Mercedes winning streak ends due to car problems

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The winning streak that Mercedes has enjoyed at the beginning of the 2014 Formula 1 season has come to a shattering end after both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had problems on their cars today, allowing Daniel Ricciardo to claim his maiden grand prix victory.

The Australian driver managed to pass Rosberg with three laps remaining in Montreal to secure Red Bull’s first win of the season, and the first of his Formula 1 career.

Rosberg and Hamilton had locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying, and the German driver managed to hold onto the lead off the line. Hamilton dropped down to third after he was forced wide by his teammate, but managed to make his way back past Sebastian Vettel after a safety car period.

The two Mercedes drivers forged ahead into a 26 second lead, and looked set to battle each other once again for the race win. However, their pace began to drop off in the second stint of the race, and it was later diagnosed as being an ERS problem which affected the brakes on the car.

Hamilton was forced to retire with 22 laps remaining, such was the severity of his problem, but Rosberg managed to keep going and stay in the lead of the race. Sergio Perez kept closing in the final sector, only to lose a lot of time in the first two sectors to Rosberg as his tires began to fade. Ricciardo eventually found his way past the Force India driver, and then went on to reel in Rosberg and make the pass on the third to last lap.

This result ends Mercedes’ aspirations of a perfect season, something that has never been done before in Formula 1. Rosberg’s second place finish means that he does extend his championship lead to 22 points over Lewis Hamilton, and the Silver Arrows are unquestionably still the team to beat.

For today though, the spoils go to Daniel Ricciardo. He moves up to third place in the drivers’ championship behind the Mercedes drivers, and he has proven – if there was any lingering doubt – that he is a perfect replacement for Mark Webber at the champion team.

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.