Jeremy Milless. Photo: IndyCar

Rossi, Milless gelling early together at Andretti

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – This time last year, Alexander Rossi wasn’t even fully confirmed for any full-time ride, although by the end of February he’d been signed to a new Andretti-Herta Autosport entry ahead of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Ahead of the 2017 season, not only has he been signed for several months following his win in the 100th Indianapolis 500, but he has three exciting new elements for his program surrounding his No. 98 Honda this season.

The 25-year-old Californian has NAPA AUTO PARTS sponsorship for seven races, building on the relationship established at Indianapolis last year.

But on the box, he has a new engineer in Jeremy Milless and a new strategist in Rob Edwards.

Milless, who spent the last three years as Josef Newgarden’s engineer at Ed Carpenter Racing, switches to Michael Andretti’s team this year and replaces Tom German as Rossi’s race engineer.

Meanwhile with Bryan Herta moving to become race strategist for Marco Andretti’s No. 27 hhgregg Honda, even though the No. 98 car is still an Andretti-Herta entry, Andretti Autosport chief operating officer Rob Edwards now moves from what was the No. 26 car for Carlos Munoz to Rossi’s No. 98 as strategist there.

Milless’ strengths last year were evident at a number of circuits.  In particular, Milless helped Newgarden deliver on short ovals, with Newgarden’s beatdown in Newton, Iowa where he led 282 of 300 laps standing out.

Rossi has only had a couple tests to work with Milless thus far, but has already praised his new men on the stand.

“I’m pretty excited about Iowa,” Rossi said. “I think we all are, to kind of have that bit of information.

“But no, Jeremy has been awesome from day one of working with him at the one Sebring test we did, we were kind of up to speed with each other right away, and we’ve done some work in Indy together. I mean, it’s been a pretty seamless transition. We’re still kind of trying to learn each other’s likes and dislikes, but (it’s) the first session and it wasn’t terrible.

“It’s been a real positive having Rob Edwards as strategist on the radio; that’s also fantastic,” he added. “If Bryan is going to go to Marco, I think Rob is probably the best replacement in the year.

“I’m really happy with the team I have right now, and hopefully we can continue to move forward and develop ourselves.”

Rossi missed driving at this test last year as he’d only just finalized the deal to join the Andretti-Herta organization. He made his first oval race start here and was poised for a debut top-10 finish, prior to a puncture and a slip up the course in Turn 4.

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.