Danica Patrick driving for Gene Haas’ F1 team? Don’t bet on it

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Today’s press conference that formally unveiled Gene Haas’ new Formula One franchise was relatively light on details.

Outside of the mentioning of preliminary talks with Dallara on a chassis partnership, there was no idea given of which engine supplier the new Haas Formula squad would align with.

Furthermore, neither Haas or team principal Guenther Steiner made any indications on who was going to drive for them in 2015 – or 2016, if the team opts for more time to build themselves up.

Shortly after Haas received entry into the Formula One World Championship, rumors began to swirl in some circles about the possibility of Danica Patrick jumping to the globe-trotting series.

Before shifting full-time to stock cars in 2012, Patrick raced in the Verizon IndyCar Series from 2005 to 2011, earning one win and seven podium finishes in that span.

But if Haas’ comments this morning from North Carolina are any indication, we can probably assume that Patrick will continue her NASCAR exploits for the foreseeable future.

When asked if he would consider putting Patrick in an F1 car with enough sponsor interest, Haas said he didn’t see how she or any of his other Sprint Cup drivers – Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Tony Stewart – could make such a prospect work.

“I don’t know too many drivers that could be successful from going between NASCAR [and F1], and I wouldn’t expect any of our current lineup of drivers to want to be able to do that,” he said. “That would just be almost – it would be impossible to really accomplish that and survive.”

Noting the “grueling schedule” that NASCAR has and the different sets of disciplines, Haas feels that Formula One drivers would have a tough time driving a Sprint Cup machine and that the inverse would be true as well without lots of preparation.

He gave special notice to the high-tech steering wheels of an F1 car as an obstacle for any NASCAR driver that’d be willing to go to F1.

“What intimidates me the most is the [F1] steering wheel,” Haas said. “On a Cup car, you’ve got a round wheel with a button on it. In a Formula One car, you’ve got buttons on the front, on the side, in the back, paddle shifters – you don’t learn that in a day. So I think the thought of just jumping into a F1 car to a Cup car would be very difficult.”

For his part, Busch has said that having reached his mid-30s, he’s long past the point of being a competitive driver in F1 himself.

However, the Outlaw – who will race for Andretti Autosport in the Indianapolis 500 as part of an attempt to run both that and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 on the same day – has said he’d be up for an F1 test session.

The night-and-day differences between NASCAR and F1 have also led to questions about how Haas’ effort on the stock car side would benefit from his F1 project.

In touching on that subject, Haas noted that there would be a lot for Stewart-Haas Racing to learn from Haas Formula, particularly in aerodynamics.

“Formula One teams are much more into the aero packages, especially when it comes down to the things that you wouldn’t think about like brake ducting and radiator intakes and how the air comes out the back of the wing and so forth,” he said.

“These are things that NASCAR teams are just starting to touch on now that the bodies have been very much regulated in terms of how the air goes over them.”

Haas also said that many of the Stewart-Haas crew members would likely use Haas Formula as an opportunity to gain new ideas.

“We have a lot of team members that work on the NASCAR side that have an interest: ‘How does Formula One work?,'” he said. “They’ve never even seen a Formula One car. So I would think that this is gonna spark an interest – ‘Yeah, look at how they do things, there’s gotta be something I can learn.'”

“We’ve got a lot of smart people at Stewart-Haas Racing that are constantly looking for new ways to beat our competitors and I can’t think of anything in Formula One that would detract from that.”

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.