Chilton wants to stay, but alternatives are being considered

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Max Chilton may be keen on a second season at Marussia in 2014, but it appears that a list of potential replacements is being drafted by the management of the team as they look for a partner for Jules Bianchi next season.

It was confirmed earlier this month that Bianchi would remain with the Anglo-Russian team in 2014 after an impressive debut season, with his thirteenth-place finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix currently keeping Marussia ahead of closest-rivals Caterham for P10 in the constructors’ championship. Chilton, who was one of five rookies at the beginning of the season, has failed to match his teammate’s pace for much of the season, outqualifying him just twice. However, he expressed to Sporting Life his belief that he deserves a second season with the team.

“I feel I’m showing not just the team, but everyone on the whole, I deserve a seat for next year,” Chilton said. “Everyone gets judged, so you have to prove yourself, which is hard for rookies these days because there is so little testing, which means it’s going to take part of the season to get up to speed.

“I’ve been really happy with my performance, as have the team, and I’ve been really happy with them, so it’s going really well.”

However, sporting director Graeme Lowdon conceded that the team was considering other options including McLaren youngster Kevin Magnussen, who is set to clinch the Formula Renault 3.5 championship this weekend in Spain.

“Like any team that hasn’t confirmed drivers, there are a number of possibilities,” Lowdon explained to Press Association. “Certainly Kevin has impressed in the tests he has done, and as a team that has brought young drivers into Formula One, he is in the frame, but there are probably three or four drivers with good potential looking to get into Formula One, and we’re talking to a number of them, along with other teams.”

Lowdon went on to acknowledge Chilton’s development across the course of the season and admitted that he remains an option for the team.

“Max is definitely an option because on the driving side he is doing a really good job,” Lowdon said. “There has been real progress in a number of areas, and he has formed part of a tightly-knit team.”

Although Magnussen is a highly talented driver and has McLaren’s support, it may be unwise for Marussia to take him on. If they partnered the Dane with Bianchi, it would mean that both drivers are at the team to be nurtured with a view of a full-time race seat at their parent teams (McLaren and Ferrari) in the future. Should Marussia wish to firmly establish their own identity in Formula One, this may not be the best course of action.

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.