Ecclestone places bid to buy famed Nurburgring track

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Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is looking to buy perhaps the most hallowed track in the history of the sport. Reuters reported today that that the British billionaire has put in a bid to acquire the Nurburgring, which has fallen on hard times financially in recent years.

According to Reuters, the assets up for bidding include the track and an adjacent amusement park. An official for the administrators told Reuters that they would not comment on specific bidders but are looking to have a new owner in place soon so they “can start the season in April.”

The famous Nurburgring Nordschleife course has not hosted a Formula One Grand Prix since 1976 – a race known for the fiery wreck that almost took the life of three-time World Champion Niki Lauda. A smaller, modern circuit near the original has alternated with Hockenheim as host of Germany’s F1 event since 2007.

Nurburgring fell into bankruptcy in 2012 after its organization amassed major debts following the construction of a major complex at the track that included the aforementioned amusement park and a large shopping mall. Bigger crowds didn’t appear as expected, and in 2013, bidding began for potential buyers.

Ecclestone had pondered the idea of putting in a bid last year, telling one German publication, Die-Welt, in July that he was “at least thinking about” going ahead with it. But shortly after, he told another German publication, the Rhein-Zeitung newspaper, that he’d decided it wasn’t practical for him.

Now, it appears that he’s had yet another change of heart on the subject.

“We made an offer and we now wait for it to be accepted,” he’s told the Handeslblatt and Wirtschaftwoche publications according to Reuters. “We believe that we can do more than anyone else for the circuit. There could be a decision as early as in the coming weeks.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.