Massa fastest for Williams on day 3 in Bahrain

1 Comment

Felipe Massa has finished quickest on the penultimate day of winter testing in Bahrain by setting the fastest time across the course of the pre-season period at Sakhir.

Massa’s lap of 1:33.258 saw him finish ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg as the two drivers traded fastest times in the final hour of the session. The German driver eventually fell two-tenths short of the Brazilian’s time and was forced to settle for second place.

However, Rosberg was a full 1.9 seconds ahead of third placed Kimi Raikkonen as the Ferrari driver focused on a race simulation in the afternoon.

The talking point from today’s running in Bahrain was Red Bull’s continued problems. The team appeared to be on the verge of an improvement after a good day of testing for Daniel Ricciardo yesterday, but defending world champion Sebastian Vettel struggled greatly. Upon starting his first run, Vettel managed just half a lap before the Red Bull RB10 ground to a halt.

It was soon recovered and returned to the pits, but when Red Bull sent the car out for a second run, it lasted but a few seconds as Vettel stopped at the end of the pit lane. With just half a lap on the board and one day of pre-season testing left, Red Bull appear to be in trouble.

Besides Vettel’s stoppages, there were also red flags for French duo Jules Bianchi and Romain Grosjean on Saturday in Bahrain. Bianchi finished the day in seventh place for Marussia ahead of closest rivals Caterham, whilst Grosjean was the last classified driver to post a time down in ninth position. Adrian Sutil also hit trouble as a fire on his Sauber C33 early in the morning session meant that he failed to post a time.

Although the Mercedes-powered teams dominated once again, occupying four of the top six positions, Renault showed signs of improved reliability. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat finished the day in fifth position with 81 laps under his belt, whilst Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson completed the most mileage with 117 laps. Despite Red Bull’s disastrous day, these are good signs for the French engine supplier.

With just one day to go in pre-season testing, the teams will get a final shot tomorrow to understand their cars and perfect their procedure ahead of the first round of the season in Australia (live on NBCSN on March 16).

Bahrain Day 3 – Times

1. Felipe Massa Williams 1:33.258 (99 laps)
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.484 +0.226 (103)
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:35.426 +2.168 (87)
4. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:35.894 +2.636 (88)
5. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:36.113 +2.855 (81)
6. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:36.205 +2.947 (115)
7. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:37.087 +3.829 (78)
8. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:38.083 +4.825 (117)
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:42.166 +8.908 (33)
10. Adrian Sutil Sauber no time (1)
11. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull no time (0)

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

Formula One logo
Leave a comment

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.