Top 10 drivers in Formula One history: Positions 3-1

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The run up to the United States release of “Rush” is on, and to mark the occasion, the NBC Sports team has assembled a countdown of the Top 10 drivers in the history of Formula One.

We’ve been revealing our list in increments, first with Positions 10-7 and then with Positions 6-4. But now comes the grand finale: The three greatest Grand Prix racers ever.

source: Getty Images
Juan Manuel Fangio – Getty Images

3. Juan Manuel Fangio

Long ago, back when no one in their wildest dreams could have imagined Formula One’s evolution into the glitzy, technology-driven phenomenon it is today, Fangio forged a legend that continues to be revered by racers and fans alike. Even though he often faced competitors far younger than him, the gentlemanly Argentinian claimed five World Championships in seven full seasons (1950-51, 1953-57) and won 24 of the 51 Grand Prix events he competed in – often using the skills he honed earlier in his career in South American endurance events to triumph. In his time, there were no such things as DRS or KERS to fret over; it was all about strength to wield beastly machines and courage to tackle very dangerous circuits. Consider that, and you’ll realize why the “Maestro” is regarded by many the world over as one of the greatest to ever climb into a race car.

source: Getty Images
Ayrton Senna – Getty Images

2. Ayrton Senna

When one looks back on the late, great Senna, that person is compelled to think about many, many things. On the track, the three-time World Champion was utterly ruthless, leaving all who watched him race in awe at his otherworldly talent and his ability to go beyond the limits. Off the track, his charismatic and intelligent personality made him a worldwide star but his deep religious faith kept him grounded, as did his quest to provide a better future for the underprivileged in his homeland of Brazil. Senna may forever stand as one of sport’s most complex champions – a man so thoroughly driven by the ambition of being the best, but also one that grappled with the paradox of his profession. “The same moment that you become the fastest, you are enormously fragile,” he once said. “Because in a split-second, it can be gone. All of it. These two extremes contribute to knowing yourself, deeper and deeper.”

source: Getty Images
Michael Schumacher – Getty Images

1. Michael Schumacher

Out of all the drivers that were skilled and lucky enough to truly rule a certain era in Formula One’s timeline, Schumacher may be the one that was the most dominant. The seven-time World Champion left an eternal impact on the sport with a staggering run at Ferrari that saw him claim five consecutive driver’s titles (2000-2004) as well as 56 wins from 2000 to 2006. His career was not an altogether glorious one, as his championship controversies at both Benetton (1994) and Ferrari (1997) plus his ill-fated comeback with Mercedes can attest. But in his prime, Schumacher was nothing short of spectacular in using his skills to capitalize on rock-solid equipment. In that time, his combination of speed and consistency was simply too much for his rivals to overcome.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.