Mark Miles: “We are not going to have a five-month season” in 2016

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In a nearly one-hour teleconference with the media Wednesday, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles began to make clearer what to expect from the series’ 2016 schedule.

The only real definitive statement Miles made on the schedule was related to its length.

“We do not expect to have a five-month schedule, nor was that ever the goal,” Miles said. “The idea was not shorter and less, it was to see if we couldn’t slide the schedule while actually growing it earlier in the year to be in a more ideal or beneficial television period.”

The 2015 season, made of 16 races following the cancellation of the original opener in Brazil, started at the end of March and will conclude on Aug. 30 at Sonoma Raceway, a week before Labor Day. This follows an 18-race schedule in 2014, and 19 races in 2013, although tracks have dropped off the calendar both years.

Miles said he’s always pursued a seven-month season with anywhere between 16 and 20 races.

“The number of events, more is not necessarily better, it has to work on the calendar against many of these factors,” Miles said.

One of the issues with IndyCar’s schedule, which Miles reiterated, is IndyCar would have tough competion with a crowded sports and TV schedule once Labor Day passes.

“I think I can invite any number of television executives to a call like this and without exception we would hear them say that from a television perspective, the post Labor Day period for us will be a challenge,” Miles said. “We are not going to have a five month season next year … I think we’re going to have some good options at the beginning of the year. We’ve got some races that are on the schedule we’ve got to know for sure are going to be with us next year, from their perspective.”

Next year, Labor Day weekend is when IndyCar will hold its inaugural Grand Prix of Boston. Miles called the race a “new anchor” for the schedule. However, IndyCar must still determine how early next season will begin and whether it wants to Boston to be the season finale.

“As we were finalizing our agreements with Boston … they absolutely wanted Labor Day, and we weren’t prepared at that point to commit that would be the finale, the last weekend of the year, so we asked them what was their preference, to be last or to be Labor Day and they chose Labor Day,” Miles said.

“We granted their wish and we have not yet decided when the season is going to end. It may well go later than Labor Day. That’s not our goal because we know among all these variables, additional races after Labor Day will not help our average viewership and average ratings, but there are other considerations.”

Many issues with this year’s schedule came with the moving up of the Toronto race to the second weekend in June due to a conflict with the Pan-Am games. Miles gave Toronto an example of an event that has “date equity.”

“At an owner’s meeting before we finalized the issue, we raised the issue with the owners, and the answer was if your choice is to give (Toronto) a sabbatical and take a year off or move, and moving involves prolonging the back-to-back weekends past Indianapolis in May, past Detroit, past Texas, then do it,” Miles said. “We will suck it up. So on the one hand, date equity is a goal, it’s a value, but it isn’t ever going to be perfect.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.