Vettel’s current win streak compares admirably to Schumacher’s 2004 run

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Formula One 2013 is a different era from 2004. We’re in the last year of V8s compared to shrieking V10 engines, a car design that has evolved over five years since a radical redesign in 2009, with fewer manufacturers involved, fewer races in Europe and more in other continents, on Pirelli rubber instead of Bridgestone and Michelin, and only five drivers still on the grid this year who raced in that season.

You can say then that Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button have had a front row seat to two of F1’s most dominant win streaks: Michael Schumacher’s in 2004, and Sebastian Vettel’s this year.

With Vettel on the precipice of his seventh consecutive victory next Sunday in Abu Dhabi, here’s a look back at Schumacher’s run of seven in ’04, and a look at Vettel’s six in a row thus far in 2013:

SCHUMACHER 2004

  • NURBURGRING: Schumacher had crashed out of the previous race in Monaco so this win from pole returned him to the top of the podium. He took the lead for good on Lap 16 of 60 at the new Nurburgring, emerging ahead after early pit stops. He won by 17-plus seconds over Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello.
  • CANADA: Early race leader was brother Ralf for Williams, but he was one of four eventually disqualified for a brake duct infractions. Michael won on the road with Barrichello promoted to second after Ralf’s DQ.
  • USA, INDIANAPOLIS: The race was more memorable for Ralf’s high-speed accident on the oval portion of the track and the rare occasion of a Minardi scoring points (Zsolt Baumgartner in eighth), but up front Michael led the third straight Ferrari 1-2 over Barrichello. Takuma Sato in third scored his only career F1 podium.
  • FRANCE: Perhaps Schumacher’s most memorable victory in this stretch of seven. Ross Brawn and the Ferrari team executed a four-stop strategy and still beat polesitter Fernando Alonso. Alonso’s then-Renault teammate Jarno Trulli found himself in hot water after the race when he lost third to Barrichello on the final lap.
  • BRITAIN: Schumacher qualified only fourth but made it to the lead by Lap 11 over polesitter Kimi Raikkonen, who secured McLaren’s first podium of the year.
  • GERMANY: A rare win on home soil for Schumacher broke his previous personal high-water mark of five consecutive wins, with Jenson Button recovering to second after a 10-spot grid penalty and Alonso third.
  • HUNGARY: A seventh win in style as Schumacher secured his last “Grand Slam” of his career, where he won from pole, led every lap and set the fastest lap. Barrichello and Alonso completed the podium.

VETTEL 2013

  • BELGIUM: Started only second after the mixed qualifying session when the last man to set his flier would take pole, but no matter for Seb. Vettel was into the lead from second by the end of Kennel Straight, and had enough to set sail with an unassailable gap achieved before DRS could be enabled. It was the first race after this year’s summer break, and the beginning of this current win streak.
  • ITALY: Pole ahead of the tifosi in Monza and another great jump, with Felipe Massa’s then-slower Ferrari emerging second behind him, was all Vettel needed for the second win in a row.
  • SINGAPORE: The most dominant of these wins thus far, with a victory by more than 30 seconds in a “Grand Slam” performance. Alonso and Raikkonen behind him made it a trio of World Champions on the podium, which is as close as they were to Vettel all race.
  • KOREA: Vettel accomplishes the previously unmatched feat of back-to-back “Grand Slams,” although this one featured only a 4-second margin of victory over Lotus teammates Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
  • JAPAN: Arguably his most impressive performance with the odds stacked against him, Vettel rebounded from a slow start and Grosjean’s heroics in a slower car ahead of him to pass the Frenchman late in the race after their strategies synced up. Vettel’s talent was made all the more evident when Webber failed to complete the move on Grosjean anywhere near as quickly for second.
  • INDIA: And yesterday, it wasn’t the typical Vettel “run-and-hide” from pole even though it was his seventh of the season. He pitted after just 2 laps to drop Pirelli’s soft tires but even still, ran fast enough on the mediums to not lose too much ground, and cycled back to the lead once everyone else stopped. 

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.