Wolff: No special treatment because I’m a woman

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Susie Wolff has questioned just why she has been such a focus for the media across the course of this weekend given that she is simply doing something very routine and normal in F1.

Wolff deputized for Valtteri Bottas at Williams during FP1, just as Giedo van der Garde, Robin Frijns and Daniel Juncadella did at their respective teams. However, the fact that Wolff today became the first woman in 22 years to take part in an official F1 session has attracted a lot of attention.

That said, many of the other drivers on the grid were not so bothered by it, and Wolff was pleased by this.

“I think it’s a good thing because, you know, I think we all arrived here and everybody was like why is everyone making a fuss about you driving?” she explained to the media on Friday at Silverstone. “Felipe Nasr’s driven and nobody made a fuss, and we all were quite surprised by the big commotion around it, and I think we could see that as a positive.

“For Felipe and Valtteri, it was like ‘we’re just driving, what’s the big deal?’. So I think for the other drivers not to have a big issue with it can also be something positive because they don’t see it as being something that unusual really.”

Wolff also explained how she does not feel that she has been held back despite being a woman in a predominantly male sport, and has earned her place at Williams on merit.

“No, I think initially, even when I joined the Mercedes team for DTM, of course you have to come in and have to earn your respect, but every young driver has to do that,” she said. “I think as long as you keep your head down, work hard and prove your worth, you’re accepted.

“And as soon as you’re accepted, it never comes into question any more, and I have a very good relationship with Felipe and Valtteri, and everyone within the team, and I never feel like I’m treated differently than Felipe and Valtteri are.”

Sadly, Wolff’s session did not go to plan. She completed just four installation laps before an engine failure forced her to park up the FW36 car at the side of the track. Her next chance to drive the FW36 will come during practice for the German Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

Many had questioned Wolff’s suitability for the reserve role given her underwhelming form in DTM. Therefore, she will have to prove herself once again at Hockenheim, although she has already answered many of her critics at the last in-season test in Spain two months ago.

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.