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  Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 17:13 GMT
F1 boss raises Spa hopes
Michael Schumacher at the Belgian Grand Prix last year
Spa is a big hit with F1 drivers and fans
The Belgian Grand Prix could return to an expanded Formula One calendar next year despite the arrival of new races in China and Bahrain.

That is the view of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who hopes the Belgian government will reverse anti-tobacco advertising legislation.

Ecclestone told Autosport magazine: "We are OK [with the number of races for 2004].

"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."

Bernie Ecclestone
Ecclestone says he hopes Spa will return

The decision to drop the race in Spa was met with dismay by many F1 fans and drivers, who regard the circuit as the finest in the world.

Asked whether he would like to see Spa back, Ecclestone said: "Yes. There aren't any tracks like that any more."

Ecclestone's comments echo similar remarks made by Max Mosley, the president of motorsport's governing body, to BBC Sport Online last year.

However, there seems little prospect of the race being returned to the calendar, with the Belgium parliament voting to introduce their tobacco advertising ban in 2003.

And it is unlikely that the F1 teams - many of whom rely heavily on tobacco advertising - would vote to reduce their sponsors' exposure.

They have also in the past proved resistant to calls from Ecclestone and Mosley to expand the calendar beyond 17 races.

Since Spa was dropped, Ecclestone has since told Austrian Grand Prix organisers that this year's race will be their last.

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 said he had decided to drop Austria after the country's health minister led the campaign to impose the EU ban, although the legislation was not the sole reason.

"As he wanted to come out and screw us in the end, then why should we worry about them?" Ecclestone said.

See also:

27 Jan 03 | Formula One
11 Dec 02 | Formula One
04 Nov 02 | Formula One
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