Austrian GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA – And so ends the first Austrian Grand Prix weekend since 2003. After Williams threatened to spring a surprise and beat Mercedes fair and square, normal service was resumed in the race on Sunday as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton secured a one-two for the Silver Arrows.

Although the win was by no means comfortable, it was certainly impressive. Both Rosberg and Hamilton proved that they can fight for victories in the W05 Hybrid, but Lewis will undoubtedly be left ruing his mistake in qualifying that left him ninth on the grid.

For the final time from Austria, here’s the full round-up in the Paddock Notebook.

RACE REPORT

  • The Red Bull Ring had one King today: Nico Rosberg. A mix of good strategy and searing pace saw him beat both of the Williams drivers and Lewis Hamilton to extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Maybe the result of the Austrian Grand Prix was not a surprise, but the fashion in which Mercedes claimed its sixth one-two finish of the season certainly was. Who would have thought that Williams would run them so closely this weekend?

Ultimately, the fairytale ending wasn’t to be. The Silver Arrows once again reigned supreme, with Nico Rosberg emerging as the victor in the latest episode of “The Nico and Lewis Show”. However, Hamilton was left lamenting two slow pit stops which he felt could have given him a shot at victory. Frankly, though, it was his mistake in qualifying yesterday that really lost him the grand prix.

Let’s be fair to Lewis, though. It was a titanic drive that he has constantly shown he is capable of. On the first lap, he shot up from ninth to fifth, and then picked off Fernando Alonso on lap two. There’s no denying that he is a true racer, perhaps even more so than his teammate.

It is Nico who comes away from the Red Bull Ring with the biggest smile, though. His championship lead has been extended to 29 points, meaning that even with a DNF and a win for Hamilton, he will still lead. With this win, he also surpasses the number of races that Keke Rosberg – his father – won during his F1 career. One journalist asked Nico if he’d grow a moustache like his Dad if he won the title. The response: “Maybe!”

In the final few laps of the race, the TV coverage showed a thank you message from Bernie Ecclestone to Dietrich Mateschitz on the track at turn one (superimposed, don’t worry!). As odd as it may have been, the sentiment is spot on. This weekend, Red Bull – the brand, not the team – has shown the F1 world how it should be done. Lower ticket prices, packed grandstands, wonderful hospitality, great racing – the other circuit promoters should take note. So, from someone far poorer and a bit taller than Bernie, thank you, Dietrich.

Last night, I spoke to a local in a bar at my hotel. In broken English, he explained to me how F1 had been away for so long, and how it was great to be back. “Mateschitz!” he cried, smiling and giving a big thumbs up. I think it’s a feeling shared by everyone who came to the Red Bull Ring this weekend.

So from Austria we head to England for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. With the majority of teams based near the circuit, it is the homeliest of home races, and usually puts on a show.

The Silver Arrows might be ahead once again, but the challengers are beginning to make themselves known.

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.