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U.S. Grand Prix Included In 2012 F1 Calendar

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PARIS (AP) - The U.S. Grand Prix has been included on the 2012 Formula One calendar, ending fears the race in Austin, Texas, would be cut for financial reasons.

The sport’s governing body said Wednesday on its website that the 2012 “calendar was confirmed as previously published.” The unchanged F1 calendar was approved at a World Motor Sport Council meeting in New Delhi, India.

The Nov. 18 event in Austin will mark F1′s return to the United States for the first time since 2007.

Last week, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone gave U.S. GP organizers an extra week to save the Texas race by proving they had the necessary finances in place.

Backers of the race include billionaire businessman Red McCombs, a founding partner of event organizer Circuit of The Americas.

“Mr. Ecclestone received his check today,” McCombs said in a statement Wednesday. “We want to thank the fans supporting us, the local officials and businesses that have encouraged us, the State of Texas, Circuit of The Americas’ staff and Bernie himself.”

Circuit of the Americas officials had pledged to pay F1′s sanctioning fee, but a dispute over signing a final contract and the long-term financing had not yet been resolved, prompting Ecclestone to extend the deadline.

The initial dispute was caused by F1′s decision to scrap a previous contract it had with Tavo Hellmund, a former driver with family ties to Ecclestone who was originally granted the right to stage the U.S. Grand Prix.

The deal with Hellmund was recently canceled over a contract breach, and F1 officials instead began negotiating with Circuit of the Americas.

“We’re glad that Tavo’s vision of bringing F1 to the people of Texas will become a reality,” said Bobby Epstein, also a Circuit of The Americas founding partner.

F1′s presence in the U.S. will increase in 2013, the first year in a 10-year deal that will put a race in New Jersey along the Hudson River waterfront across from Manhattan.

The FIA’s ratification of the 20 races also means that the Bahrain Grand Prix is scheduled as the fourth race of the season on April 22.

The 2011 race in Bahrain was supposed to be the season opener in March, but was called off amid violent anti-government protests. FIA wanted to reschedule the race for later this year but that proved impossible.

Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull will start his bid for a third straight F1 title at the Australian Grand Prix in March. The season again ends in Brazil.

Although Vettel ended up dominating this year, the races were the most exciting in many years. There were intriguing duels between Vettel and McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in China, Canada and Germany as Vettel showed signs he could be beaten early in the season before reasserting his supremacy in winning the Belgian GP.

The majority of drivers were pleased with rule changes in 2011 that made racing more exciting, with a greater emphasis put on overtaking and the new Pirelli tires also favoring attacking drivers.

FIA plans to streamline races further next season.

There will be a maximum race time of four hours to ensure that a lengthy suspension of a race does not result in it lasting up to eight hours. Before the safety car returns to the pits all lapped cars will be allowed to return to the back of the pack, ensuring a clean restart without slower cars holding up those in contention.

Also, a driver can use all his allocated tires on the first day’s practice, whereas previously only three sets were allowed, and for the first time there will be a three-day test carried out during the season, although FIA did not say when.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)