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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 January, 2004, 14:07 GMT
Imola faces F1 axe
Michael Schumacher heads the field at last year's San Marino Grand Prix
Imola is in Ferrari's heartland in northern Italy
Imola, one of Formula One's most evocative and historic circuits, will hold its last Grand Prix this year, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has said.

"This year is Imola's last. From 2005 Italy will have only one race," he told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

Ecclestone also reiterated that there was a threat to the British race.

"I don't see a future either for Silverstone which is like an old house that says it only needs a few renovations," he said.

Ecclestone added that the number of races in Europe will reduce in the next few years.

In the next 10 years, Europe will slide down to the level of the third world in economic terms
Bernie Ecclestone
F1 boss
His remarks that will be seen as related to the introduction of a tobacco-advertising ban in the European Union in 2005 while five of F1's teams have cigarette sponsors.

The calendar is facing a squeeze with new events in Bahrain and China this season and others to come in the future, according to Ecclestone.

He said: "Believe me, in the next 10 years, Europe will slide down to the level of the third world in economic terms. It doesn't have the slightest chance of competing with China, South Korea, India."

Ecclestone said that Turkey would push its way onto the calendar in 2005, and there was already a deal with South Korea from 2009.

"Before that we will have a championship race in India. The only problem with more races in Asia is the time zone because of European television rights," he said.

The 2004 season includes more races than any other, but Ecclestone did not rule out having more than 18 Grands Prix.

"We could easily get to 20. All we'd need to do is reduce private practice (testing) days from 40 to 30 and that would create room for two more races."

Imola, one of the sport's most popular venues, has held a race since 1980.

Former world champion Ayrton Senna was killed there, venue for the San Marino Grand Prix, in 1994.

That year, the Italian Grand Prix was moved to the circuit from Monza.

It was such a success that Imola stayed on the calendar afterwards as the San Marino Grand Prix, with the Italian Grand Prix reverting to Monza.

The track, in Ferrari's heartland, hosted its first Formula One event in 1963 when Briton Jim Clark won a race that did not count towards the world championship.

Last year Michael Schumacher won at Imola despite the death of his mother the day before.







Coulthard backs Imola
22 Apr 03  |  Formula One

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