The FIA has approved changes to the 2004 F1 race weekend schedule and reinstated the Canadian Grand Prix on the calendar. That means there will be 18 F1 races next year.

The FIA has approved changes to the 2004 F1 race weekend schedule and reinstated the Canadian Grand Prix on the calendar. That means there will be 18 F1 races next year.

The changes were proposed at a Formula One Commission meeting earlier this month, and following a FIA World Motorsport Council session in Paris on Wednesday, it was agreed to scrap Friday testing and qualifying, and Saturday qualifying is to be separated into two sections.

Friday of race weekends will revert to its previous format of two one-hour practice sessions. To substitute for the lack of Friday's early morning private testing, as used by Minardi, Jordan, Renault and Jaguar this season, teams other than the top four constructors of the 2003 season will be allowed to run a third car in Friday practices. That is providing the third driver is not one of a team’s nominated drivers for the event in question, is in possession of a Super Licence and has not participated in more than six world championship events during the two previous championships.

Each team will now be allowed to use four drivers during each season, not including any third driver running in the Friday sessions. And this could be good news for drivers such as South African Alan van der Merwe, who won the British F3 title this year and is looking to get a break as a test driver with one of the F1 teams.

Saturday practices will be two 45 minute sessions and qualifying will start with drivers each having a flying lap, running order being the results of the previous race. This differs from 2003, where Friday's qualifying was run in championship standing order. The starting order at the first race of the season will be taken from the last race of the previous year.

After the first set of timed laps drivers will have a second chance at a flying lap, of which the running order will be decided on the times achieved in the first section. Cars will run with race fuel and race settings as was the case in 2003. In other words, drivers will still have two individual flying laps but instead of splitting them between two days, they will do them both on Saturday.

If a driver fails to set a timed lap in the first section he will not be allowed to take part in the second. Refueling rigs will be permitted in the first part of qualifying but after the second, parc fermé conditions as employed this season between qualifying and race, will remain in place.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Grand Prix has provisionally been reinstated to the 2004 F1 calendar, but the date (June 13) for the event still depends on race organizers and teams reaching a financial agreement in regard to the loss of tobacco sponsorship. Previous estimations for the sum needed were between R70 and R140 million.

With Montreal back on track, the total of grands prix for 2004 is 18, the most there have ever been on the calendar. The Canadian Grand Prix will take place a week before the US race at Indianapolis, which has been moved to June.

San Marino Grand Prix Imola had previously been scheduled for June but has been moved back to its usual April date, and will continue to be the European season opener after the flyaway races.

New races, Bahrain, on April 4, and China, on September 26, are provisional subject to circuit approval. Spa-Francorchamps is officially reinstated, since the Belgium government repealed the tobacco advertising laws. The only other question mark is the French Grand Prix, scheduled for July 11, as the Magny Cours circuit waits for the conclusion of contracts.

2004 F1 World Championship calendar

Australia (Melbourne) March 7

Malaysia (Sepang) March 21

Bahrain (Bahrain)** April 4

San Marino (Imola) April 25

Spain (Barcelona) May 9

Monaco (Monte Carlo) May 23

Europe (Nurburgring) May 30

Canada (Montreal)*** June 13

USA (Indianapolis) June 20

Great Britain (Silverstone) July 4

France (Magny-Cours)* July 11

Germany (Hockenheim) July 25

Hungary (Budapest) August 15

Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)** August 29

Italy (Monza) September 12

China (Shanghai)** September 26

Japan (Suzuka) October 10

Brazil (Interlagos) October 24

* Provisional (subject to contract)

** Provisional (Subject to circuit approval)

*** Subject to a satisfactory to financial agreement with competing teams regarding the absence of tobacco sponsorship

Original article from Car