Wednesday by reinstating it provisionally on a 2004 calendar expanded to 18 races.

The International Automobile Federation’s (FIA) World Motor Sport Council published a revised calendar listing the Montreal race as an additional round on June 13 before the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis on June 20.

The date was subject to a satisfactory financial agreement with the competing teams for running without tobacco sponsorship.

Montreal organisers said they were pleased with the news but underlined that nothing was guaranteed.

“The conditional return of the Canadian Grand Prix on the 2004 calendar ... is encouraging news. But there is still much work to do before we can confirm that the Grand Prix will be held,” race promoter Normand Legault said in a release.

“We are continuing our discussions with Formula One Management to conclude a financial agreement that would please the teams hurt by effects of the anti-tobacco laws. Only such an agreement will ensure the presentation of the Canadian Grand Prix next June.”

Three of the top four teams — Ferrari, McLaren and Renault — rely heavily on tobacco sponsorship, which is due to be banned in the European Union from mid 2005.

BAR are part-owned by BAT, while Jordan are also backed by a cigarette brand.

Canada was axed when the 2004 calendar was first published last month as a result of local anti-tobacco legislation, along with Austria.

The cancellation dismayed many of the teams, who saw Montreal as an important Grand Prix for entertaining sponsors in the key North American market, and provoked a determined effort by local organisers to save their race.

“I can tell you we’ve had a lot of unhappy letters from people who pay us to represent them on race days about the cancellation of Montreal,” said Frank Williams last month.

However, the reinstatement as an extra race was a surprise, with some team bosses saying in Japan last weekend that Canada’s only hope was as a replacement for another non-tobacco Grand Prix such as France.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis hinted at possible difficulties in allowing Canada to buy its way back when Belgium’s Spa circuit was kept off the 2003 calendar and reinstated only after anti-tobacco laws were changed.

The French Grand Prix on July 11 remained on the calendar subject to a contract being agreed with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the pressure will be on Magny-Cours to do a deal to ensure that race’s future.

Teams have long resisted extending the calendar to more than 17 races. There were only 16 this year.

Other changes to the calendar involved switching the European Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring, which had been pencilled in to open the European season on April 25, to a more familiar May 30 date.

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