Briatore set to work on ‘improving the show’ in F1


Flavio Briatore is set to return to Formula 1 as the head of a new popularity working group with the task of ‘improving the show’ in the sport.

Following a fall in the global TV audience of 50m and low attendances for some of the grands prix this season, there has been a focus on improving the racing in Formula 1 and making it more appealing to fans.

In an attempt to keep the world championship alive, a double points round has been introduced at the end of the year in Abu Dhabi, and standing restarts after a safety car period will become commonplace in 2015.

According to reports in the Hungarian Grand Prix paddock, former Renault team principal Flavio Briatore has been asked to head up a popularity working group that will come up with other ideas. Introducing a success ballast is reportedly one option that has already been proposed, penalizing the winners with a heavier car for the next race.

Briatore left Formula 1 in 2009 after he was found to have played an instrumental part in Renault’s fixing of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Nelson Piquet Jr. was told to deliberately crash his car to allow teammate Fernando Alonso to jump ahead of the field under the safety car, with the Spaniard eventually winning the race from 15th place on the grid.

However, it now appears that he has a way back into the sport with this role. It will be interesting to see what ideas are brought forward, and how his vision for the future of F1 compares with that of the F1 Strategy Group.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.