Rosberg chasing second straight British GP victory

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Nico Rosberg will head to next weekend’s British Grand Prix with a spring in his step after extending his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship last time out in Austria.

His advantage over teammate Lewis Hamilton currently stands at 29 points, but this can grow yet again at Silverstone should Rosberg claim his second straight victory at one of the sport’s most famous circuits.

Last year’s race saw Hamilton lead away from pole position before suffering a tire failure, with four other drivers also suffering from a similar problem. Amid the chaos, Rosberg managed to slot into second place behind runaway leader Sebastian Vettel, only for the Red Bull driver to grind to a halt with eleven laps to go thanks to a gearbox issue.

Rosberg was in line to pick up the pieces and claim his second win of the season, fending off Mark Webber at the line.

“Silverstone is a special one for me, as I managed to win there last season,” he explained. “It was actually very close to my birthday and I had a really cool experience after the race. There’s usually a fan festival with rock bands and all sorts after the track action finishes, which is something I go to almost every year.

“This time, I was up on stage doing a quick interview and the whole crowd started singing Happy Birthday to me, which was very cool! The British fans are absolutely fantastic.”

The British Grand Prix is also one of Mercedes’ two home races this year, with the German marque’s factory being based just a few miles from Silverstone.

“I enjoy going to Silverstone personally, but really this one is all about the team,” Rosberg said. “For the hundreds of people at Brackley and Brixworth it’s a home race and many of them will be there with their families and friends across the weekend.

“I want to put on a good show and get the best result possible out of it for them after all their hard work this season.”

The team effort has not been lost on Rosberg this season, and he has been quick to thank all of the workers at Brackley on the podium after each victory. Should he win at Silverstone – on Hamilton’s home turf – Rosberg would be poised to go into the summer break with a healthy championship lead.

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.