© Getty Images

Hinchcliffe: 2016 IndyCar campaign better than final standing suggests

Leave a comment

James Hinchcliffe believes his performance through the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season was better than his final points tally and finish in the drivers’ standings suggest.

Hinchcliffe returned to full-time racing this year with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after having his 2015 campaign cut short by a severe accident during practice for the Indianapolis 500.

The Canadian scored pole for the 100th running of the ‘500 back in May, and picked up three podium finishes through the year, recording a best result of second in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Despite ending the season 13th in the drivers’ standings, Hinchcliffe is adamant that his season was better than the statistics suggest.

“If you wipe the Detroit weekend off the map, you give us back the points from Texas and we finish the race at Watkins Glen, we’re fighting for a top three in the championship,” Hinchcliffe told indycar.com.

Hinchcliffe finished endured a nightmare weekend in Detroit with 18th and a DNF in the two races. Then in the final 3 races of the year, he lost 25 points due to a technical infraction after his charge to second at Texasran short on fuel at Watkins Glen after being poised to finish the race P2, and finished 12th in the double points finale at Sonoma.

Hinchcliffe’s impressive comeback season was one of IndyCar’s feel-good stories of 2016, but he stressed that SPM’s on-track strength should come as no shock.

“It shouldn’t be that surprising. This team has done that before,” Hinchcliffe said.

“That’s what’s so impressive about SPM, they are kind of the little team that could.

“When you think there’s the three powerhouse teams that combine to make 12 cars or half the grid, if you’re anywhere in the top 12 in points, you’re doing a good job if you’re not one of those guys.”

Team owner Sam Schmidt is confident that Hinchcliffe can lead SPM for many years to come, and is targeting a shot at the championship in 2017.

“We can build a long-term program around him and a long-term program around Mikhail [Aleshin] and keep on improving,” Schmidt said.

“We’re still not perfect, but I think the guys are doing a hell of a job.

“We want to position ourselves in the offseason, fill in a couple of spots here and there, and legitimately go for the championship next year.”

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.