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.

Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
Clive Rose/Getty Images,
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SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.