Getty Images

Buemi inherits Berlin race two win after Rosenqvist penalty

Leave a comment

Sebastien Buemi’s one-day dip in luck took a swing back on Sunday in the second Berlin ePrix round of the FIA Formula E Championship season, as the Renault e.dams driver took his sixth win on the season in eight races.

Buemi was excluded from Saturday’s race owing to illegal tire pressures, after driving from 14th to sixth place on the road. That became fifth following a five-second time penalty assessed to Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne for an unsafe release from his pit stop.

Yet it was unsafe release that switched the outcome and the results around on Sunday, with race one winner Felix Rosenqvist issued a 10-second time penalty from the stewards for an unsafe release from his stop.

The Mahindra Racing driver had dominated the opening stage of the race from pole and led Buemi into the pit stops on Lap 23 of the 46-lap race, as he sought a repeat of his Saturday win.

But Rosenqvist was released into the path of teammate Nick Heidfeld, who was pitting from 13th place, which forced Heidfeld around the outside of Rosenqvist and nearly into another team’s pit gantry. Heidfeld stopped his car without contact while Rosenqvist, despite being held up, still exited the pits ahead of Buemi.

The penalty assessed to Rosenqvist meant he would need to push even harder to ensure a 10-second gap to then-third placed Lucas di Grassi of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport was still there, even though he won on the road.

So while Rosenqvist was first across the line, it was Buemi who was the winner on the day.

“It was a bit on a plate (with the penalty) but I’m really happy,” Buemi told Formula E’s Dario Franchitti on the cooldown lap.

Di Grassi came third following a sterling move on Vergne for third into Turn 1 on Lap 33, aided in part by FanBoost but with Vergne unable to defend. It was a move Daniel Abt, di Grassi’s teammate, wasn’t able to repeat a lap later before Vergne started to fall further back in the later stages of the race.

Abt did make it through eventually with Jose Maria Lopez also doing so on Lap 40 in his DS Virgin Racing entry to complete the top five.

Sam Bird, Lopez’s teammate, was next to take a run at Vergne over the next several laps with Nico Prost of Renault e.dams having a front row seat to the battle. But Vergne held off Bird and Prost for sixth.

Oliver Turvey was ninth for NEXT EV NIO while Heidfeld ended 10th in the final points paying position.

Rosenqvist wasn’t the only one penalized on the day. Faraday Future Dragon Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio received a drive-through penalty for his pit stop not meeting the minimum required time on pit lane. That brought Heidfeld, who’d started last and risen as high as 10th in the first stint but used more energy doing so, back to the final points paying position in 10th.

In a cool touch of fan engagement, Formula E gave one lucky fan the chance to present the podium finishers with their trophies after the race.

The New York City ePrix from the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn is next, July 15-16. Like Berlin this weekend, it’s a doubleheader weekend.

Buemi entered the day with a 22-point lead over di Grassi and will gain 10 points back with the 25-15 points score this race. The Swiss driver is not expected to race in New York, owing to his FIA World Endurance Championship commitments the same weekend at the Nürburgring with Toyota Gazoo Racing.

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.