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After an opening duo of races in such far flung places as Australia and Brazil, the main bulk of the season, the European season, got underway in Imola last weekend. And sure enough, the talk was of how the many of F1's races might be moved out of Europe over the next few years if an argument with the European commission isn't resolved. The EU, in its quiestionable wisdom, wants to see competition between different Governing bodies, which from where I'm standing, looks like a recipe for disaster, should it be allowed to happen.

Still, if Max and Bernie want to move F1 out of Europe then they could do worse than start by getting rid of the San Marino GP (which is of course, not in San Marino and is really only there to keep the Tifosi of Northern Italy happy). Since the deaths of Senna and Ratzenberger, the track has been blighted with so many horrible little chicanes as to make overtaking impossible and turn what was one of the world's best F1 circuits into a dull mess.

Ferrari and McLaren dominance remained the order of the day at the front, though Barrichello looked somehow much less the equal of his team mate than at the first two races. Behind them though it was all change. The Benettons, which in Fisichella's hands at least, had been so promising in Brazil, were literally nowhere in Imola. Worrying times for the Witney based team as Imola is much more representative of the remainder of the season's tracks than Interlagos was.

Ralf Schumacher, too, was suddenly right back on the pace, comfortably over a second faster than his much talked about team mate Button, and holding fourth on the grid ahead of Barrichellos' Ferrari for much of Saturday's qualifying hour. The Jordans, which had looked very much the best placed team to pick up the pieces when the McLaren/Ferrari boys fell over each other, were notably less competitive in Imola. Frentzen lasted just five laps, while Trulli was circulating behind the suddenly much improved Sauber of Salo and Villeneuve's BAR when he broke down towards the end.

Jaguar's steep learning curve continued, though Irvine and Herbert at least were able to bring their cars home this time, albeit lapped and outside the points. That said, there troubles were nothing as next to the nightmare over at Prost. Once again neither of their cars made it to the half distance mark, and even a man as out and out fast as Alesi could only just keep from falling into the clutches of the struggling Minardis and Benettons. Heidfeld, on the other hand, was really nowhere, qualifying last, starting from the pit lane and retiring after just twelve laps.

After arriving in a blaze of publicity at the start of the season, the Arrows team failed to make much of an impact either. The floated around in the middle of the midfield, which while notably better than their performance last year, has hardly lived up to those pre-season testing times. They were, at least, quicker than their Supertec rivals over at Benetton this time round, though frankly there wasn't really anyone on the grid who couldn't say that. Walkinshaws talk of regular points and occasional podiums is looking horribly over optimistic. T

Out in front, its looking like 2000 will once again be a battle between Hakkinen and Schumacher. This time though, the betting man would have to go with Schumacher. Hakkinen may have been marginally faster all weekend, and it may have been technical glitches that prevented him from emerging from the final stop ahead of the German, but you'vr got to side with the man with the twenty four point lead really. Ferrari have been building reliable cars for two years now, and it finally looks like they're building fast ones too. Coulthard might have been able to put up a fight, but he fell victim to Schumacher's messy start and spent much of the race looking at the rear of Barrichello's Ferrari. At a track where passing is so notoriously difficult, it was going to take a man with more flair than Coulthard to find a way past Barricghello on the road.

In two weeks time the championship comes to Britain, and the drivers will be without much of their engine electronics for the first time. If as I have long suspected, a big part of the superiority of McLaren and Ferrari comes from this department, then we might expect things to be closer at Silverstone. In any case, ti will be nice to finally put an end to those persistent rumours about traction control that have blighted F1 ever since it was banned at the end of 1993.

What may prove more of a problem is the removal of pit lane speed limiters. How a driver will keep to the 80kph maximum without automatic aid remains to be seen. At the very least one would hope to seeAfter an opening duo of races in such far flung places as Australia and Brazil, the main bulk of the season, the European season, got underway in Imola last weekend. And sure enough, the talk was of how the many of F1's races might be moved out of Europe over the next few years if an argument with the European commission isn't resolved. The EU, in its quiestionable wisdom, wants to see competition between different Governing bodies, which from where I'm standing, looks like a recipe for disaster, should it be allowed to happen.

In two weeks time the championship comes to Britain, and the drivers will be without much of their engine electronics for the first time. If as I have long suspected, a big part of the superiority of McLaren and Ferrari comes from this department, then we might expect things to be closer at Silverstone. In any case, ti will be nice to finally put an end to those persistent rumours about traction control that have blighted F1 ever since it was banned at the end of 1993.

What may prove more of a problem is the removal of pit lane speed limiters. How a driver will keep to the 80kph maximum without automatic aid remains to be seen. At the very least one would hope to see more tolerance from the organisers of minor speeding in the pitlane (say a 10kph 'buffer zone') or we could be seeing a lot of races decided by stop-go penalties in the near future.

Tips for Silverstone ? McLaren, Jordan Williams and Jaguar have all tested extensively there, so we can perhaps expect those four teams to be ahead of the game when they visit. A sensible bet would be for Hakkinen to finally break Schumacher's winning streak.