With a deadline of the 1st of January for the funds to be found for the French GP to continue, time is running out. With much of France on holiday, things don't look good. But, there's still hope, reckons one F1 boss.

First there was going to be a French GP in 2004. Then the small matter of money being owed to Mr Ecclestone came up and the Magny Cours event was off the calendar. Then the money was to be found and Bernie extended the deadline to January 1st 2004. Now it looks like there could be an extension.

With much of France on holiday during the holiday period, Ecclestone's deadline was no doubt decided upon for effect, rather than as an actual cut-off, and this seems to be confirmed by the ever-vocal Minardi boss, Paul Stoddart.

"I don't anticipate that the deadline will be rigidly imposed," Stoddart is quoted by the BBC as saying.

After the Magny Cours organisers of the French Grand Prix announced that they did not have sufficient Euros to pay for the race in 2004, the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile announced that it would be able to broker the deal to keep F1 in France.

But, with Ecclestone's deadline the first day of 2004, and with the regional council of Burgundy blocking the budget which would have combined to facilitate the French GP, there were always going to be problems.

Equally, the French GP being on the calendar will mean eighteen races next season - as long as there are no other problems from the other venues - and this requires the agreement of all the F1 teams. This hasn't been called for yet, so the January 1st deadline doesn't have that much basis.

"There's been no vote, nothing at all," explains Stoddart. "That's not the be-all and end-all. Don't read too much into it. There is a team bosses meeting planned for mid-January and I'm sure it will come out there."



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