Kvyat finally turns 20 after fine start to 2014 season

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Toro Rosso’s workers must be sick of birthday cake this week. After Jean-Eric Vergne celebrated his 24th birthday yesterday, teammate Daniil Kvyat has his turn to wear the party hat today as he turns the ripe old age of 20.

That’s right, 20. The Russian rookie has made a lightening start to his Formula 1 career despite being a teenager, having been born in 1994. He is the youngest driver on the grid, and at the opening round of the season in Australia broke Sebastian Vettel’s record for being the youngest ever driver to score points in Formula 1.

However, 2014 has not been a year where experience is everything. The new regulations have in fact perplexed some of the older drivers who have not been used to driving without blown exhausts or with brake-by-wire systems. Therefore, the rookies – Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson – have not been at as much of a disadvantage as the class of 2013 was.

And the results have proven exactly that. The class of 2013 saw five new rookies join the grid: Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton, Valtteri Bottas, Giedo van der Garde and Esteban Gutierrez. They amassed 10 points in total, coming from just two separate scores (Gutierrez scored 6 in Japan, Bottas scored 4 in Austin). It was by no means a vintage year for rookies.

Of course, Bottas has since then proven himself, scoring 24 points in just four races so far this season. We must also bear in mind that Bianchi, Chilton and van der Garde were not driving cars that were really capable of scoring points.

However, Kvyat and Magnussen have already done a lot in 2014. At the opening race of the season, Magnussen qualified in fourth place and eventually brought his car home in third, which then became second upon Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification. He then picked up another two points at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but has since failed to score.

Kvyat may have only scored four points so far this season, but he has finished in the top 10 on three occasions, with the anomaly coming in Bahrain where he finished 11th.

The Russian youngster has made a great start to his Formula 1 career, especially given the Toro Rosso STR9’s pace in the dry which leaves much to be desired.

Kvyat celebrated his birthday by being a special guest at yesterday’s Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and AC Milan. He did the equivalent of swapping shirts with Italian footballer and Roma captain Francesco Totti, giving the veteran player one of his race suits in exchange for the #10 Giallorossi jersey.

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.