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Portugal is out...

THE Portuguese Grand Prix has been canceled and will be replaced in the 1998 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The race, which had been scheduled for October 11 was axed by the governing body of motor sport after Portugal's Minister of the Economy Joaquim Pina Moura told the FIA that upgrading work at the Estoril circuit could not now be completed in time. The Minister blamed the former circuit owners Autodril for delaying the completion of the work. Last year Autodril was forced to sell a majority shareholding in the circuit to the Portuguese government.

The FIA is expected to name a replacement race within a few weeks and all the indications are that this will take place at Zhuhai in China. It is unlikely that the Chinese event will be held on October 11 and logic suggests that the race will be moved back a week - until October 18 - and will be twinned with the Japanese GP at Suzuka. This would give the teams time to move the equipment from one track to the other without having to send everything back to Europe and would re-establish the recent tradition of having a week of vacation in the Far East between the last two races of the season. This will be a popular move with the members of the F1 circus.

The inclusion of a Chinese GP will bring the number races back up to 16 with the possibility of France returning to the calendar to bring the total of races back to 17. If, as now seems likely, the Belgian GP is dropped from the calendar it is possible that South Africa will come into the list but there will have to be some major changes to the end of season dates if this is to be achieved.

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