© Getty Images

F1 2016 Driver Review: Pascal Wehrlein

Leave a comment

Pascal Wehrlein

Team: Manor
Car No.: 94
Races: 21
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 10th (Austria)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 1
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 19th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Great things were expected of Pascal Wehrlein during his debut Formula 1 season, having tested extensively for Mercedes in the past and won the DTM title in 2015 at the age of 20.

Wehrlein did light things up on occasion for Manor, with the Mercedes power unit making the MRT05 car a rocket ship in a straight line. The German reached Q2 on sixth occasions, and scored just the second point of Manor’s seven-season history in Austria, nicking 10th late on in a race of attrition.

But Wehrlein failed to blow the doors off teammates Rio Haryanto or Esteban Ocon as expected. Uncertainty regarding his ability and attitude prompted Force India to pass over Wehrlein and pick Ocon for a 2017 season, leaving Wehrlein in the lurch.

Right now, a return to Manor seems the most likely option, where Wehrlein will look to wipe the floor with whoever his teammate may be and prove he can be a solid grand prix racer.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Numerous Q2 appearances and a 10th place in Austria were the highlights for the young German with rather neat hair and almost too perfect eyebrows, yet somehow despite those achievements it felt like Pascal Wehrlein wasn’t quite as dynamic as he needed to be.

For one, he didn’t blow the lesser-rated Rio Haryanto into the weeds as he should have. And secondly, once Esteban Ocon came in in the second half of the year, Wehrlein didn’t seem to raise his game to match except in Abu Dhabi. Ocon’s near-points drive at Brazil could have netted multiple points. And it also spoke volumes that Ocon immediately got the Force India drive vacated by Nico Hulkenberg.

A promotion to Mercedes next year for Wehrlein isn’t necessarily guaranteed, and it’d be a quantum leap in terms of the car at his disposal and the expectations required. It also would have the potential to damage his career long-term if he can’t measure up. Weird times lie ahead for the good, but not yet great, young driver.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

Formula One logo
Leave a comment

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.