Lotus suffers double retirement in Canadian GP

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Lotus F1 Team’s Canadian Grand Prix weekend came to a premature end on Sunday as Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean both retired from the race.

The team entered the weekend full of hope after Renault made assurances that its engine would be able to compete with the Mercedes and Ferrari power units for the first time. However, it soon became clear during practice that there was still a pace deficit heading down the back straight, and Renault was quick to confirm that its assumptions were incorrect.

During qualifying, Pastor Maldonado dropped out during Q1 once again after a problem with his car, and the Venezuelan’s race didn’t go much better. After starting on the prime tire, he managed to work his way up the order and into the top ten once the cars ahead on the super-softs had pitted, but it soon fell to pieces. On lap 21, he suffered a loss of power and was forced to retire from the race.

“We had a similar problem to yesterday where we lost a lot of power,” Maldonado explained on Sunday after the race. “It’s a shame as the race was going very well, and we had an excellent pace. To be honest I was quite surprised by the car.

“The strategy was good, as we were looking for one stop whereas all the other cars were planning two stops, so we were looking very strong today and even without stopping we were on a similar pace with the other teams. We just need to look into exactly what happened and work hard to fix the problems we are having. We’ve shown we can be competitive.”

Grosjean was just as unfortunate, suffering rear wing damage. The team opted to retire instead of keeping the Frenchman out with a potentially dangerous car. Unlike Maldonado, though, he was not happy with the pace of the car.

“Today was not great in terms of pace for me, however there are some positives looking forwards,” he said. “We can see that a Renault team can win a race so we have a target there, especially when the win came at a circuit that is not thought to be one of the stronger ones for them.

“The rear wing of my car broke, so it was safer to retire than risk a potentially dangerous situation. We have a lot of work to do, so it’s time to go home and try to understand our problems and come back stronger in the next races.”

Maldonado’s third DNF of the season means that he stays rooted to the bottom of the drivers’ championship. The team will be hoping to bounce back when Formula 1 returns to Europe at the Austrian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

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.