Ecclestone: “I hope every race is going to be like a wet race”

7 Comments

With the start of a new World Championship just days away, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is expecting the unexpected this season.

New technical regulations have already had a major impact on preseason testing and could very well jumble the sport’s established pecking order beginning with this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

It’s a prospect that Ecclestone appears to be looking forward to.

“I hope every race is going to be like a wet race – unpredictable is the word,” the British billionaire told Reuters yesterday.

Certainly, the crown jewel of Ecclestone’s empire could use a competitive shake-up following four straight years of dominance from champion Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing.

The German’s romp to his fourth consecutive world title – in which he won 13 races and closed the year on a nine-race win streak – seemed to also have a noticeable effect on F1’s global TV ratings, which fell about 10 percent (Ecclestone himself said last fall that Vettel’s success wasn’t eroding the viewership).

But with Vettel and Red Bull (along with engine supplier Renault) having struggled mightily in winter tests at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain and in Bahrain, the title would appear to truly be up for grabs even if Red Bull manages to turn the corner following the early season races.

And should it indeed be a free-for-all, that could mean better business for F1 – and, of course, Ecclestone.

Speaking of business, Ecclestone also told Reuters that he should be able to keep running the sport even though he’ll have to face a bribery trial next month.

“We will attend as and when we have to, a couple of days a week,” he said about the situation. “We’ll be able to deal with that internally.”

Last week, Ecclestone said he was now searching for his successor. He is charged with allegations that he bribed a German banker that was linked to the sale of F1 rights.

Ecclestone has maintained that he was blackmailed by the banker, Gerhard Gribowsky, who had allegedly threatened to report him to British tax authorities. Gribowsky has since been sent to prison.

Josef Newgarden wins for 3rd time in 4 years in rain-shortened Honda Indy GP of Alabama

Leave a comment

Given how well he’s done there, they may want to consider renaming Barber Motorsports Park to Newgarden Motorsports Park.

Josef Newgarden won for the second straight year and third time in the last four races at BMP to capture Monday’s rain-delayed Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

“I like it here,” Newgarden told NBCSN. “We could do the whole series at Barber. That’d be great.”

Newgarden won his ninth career IndyCar race on what he considers his home track, just three hours from his home north of Nashville, Tennessee.

Monday’s race on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course was a timed event of 75 minutes after Sunday’s rain-postponement after 22 laps of the scheduled 90 laps.

As it turned out, both ends of Sunday’s start and Monday’s finish, a total of 82 laps were contested.

Rain once again became an issue in about the last 15 minutes of Monday’s rescheduled event but Newgarden – who started from the pole – made a stop for rain tires with 14 minutes left and that proved to be the winning strategy. He also regains the lead in the IndyCar point standings from Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi.

“The rain made it more eventful than I would have liked,” Newgarden told NBCSN. “We had good fuel mileage and good reliability, that’s what we needed to win this race.

“It seemed like smooth sailing for the most part — we had no yellows, which we were hoping for no yellows — and then the rain crept in. … Fortunately, we had a big gap, which helped us win the race, just building that gap over the beginning part. … It’s a great day for Team Penske.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second, followed by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens, with Sebastien Bourdais finishing fifth.

“Solid weekend for us,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 in qualifying and two cars in the top 5 in the race. Pretty proud of these boys. It’s good to get a couple Hondas up there. Maybe not the top steps in the podium, but we took the rest of it.”

Bourdais had hoped to finish the race on slicks and win. But he was forced to pit with 7:15 left after his car became too difficult to control in heavy rain, swapping to rain tires.

Unfortunately, pitting essentially cost Bourdais the win.

“We were in the catbird’s seat for second and were hoping that he’d get some good times on the drives in the wet, but the wet just kept coming and we had to bring him in,” team owner Dale Coyne said.

Added Bourdais, “We’re in it to win it, did everything we could, it was seemingly going to be good enough. … I think we had beaten (Newgarden). Yet, the sky opened and that was it.”

Scott Dixon finished sixth, followed by Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti.

Eleventh through 20th were Rossi, Matheus Leist, Zach Veach, Jordan King, Spencer Pigot, Rene Binder, Gabby Chaves, Tony Kanaan, Zach Claman De Melo and Ed Jones.

Rounding out the final three finishing positions were Will Power, Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball.

INCIDENTS:

* Spencer Pigot and rookie Zach Claman De Melo got into a tangle early on, but both were able to get going and damage appeared minimal.

* With 8:30 left, Rossi spun into the Turn 5 gravel but was able to get going.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* Will Power’s team was able to get his damaged car repaired and he was back on-track roughly 10 minutes into Monday’s action.

* Scott Dixon lost much of the electronics on his car with about 28 minutes left. He essentially had to handle things old school, going by feel. He wound up being penalized for speeding on pit road when his dashboard went out.

Follow @JerryBonkowski