Starting from pole position, Luca Filippi made a strong get-away and kept the lead while front-row sitter Charles Pic took off a bit too slowly, allowing Valsecchi to dive into Turn 1 and precede him. The race leader kept his countryman at bay, a couple of seconds between them. The two racers pitted on the same lap and Filippi got back on track ahead of Valsecchi who then failed to close the gap between them, leaving the Meritus driver to enjoy his first win of the season.
Pic on the other hand tried to recover from his poor start with an earlier pitstop and passed the exit of the pitlane right after Valsecchi came back out from his tire stop. The two men ran alongside in Turn 1, but the iSport man fended off Pic’s attacks well and kept the advantage.
Wind Tunnel Sunday Featured Interview Bobby Rahal (ALMS Team Owner, BMW Rahal Letterman Racing) Former IndyCar champ and current ALMS team owner, Bobby Rahal, will be a featured guest on Wind Tunnel this Sunday March 14th. Bobby will preview his team’s chances for a win in next week’s 12 Hours of Sebring as well as share his thoughts on the current state of IndyCar racing where he spent so much of his career as a driver and team owner.
Featured Interview Eddie Gossage (President, Texas Motor Speedway) Eddie Gossage, President of the Texas Motor Speedway, will also be a featured guest on Wind Tunnel this Sunday. Taking full advantage of the Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski controversy, Gossage has created an entire ad campaign around it with hopes of selling tickets to his upcoming CUP race in April. We’ll talk to Eddie about the controversy and get his opinion on how it was handled and find out what it means for the sport moving forward.
Expert Analysts Bob Varsha (Host, Formula 1 on SPEED), David Hobbs (Anchor, Formula 1 on SPEED) SPEED F1 anchors, Bob Varsha and David Hobbs, will also be featured guests this Sunday to talk about this weekend’s F1 season opener in Bahrain and share their thoughts and predictions on what we might see in the series in 2010.
This Week’s Races
F1’s season opener, the Bahrain Grand Prix IndyCar season opener in Brazil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, FL AMA Supercross in Toronto
Rough Sao Paulo surface forces qualifications to be postponed
The IndyCars struggled on rough concrete sections
Three rounds of IZOD IndyCar Series qualifications were postponed to four hours before the start of the São Paulo Indy 300 on March 14 based on driver feedback relating to the slippery concrete surface of the one-third-mile Anhembi Sambodromo frontstretch.
Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the sanctioning Indy Racing League, met with drivers and team owners/managers to devise a schedule that seeks to provide a safe racing environment and a good show for spectators and the worldwide viewing audience.
The scheduled mid-afternoon qualifications March 13 were replaced by an hour-long third practice session for all cars. Drivers had two earlier sessions totaling 150 minutes. Promoter Bandeirantes brought in grinding equipment overnight to work on the concrete surface as drivers transition from the asphalt and the 180-degree Turn 11 of the 2.6-mile, 11-turn course.
Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports has added Cemig, one of Brazil’s leading energy companies, as one of its sponsors for the 2010 Sao Paulo Indy 300, it was announced today.
Cemig, headquartered in Minas Gerais, the same home state of driver Raphael Matos, will place its logo on the front wing of the #2 HP Luczo Dragon car. The Sao Paulo Indy 300 will be broadcast to more than 200 countries.
(GMM) Nigel Mansell is considering the FIA's invitation to be a steward at one or two grands prix in 2010.
FIA president Jean Todt's initiative, where experienced drivers are installed as a fourth steward at each world championship round this year, is designed to speed up and give credibility to the adjudicating decisions.
Already lined up to take part are Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Alex Wurz, while Alain Prost is fulfilling the role this weekend in Bahrain.
1996 world champion Damon Hill will be the fourth steward at Monaco and also another race in 2010.
"It's important drivers give their perspective on the sport," he said in Bahrain.
HRT denies links to German group, VW (GMM) Jose Ramon Carabante has denied persistent rumors that a German investment group, perhaps with links to Volkswagen, is involved with the new Spanish team HRT.
"Meta 1 failed to get even one sponsor and sold its shares to me. I have had no contact with a German investment group.
"Now we are beginning to get money from Brazil, India and Murcia, which (Murcia) gives us 3 million (EUR) annually over the next three years," the team owner is quoted as saying by the El Pais newspaper.
Indeed, it was announced in Sao Paulo - with Bruno Senna's mother Viviane Senna in attendance - that the Brazilian bank Banco Cruzeiro do Sul is sponsoring the driver and team in 2010.
After the Campos-Meta 1 takeover, the team - renamed Hispania Racing Team (HRT) - failed to do any testing and is last on the Bahrain grid.
"The first four races will be our tests," said Carabante. "Where we will really begin is in Spain," he added, referring to May's Barcelona event.
FIA tells McLaren to scrap Bahrain-spec diffuser (GMM) Amid the din of the new 'knee-gate' saga, another technical controversy involving McLaren's 2010 car has escaped the attention of the media.
The British team has been told by the FIA that the diffuser it is using this weekend in Bahrain may not be fitted to the MP4-25 in Melbourne in two weeks.
While the knee-activated air inlet system has been slammed by angry rivals and attracted widespread press coverage after clearance by the FIA, the car's Sakhir-spec double diffuser was less favorably looked upon by scrutineers.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said McLaren aerodynamically exploited the hole for the external engine starter, making it much bigger than necessary and thereby gaining another diffuser level.
After the enormous diffuser controversy of 2009, the saga has been kept quiet by McLaren simply agreeing to scrap the design after the checkered flag waves in Bahrain on Sunday.
Schumacher says time on his side Michael Schumacher has admitted he is still struggling to readjust on his return to F1 - but says that time is still on his side in his quest to catch up.
The former World Champion has so far been outpaced in every timed session in Bahrain by his team-mate Nico Rosberg and will start Sunday's grand prix two places behind his compatriot in seventh position.
"It's a little bit different for me," Schumacher told the BBC. "The time I had available to get onto the peak of what the car can do was not very big, but we are working well together and the season is a long one."
Black Swan withdraws from 12 Hours of Sebring Black Swan Racing Porsche 997 GT3 RSR had suddenly disappeared from the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Presented by Fresh From Florida entry list earlier this week.
Today team owner/driver Tim Pappas confirmed that the #54 Black Swan Racing car that had been entered for himself, Anthony Lazzaro and Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen has indeed been withdrawn. Instead of kicking off the season at Sebring the team will focus on additional testing and tire development with tire partner Dunlop, before making its race return to the series.
Pappas made it very clear though that the withdrawal of the car for the opening round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series does not mean the cancellation of the program for 2010. “Quite the opposite”, said Pappas. “Despite a strong first outing at the Winter Test, Black Swan needs more work before its ready for competition in American Le Mans. Except for Bleekemolen, Black Swan was not in competition in 2009, so we have had lots of work to do behind the scenes to prepare and unfortunately, we just haven’t gotten everything done on time to feel confident for Sebring.”
Damon Hill to be race steward The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said at the Bahrain season-opener that Damon Hill would be one of the stewards at the Monaco Grand Prix in May as well as at least one other race.
The Briton, 49, world champion with Williams in 1996 after some epic and highly controversial battles with German Schumacher, assured Reuters on Saturday he would be impartial.
"There are more important things than individual relationships. The important thing is the sport, and that the sport has got credibility," he said at the Sakhir circuit where seven-times champion Schumacher is making his comeback with Mercedes.
Goodyear finding success with different tire compounds This time two years ago, Goodyear's global manager of race tires Stu Grant and Goodyear wore bigger targets in the garage than Brad Keselowski does on the track. Tony Stewart was so angry leaving Atlanta that he said the best thing the tire manufacturer did was "make that gold trophy at the end of year" for the series champion. He added that that the tires were "not worthy of a street car." Now not only is Goodyear being defended after events in which there are blown tires; many are crediting the company with improving the overall quality of racing. Cars aren't sliding out of control as they were through the middle of last season. Drivers finally are comfortable that the only thing separating 3,500 pounds of steel and sheet metal and them from the track will stick when they enter and exit the corners. No magic compound has been discovered, but there has been a change of philosophy. Goodyear engineers finally realized that harder doesn't mean safer, or even better, as they thought two years ago. It took a while. It wasn't until countless tests following the 2008 debacle at Indianapolis, in which NASCAR had to call a competition caution every 12 laps or so, that a solution was found. There were seven tire tests, to be exact, in preparation for last year's race at Indy. At some point Goodyear learned innovative things about wear degree and how it relates to rubbering in the track that benefited every facility. So the company adjusted to a softer compound, one that would be durable enough that it wouldn't wear excessively and efficient enough to lay down rubber at a rate that would provide more grip. More grip meant better handling and better racing. To be fair, Goodyear was put behind the eight ball, just as the teams were, when the new car came out. Officials were searching just as hard as crew chiefs to figure out what would and wouldn't work. Jeff Burton tried to tell us this was coming a year ago. He said the racing was going to be better, and the tire would be a big reason. Will that change when NASCAR replaces the wing with the spoiler in two weeks at Martinsville? Grant doesn't think so, although there's no way to tell for sure until the cars are on the track. NASCAR, to its credit, is doing whatever possible to make sure the balance of the car doesn't change much so the pressure and wear on the tire remains consistent. Goodyear will keep a close eye on that during Tuesday's spoiler test at Talladega. ESPN.com
No NASCAR races in 3-D anytime soon The NCAA Final Four in a few weeks will be presented by CBS in 3-D coverage for theatergoers. Fox has produced a 3-D Bowl Championship Series football game, and Major League Baseball's All-Star game will be in 3-D carried by DirecTV. ESPN presented the Ohio State-Southern California football game in 3-D and showed it in a handful of theaters and is expected to launch a 3-D channel soon. So could NASCAR end up in 3-D?
It's possible but there are several hurdles. Network executives from NASCAR's television partners have recently said they couldn't predict when there would be a 3-D production of a NASCAR race. The biggest hurdle is trying to get it to the fan base. Fox Sports Chairman David Hill wonders if enough NASCAR fans would have 3-D sets to be able to watch a 3-D production.
Why Moraes was announced so late by KV Racing Mario Moraes had to wait until the last minute to be announced as the third driver at KV Racing Technology because James Rossiter had legal ties to the team until Wednesday at midnight. When Rossiter couldn't produce financial backing, Moraes met team officials at the Sao Paulo airport Thursday morning. IndyStar.com
Sellout predicted for Brazil IndyCar race Indy-car racing's circus of horsepower has arrived in the land of Carnival, and the party begins with this morning's first practice. No one is sure how big this first-time festival is going to get as the Izod IndyCar Series makes its debut in Brazil, but the Brazilian drivers have an idea.
"A sellout," Helio Castroneves said Friday. "Every seat gone. All the suites filled."
Hamilton more 'relaxed' without father as manager (GMM) Lewis Hamilton has revealed it "feels good" to be standing on his own two feet as he kicks off his fourth season in formula one this weekend.
The 25-year-old has always been accompanied to races by his father, but after ending his managerial ties to Anthony Hamilton, the McLaren driver is also without his girlfriend or brother in the island Kingdom.
"It definitely feels different," he is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail, "but it feels good. I've probably had the most relaxed couple of days I've ever had."
When it was pointed out that teammate Jenson Button's father John is a constant presence in the paddock, Hamilton answered: "Yeah, but his dad's not his manager.
"The chemistry between those two is completely different. That's the chemistry I want," the Briton added.
Ferrari working on McLaren wing concept - Alonso (GMM) Ferrari's has been a conspicuously quiet voice in reaction to the controversy surrounding the rear wing design of the McLaren.
To the anger of some teams who believe the solution is illegal, the FIA this week showed a green light to the cars driven in Bahrain by Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
It is rumored an official protest may soon be lodged, but when asked if Ferrari is working on its own air inlet system, Fernando Alonso resoundingly told Spain's El Mundo: "Yes."
Red Bull's Christian Horner has also indicated that copying the system is a more likely action than a protest, while Williams' engineering boss Patrick Head told the Guardian that the FIA ruling is simply "a bloody nuisance".
Horner added: "As the FIA have looked at it and deemed it to be ok, it's therefore a clever design as opposed to illegal design. So inevitably now there will be a wild goose chase with all the teams chasing that loophole."
Fernando Alonso sent out a signal to the rest of the Formula One field this morning in Bahrain, that with a Ferrari at his disposal he aims to make life tough for the rest of the competitors this year. Alonso ran the fastest lap of the weekend so far, a 1m54.099s, in the final practice session before qualifying.
The top seven drivers were within one second of each other. Nico Rosberg was second quickest in his Mercedes, 0.269 seconds behind Alonso and he set the fastest first and second sector times.
Rosberg was followed by Mark Webber's Red Bull (0.401s), Michael Schumacher (0.434s) in the other Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel (0.547s) in his Red Bull. Felipe Massa (0.640s) in the Ferrari was sixth fastest, but he made a mistake on his final run and ran wide at turn 22.
France Family Group holds nearly 70% of ISC stock The France Family Group, which includes 46 entities ranging from members of the NASCAR-ruling France family to companies they operate, own 69.6% of the voting stock at International Speedway Corp., the company revealed in its annual proxy statement. A year ago, the group owned 68.9%. With the majority of the voting stock, the France Family Group controls the decisions of the company. ISC Chairman Jim France controls 44.9% of the voting stock (including his shares of the France Family Group) and his late brother Bill's widow, Betty Jane France, owns 20.7%. NASCAR Chairman Brian France (Jim's nephew), who was listed as controlling only 0.23% of the voting ISC stock last year, now owns 1.3%. Executive compensation also was revealed as part of the proxy statement. Chairman Jim France's compensation package was worth $554,608, compared with $1.08 million last year when he was chairman and chief executive officer. Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy's compensation package was worth $769,780, compared with $719,146 a year ago when she was the company president. The compensation package includes salary, bonus, incentives, perks, above-market returns on pay set aside for later and the value of stock options and restricted stock granted during the year. Scene Daily
IRL CEO poised to go on offensive Randy Bernard, the Indy Racing League's chief executive officer for all of 12 days, is spending this weekend in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Sunday he will attend his first IndyCar Series race.
In 1995, Bernard founded Professional Bull Riders Inc., which grew into a national phenomenon that spread to several countries. His charge with the IRL is to similarly spearhead growth.
Bernard's new challenges include improving television ratings, finding more revenue and settling a sport divided by a choice over the design of future cars while one of its few U.S.-born drivers -- Danica Patrick -- explores NASCAR.
Singha Beer increases sponsorship on Red Bull Racing Red Bull Racing has announced that Singha Beer, which has a team supplier for the past two years, has increased their sponsorship to become a team partner for this season. The Thailand based company's branding will now be seen on the cockpit area of the Red Bull RB6.
Boonrawd Srethaputra started the Boon Rawd Brewery in 1933, and with it's Singha brand was the first producer of beer in Thailand. The company expanded internationally in the 1970s, and is now sold in over 44 countries.
Sao Paulo mayor is biggest promoter of event São Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab is comfortable with multimedia members following him as he strolls through the Anhembi Sambodromo section of the racetrack that will play host to the season-opening IZOD IndyCar Series race.
He's only too happy to show off the facility that's been constructed in two months (the first form of the concrete barriers cast Jan. 15), to discuss the sense of pride felt by residents of South America's largest city in hosting the IZOD IndyCar Series and its seven Brazilian drivers, and to promote the city as a tourist destination.
"For the city, it is a privilege to hold the race here and we hope this is the first of many years that IndyCars come to São Paulo," Kassab said. "There is great satisfaction having this partnership (with the sanctioning Indy Racing League). There is wonderful public spirit for the race and pride for the country and São Paulo.
The team arrived to Sao Paulo Thursday morning after a red-eye from Miami. They were able to get a brief look at the track and unpack the race cars and equipment when the paddock opened at 12 noon local time. Today they were able to walk the majority of the facility as is customary for road/street venues and Formula Dream / Panasonic driver Hideki Mutoh had the following comments. “After coming from Chicago, it is very warm here! It was a good flight because I was able to sleep five or six hours from Miami to Brazil. The track is very interesting. There is a huge backstraight! I mean really long! It is longer than I expected for sure and I watched the simulation on YouTube 100 times. This will, for sure, be the fastest street course I have ever raced on. It is unbelievable. There will be some high speeds, especially in the race if you are behind someone and can slipstream and get a tow. There are also a lot of slow corners that will be tricky and the track will be bumpy and the concrete will be slippery. There is also a camber change at the slow corners at Turns 3 and 4. I think you will need a car with good traction and you have to be able to put the power down. There will be a lot to figure out with only one day of running before the race. It will be exciting for sure.”
IndyCar not connecting with minorities Many call open wheel racing the wine and cheese crowd. Perhaps they are right. Higher levels of interest in the Izod IndyCar Series tend to be among older, wealthier Caucasians, according to data from Scarborough Sports Marketing. Among respondents surveyed from August '08 through September '09, 38% of those who said they were either very, somewhat or a little bit interested in IndyCar were between the ages of 45-64, while 21.1% of those respondents said their households made more than $100,00 annually according to data from Scarborough Sports Marketing and Sports Business Daily.
Fernando Alonso says he has "no idea" who is on top because at least four teams have a shot at claiming pole position in Bahrain.
Four different outfits occupied the top six places at the Sakhir circuit on Friday morning while five featured in the top six later in the afternoon. However, only one, McLaren, was in the top six in both sessions.
The results have left Alonso, who is gearing up for his first grand prix as a Ferrari driver, wondering just which team is the one to beat.
"No idea. I think it's still a complete unknown for everybody," he told Autosport. "For sure the four big teams, any of them can be quick tomorrow, can be on pole.
"I'm sure there will be some surprises like Force India that it seems very quick in these type of circuits, and some negative surprises with some people that are not so quick.
"In our expectations we still hope to be in strong form in qualifying and hopefully get a good position for the race."
As for his own performance, the Spaniard finished second in the first session, 0.183 of the pace, but dropped to ninth in the second, 1.731 behind Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg.
"It was fine," said the double World Champ. "We tried to do some tire work to try to understand the two types of tires.
"It was the first day we ran the car in hot conditions so there were some things to evaluate and to make sure the car is running okay for Sunday. So a normal Friday to make sure we are well prepared for qualifying.
"More or less I think we are in a position to attack now 100 per cent. We are confident with the car. We need to make some changes overnight to improve the grip a bit. But it was a very normal Friday, with nothing wrong."
Gossage blogs on NASCAR's "Have at it boys" policy Eddie Gossage blogged about NASCAR's latest racing policy and rules in the aftermath of Carl Edwards track-rage incident:
“Have at it, boys.”
NASCAR said those words in a January press conference. While we knew it would change racing no one thought it would occur in such a spectacular manner in only the season’s fourth race.
Let me qualify right up front that I really like both Carl and Brad. Edwards is an incredible talent and one of the truly nice guys I’ve dealt with in my career in this sport. He will win NASCAR Sprint Cup titles and I’ll pay him my ultimate compliment – he’s old school.
And Keselowski is a sharp young guy who is a bit on the wild side, much as I remember a young Dale Earnhardt Sr. or a young Ernie Irvan. Those comparisons are high compliments. Brad and I text back and forth and I always offer him encouragement. He’s going to be huge and I’ll offer him the same compliment – he’s got some old school in him, too.
Remember…the old school way in NASCAR is to defend yourself. Sometimes it’s immediate; sometimes it’s on the track and sometimes off the track. It has been going on for decades. Both of these guys know and embrace “old school.”
After finding out that, fortunately, nobody was injured, thoughts immediately turned to – what else? – promotion. We’ve riled some people up over the years with some of our advertising. That’s typically a good thing, a very good thing in advertising and marketing.
But understanding the sensitivity of this terrifying accident and recognizing the potential injuries – or worse – that could have occurred, how do you use this incident in promotion without going over the line?
So I discussed and debated the issue with myself. I discussed and debated it with key people on the staff here at Texas Motor Speedway. (Yes, the staff debates me and they are very smart and in touch with the art of promotion. I hate “yes men.”) But I just wasn’t sure. In fact, I didn’t sleep good Monday night because I was still debating internally.
And then NASCAR made its ruling on further punishment for Edwards: three races on probation. No suspension. No points penalized. No fine.
They made the right call. But the call also reiterated, “Have at it boys.”
So my answer was easier. “You have to do it.” It’s one of the reasons the crowds at the NASCAR Sprint Cup races are among the top five all year long.
Our ad campaign is entitled, “Approved.” You have perhaps seen the ads and the billboards. A shot of Jimmie Johnson’s crumpled car with the headline, “Door Dings. Approved.” Or a shot of a wild-eyed Juan Pablo Montoya, headlined, “Road Rage. Approved.” Or a shot of Joey Logano’s car flipping over and over reading, “Tailgating. Approved.”
Who approved it? I don’t know. You? Me. Some other fan? Some other driver? That’s up to you to decide. We’re just causing the debate to take place.
So a shot of the infamous incident at Atlanta shows Edwards driving away as Keselowski’s car flips in the air. The headline reads, “Have at it, boys. Approved.”
Who approved it?
That’s the point: debate with amongst yourselves. Did Edwards approve it? Did Keselowski approve? How about NASCAR, by virtue of their light punishment? Other fans? Do you?
It’s a hot topic and that’s Promotion 101. I don’t want to offend either driver, but both of them eagerly pursued reaching the top level of American motorsports and along with it comes scrutiny. It comes with the territory.
The spotlight gets hot. Things happen. Welcome to the big leagues, boys!
I’d be negligent in my role as promoter to point out to you that the three-race suspension will take place at Bristol, Martinsville and Phoenix. The first race Edwards will run when the suspension is lifted?
NASCAR Atlanta TV ratingUPDATE The final Atlanta NASCAR Sprint Cup TV rating was a 5.3, down 2% from last year's 5.4 final rating, and down 17.2% from the 2008 final rating.
03/08/10 The overnight TV rating for Sunday's Kobalt 500 NASCAR Sprint Car race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on FOX was a 4.8, up slightly from last year's 4.7 overnight, but down 14.3% from the 5.6 overnight rating in 2008, also on FOX.
Also Frentzen, Wurz, to be F1 stewards in 2010UPDATE (GMM) As was previously reported, Johnny Herbert has agreed to be a formula one steward at a race or two later in 2010.
FIA president Jean Todt's initiative of installing an experienced former grand prix driver on the four-man stewards panel at each race is designed to speed up and add credibility to the rule-enforcing process.
Quadruple world champion Alain Prost is performing the duties at the 2010 championship opener, as the Frenchman was already at the Sakhir circuit for F1's 60th anniversary celebrations.
It emerges in Bahrain that, like three-time race winner Herbert, 1996 world champion Damon Hill will be a steward at two grands prix this season.
FIA sport president Graham Stoker confirmed that Hill, 49, will kick off his stewarding duty at Monaco.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Alex Wurz have also agreed to appear as stewards in 2010.
Rahal on Wind Tunnel Sunday The BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team is wrapping up its preparations for the 12 Hours of Sebring this week, as the team looks to get its American Le Mans Series campaign started with a strong performance in what is one of the world’s most prestigious sportscar events.
As part of the buildup to the highly-anticipated season opener, Rahal Letterman Racing co-owner and 1987 12 Hours of Sebring champion Bobby Rahal will appear Sunday on SPEED TV’s live racing show Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain to talk about the race and the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team’s outlook on the event.
Sebring fans get first look at Corvette Z06 Carbon Fiber edition
Corvette Z06 Carbon Edition
Chevrolet’s unveiling of its Corvette Z06 Carbon Limited Edition set off a firestorm of praise and adulation. Fans attending next week’s season-opening event for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n will be the first ones to get an up-close look as the latest version of America’s supercar makes its worldwide public debut.
The Z06 Carbon Limited Edition will be on display next Friday and Saturday in the Corvette Corral at Sebring International Raceway, site of the 58th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. The 2011 model continues Corvette’s tradition of track-to-street technology transfer.
More USA Today coverage for IndyCar Ed Note: USA Today seems to be making IRL coverage a regular element of its sports coverage now:
Look into the backgrounds of many American racers, and you'll likely discover many who spent part of their formative years competing in go-karts or quarter-midgets before deciding whether to pursue stock cars or open wheel as careers. That won't change, but the IRL hopes its Road to Indy developmental initiative will spur aspiring drivers to follow a defined path through open wheel, culminating with an appearance at storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Izod IndyCar Series.
Three Americans will race in Sunday's season-opening Sao Paulo Indy 300 in Brazil, all racing for Andretti Autosport: Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Graham Rahal will jump on board for the U.S. opener March 28 in St. Petersburg, Fla., but Rahal, who is subbing for Sarah Fisher, is scheduled for one more race as he seeks a regular ride. Fisher will race at Kansas Speedway in May.
France family owns nearly 70% of ISC stock The France Family Group, which includes 46 entities ranging from members of the NASCAR-ruling France family to companies they operate, own 69.6% of the voting stock at International Speedway Corp., the company revealed in its annual proxy statement. A year ago, the group owned 68.9%. With the majority of the voting stock, the France Family Group controls the decisions of the company. ISC Chairman Jim France controls 44.9% of the voting stock (including his shares of the France Family Group) and his late brother Bill's widow, Betty Jane France, owns 20.7%. NASCAR Chairman Brian France (Jim's nephew), who was listed as controlling only 0.23% of the voting ISC stock last year, now owns 1.3%. Executive compensation also was revealed as part of the proxy statement. Chairman Jim France's compensation package was worth $554,608, compared with $1.08 million last year when he was chairman and chief executive officer. Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy's compensation package was worth $769,780, compared with $719,146 a year ago when she was the company president. The compensation package includes salary, bonus, incentives, perks, above-market returns on pay set aside for later and the value of stock options and restricted stock granted during the year. Scene Daily
New IRL CEO set to go on the offensive Randy Bernard, the Indy Racing League's chief executive officer for all of 12 days, is spending this weekend in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Sunday he will attend his first IndyCar Series race.
In 1995, Bernard founded Professional Bull Riders Inc., which grew into a national phenomenon that spread to several countries. His charge with the IRL is to similarly spearhead growth.
Bernard's new challenges include improving television ratings, finding more revenue and settling a sport divided by a choice over the design of future cars while one of its few U.S.-born drivers -- Danica Patrick -- explores NASCAR.
Bernard, 43, discussed those issues and more with The Star this week:
Question: You lived and worked in Colorado and spent a lot of time traveling with PBR. Did people in your circle know much about IndyCar?
Answer: No, and that to me was very (revealing), not from the fact they should have known, but if you look at our demographic, it should be right up that alley. I had more people say, "Is that Formula One?" There's no true identity, and that's one of the things I had on my list (to accomplish).
Q: How can the IRL improve?
A: When you're going out with a message of how you're going to brand your entire series, it has to be very consistent, and I don't think we're doing a very good job, particularly from event to event. Each event has its own purpose right now, but that should be something we can clean up pretty quickly.
Q: Let's talk about TV. The IRL has five races this year on ABC and the other 12 on Versus, a cable channel that has barely half the reach of ESPN. Many call the 10-year Versus deal a mistake, especially now that Versus isn't on the DirecTV package. What are your thoughts on that?
A: It was a smart move (to sign with Versus). Comcast, which owns Versus, is the No. 1 cable provider in the United States. It has a huge cash flow and everyone knew they were going to buy a (TV) network. They tried to buy Disney, and it was just a matter of time before (CEO) Brian Roberts (bought 51 percent of NBC). Now we just have to wait until the merger (is approved).
Q: League officials have spent the past year making significant cuts to a budget that long has been in the red. You said the financial numbers were "pretty much what I expected." Are there more cuts that can be made?
A: I don't believe you win wars on defense; you have to be on offense. We have to bring in more sponsorship and more revenue. Sponsorships are part of it and sanctioning fees are part of it, but you're not going to build either one of those if you can't get your TV (ratings) and you can't get your stars (built). It's a pretty vicious circle.
Q: How could that affect IndyCar?
A: I'm optimistic there's going to be some network programming (of IndyCar) on NBC as well as on Versus.
Q: Comcast's acquisition could take a year or more. What about the interim, particularly as it relates to DirecTV?
A: First and foremost, we've got to get DirecTV. As of Jan. 1 there's a new CEO, so I'm more optimistic today than I was in December.
Q: A couple of other issues: How important is it to you to get more U.S. drivers in IndyCar?
A: If you read the blogs, I think it's (on) so many people's minds. The thing that's more important is, do we have the best drivers in the world? The concern is, "Are people buying their way into these cars?" Are they really the best drivers in the world? If American drivers are the best drivers in the world, they should be in IndyCar. If they're Brazilians, same thing.
Q: If the sport is split on the car choice for 2012, as it appears it is, do you feel comfortable casting the deciding vote?
A: I will be one step away from the experts that will actually make the decision. My job is to make sure there is a solid reasoning on why.
Q: Is it advantageous to be the new guy at this point?
A: The biggest advantage is there is no politics. If you ask the 45th bull rider in the world (if) I treated him the same as the No. 1 bull rider, I guarantee you everyone would tell you I treated them fair. I will do the same here. If you're a team owner, a driver or a sponsor, it's my job solely to build the league. I need to do whatever I can to make sure that's my No. 1 goal. Indianapolis Star
Nico Rosberg led the way in Friday afternoon practice at Sakhir, as Mercedes-powered cars filled the top four in the Bahrain GP's second official session.
The two works Mercedes entries were first and third with Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button with Mercedes power were second and fourth.
Hamilton's best lap was 0.4s slower than Rosberg's, and the former world champion reported severe tire wear after just a handful of laps on the harder rubber early on. Schumacher was half a second off his teammate's pace in third, and 0.2s ahead of Button.
The ninety-minute morning session gave drivers the opportunity to try out the revised circuit layout with its eight new corners for the first time as they completed initial installation and set-up work on their cars.
GP2 cars on Senna's pace (GMM) Commentators for GP2 qualifying in Bahrain on Saturday were keeping a close eye on the lap time 2m7s.
The reason was that the junior racers were tantalizingly close to eclipsing the best time set by F1 rookie Bruno Senna in the second Friday practice session.
Before a mechanical problem ended his shakedown in the HRT, whose Italian constructor Dallara also makes the GP2 cars, he was circulating an immense 12 seconds off the pace -- 5 seconds behind the next-slowest Virgin cars.
There are rumors that F1 will soon revive the 107 per cent qualifying rule, in which case the new Spanish team could be in trouble.
Senna's rookie teammate Karun Chandhok failed to make it onto the track at all throughout Friday's 180 minutes of practice.
"We can't seem to get the clutch and gearbox working the right way," said the Indian.
Q&A with Tony Fernandes, Lotus Team Principal Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for Lotus Racing?
A: Tomorrow, 13 March 2010, will be 6 months exactly since Lotus Racing got a slot in the F1. We’ve got 3 great drivers. I think the proudest thing is that even the Americans (USF1) didn’t get to the grid despite starting 3 months before us. It’s a great day for Malaysia that we can actually be on the grid and in a few hours the first practice will start.
For Kamarudin (Dato’ Sri Kamarudin Meranun, Deputy Team Principal) and me, the last 8 years have been non-stop excitement in building AirAsia. But Lotus Racing is something else; to be up there on Saturday qualifying with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Red Bull – teams that have been around for a long time. It’s fantastic to be able to have the Malaysian flag on the car and hopefully one day the Malaysian national anthem “Negaraku” will be played at the race. We hope all Malaysians are proud of this.
Conquest team announces new sponsors Conquest Racing is pleased to announce its new partnership with leading guarana soft drink provider, Dolly, for this weekend’s race in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Dolly has been a successful major sponsor within Brazilian motorsport series for many years, finding great success during their previous three seasons in Brazilian Stock Cars. This weekend’s IZOD IndyCar season opening event marks Dolly’s entrance into international open-wheel racing, with Sao Paulo native Mario Romancini behind the wheel of the #34 Dolly Conquest Racing car.
Team owner Eric Bachelart had to say about the partnership: “I am extremely pleased to announce our association with Dolly this weekend. Dolly has become known among the top levels of motorsport here in Brazil and we are very proud to represent such a great brand with our Brazilian driver Mario Romancini. We are looking forward to working closely together on this very special first appearance of the IZOD IndyCar series in Sao Paulo. Brazilian culture has a strong presence in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and we could not be more happy to have Mario and the Conquest Team presenting Dolly to all the IndyCar fans.”
Briatore rules out F1 return (GMM) Flavio Briatore on Friday ruled out returning to formula one.
The 59-year-old Italian said the FIA is pushing ahead with appealing a French court's overturning of his lifetime motor racing ban, in the wake of the 'crashgate' scandal.
But when asked about possibly returning to F1 as a manager or a team owner, the former Renault team boss told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "I exclude it 100 per cent.
"I still have affection for F1 even if it would have been better to have left at the end of 2006 when Alonso won his second title."
Earlier this week, Briatore said he missed some aspects of his former involvement in the sport, but not F1 itself.
He also confirmed that he stepped down as chairman of the London football club Queens Park Rangers in order to spare the Football Association the "embarrassment" of being linked to the Singapore race-fixing story.
Robby Gordon running SCORE race this weekend During a rare off-weekend in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, Robby Gordon will spend his time racing across Mexico's Baja Peninsula as a part of the Tecate SCORE International Off-Road Series. As a two-time class winner, Gordon hopes to improve on his 2009 second-place finish and to bring home a victory for the Monster Energy / Toyo Tires team. This year, Gordon will pilot the #1 Monster Energy / Toyo Tires Chevy CK1500 Trophy Truck in the 24th Annual MasterCraft Safety Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 this weekend. Gordon will race in a field of approximately 275 competitors from nearly ten different countries and 25 states. The race will take place over a narrow 248-mile loop that extends north of San Felipe and then south adjacent to the Sea of Cortez. The extreme course requires drivers to cross three of the most picturesque and challenging washes in Baja, as well as canyons filled with silt, jagged rocks and narrow passes between rock walls. Throughout the event, drivers will need to pass through four physical checkpoint locations before making their way across the finish line at the famed San Felipe Arches. Robby Gordon PR
Another layoff at Indy Jeff Schroeder, the golf professional at the Speedway's Brickyard Crossing course, was recently released in a surprising cost-cutting move. Schroeder had been associated with the golf course most of his life; his father, Rollie, was the longtime pro at the course. . . . IMS had planned to outsource its food and beverage division along with the golf course, but those plans have been scrapped for now. The food and beverage plan had been in the works for more than a year, an initiative of former track president Joie Chitwood, who left after last year's Brickyard 400. Indy Star
Adrian Sutil set the fastest time in the first free practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix for Force India. The time may be irrelevant, however, since the session was more an exercise in cleaning and rubbering in the track surface.
The German edged double world champion and pre-season favorite Fernando by just 0.183s.
Robert Kubica provided another surprise by going third fastest for Renault, 0.458s back from Sutil, and less than three tenths faster than Felipe Massa's second Ferrari.
The McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were next up.
Vitantonio Liuzzi proved the pace of the Force India in seventh ahead of Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber and the returning Michael Schumacher - who was more than 0.4s slower than Rosberg, his Mercedes teammate.
Ecclestone says Rome will not replace Monza (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has given his personal assurance that Rome is not set to replace historic Monza on the formula one calendar.
"Don't worry: the grand prix of Italy is staying at Monza," Enrico Gelpi, president of the Italian sanctioning body ACI, is quoted as saying by Il Messaggero.
Gelpi sought out Ecclestone, the F1 chief executive, at the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Bahrain on Thursday.
His informal meeting followed news that Ecclestone, 79, is set to add a Rome street race to the calendar in 2013, with the Italian capital rumored to be willing to pay significantly more than Monza for the hosting rights.
"Ecclestone's assurance, as we have repeatedly confirmed, is that there has never existed the possibility to separate Monza from the Italian grand prix," said Gelpi.
Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno said: "Ecclestone's clarification confirms what we have said for some time. There is no competition between the two races (Monza and Rome)."
ISC execs living high on the hog Revenues and profits may have fallen in '09 at International Speedway Corp., but the pay of top execs did not, according to the company’s proxy released today.
ISC Vice Chair & CEO Lesa France Kennedy earned $874,234, a 14% increase from '08, and the proxy noted she received 60% of her targeted bonus amount. Her bonus was $58,703. ISC Chair James France was the only one of the top five paid execs to see pay decline. His pay dropped to $728,780 from $1.04M. ISC President John Saunders received $664,446, up 4% from '08, while Exec VP & COO Roger VanDerSnick received $559,204, up 10%. ISC CFO Daniel Houser earned $378,836. His pay for ‘08, which encompassed 11 months as he started employment February 1, was $362,559.
“In determining Ms. Kennedy’s base salary compensation for 2009, the compensation committee considered the performance of the company in fiscal 2008, the general trends of company performance over the prior several years, outcomes related to growth and development activities and strategic initiatives, market conditions, as well as the responsibilities of the position and her strategic value to the Company,” the proxy said. Similar standards were used for the other execs’ compensation. Sports Business Daily
Ecclestone calls for 'more sensible' team selections Bernie Ecclestone believes that he has no reason to hide the fact that he tried his best to ensure the Stefan GP team made the grid this year, with the full knowledge that US F1 would not be able to race. The F1 commercial rights holder would be pleased to see 'more sensible' decisions made in the future. With US F1 signed up to compete but behind on its car development, Serbian hopefuls Stefan were in position to step in this weekend, having purchased several ex Toyota cars and components.
"It was difficult because the other people (US F1) had an entry and kept saying that they were going to be here, that there is no problem and everything is fine," Ecclestone explained to the official F1 website. "As they had an entry, we couldn't say, 'Sorry, we don't believe you.' I said that and got a lot of criticism - I said that, and it turned out to be the truth.
"Unfortunately it was not possible to get Stefan GP in at the last minute. You need to do such things a bit more sensibly."
Renault announces HP as sponsor The Renault team announced technology brand Hewlett Packard as the team's latest sponsor on Thursday, with its 'HP' logos set to appear on the team's R30 this season. Building from a successful technology relationship initiated in 2009, the new sponsorship agreement has three goals: to strengthen technology cooperation between the two companies, to promote their shared values of innovation, excellence and competition and to increase HP brand awareness and customer engagement in developing markets. As part of the agreement, Renault F1 Team will gain access to HP technology in order to further boost on-track performance, develop more powerful digital simulation technologies using HP High Performance Computing servers, and gain access to innovative market-leading tools such as the High Definition HP SkyRoom videoconferencing system.
HP will also work with the team to reduce its carbon footprint through the use of 'green' data centers, and 90% recyclable, low-energy-consumption workstations.
"We are delighted to welcome a global leader of the stature of HP to our partner network," commented Renault F1 Team Chairman Gérard Lopez. "F1 has a proven ability to boost brand awareness around the world, and we are proud that Renault F1 Team will be HP's partner of choice in achieving this goal.
"Genii Capital believes that F1 can also be used as a very powerful business development platform. We hope that HP can develop new business opportunities through Genii Capital's B2B platform and Mangrove Capital's access to exciting technology opportunities."
KV Racing Technology announced today that Mario Moraes will drive for the team during the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season. He will pilot the #32 Banco Panamericano – KV Racing Technology Honda/Dallara/Firestone car at this weekend’s season opening Saõ Paulo Indy 300, March 13-14, on the streets of Saõ Paulo, Brazil.
“We are very pleased to have Mario back in the seat with KVRT,” said General Manager Mark Johnson. “Mario showed last season he can be very competitive and is in the process of becoming one of the top talents in the series. He has grown and matured on and off the race track over the last year due in part to the support of his family and the many positive influences in his life. Mario finished the 2009 season with very strong results and I would expect more of the same starting this weekend in Saõ Paulo.”
Ecclestone blames USF1 for Stefan's entry failure (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone on Thursday pointed the finger at USF1, after Stefan GP failed to achieve an official entry to race in 2010.
Stefan, the Serbian outfit headed by Zoran Stefanovich, prepared the departed Toyota's 2010 package and even sent equipment to Bahrain in the hope of taking up one of the 13 sanctioned team places.
The American squad USF1 has failed to show in Bahrain for this weekend's season opener, and the governing FIA on Thursday suggested a penalty could now be levied against the absent directors Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson.
An FIA spokesman would not comment on what type of sanction might apply, but the World Motor Sport Council indicated that for 2011 a "reserve entry" will be lined up in the event of a late team failure.
FIA F1 happenings - India race confirmed Bernie Ecclestone, President of FOM, has informed the FIA that India will host a Formula One event in 2011.”
Michael Schumacher has been appointed as Drivers’ Representative for the Circuits Commission, and Karun Chandhok has – on the eve of his debut – has been granted a Superlicense.
The FIA has also decided to rotate its December meetings and prize giving ceremony to different locales. This year’s will still be held in Monaco but Dr Vijay Mallya has volunteered India as a possible host for 2011, although no decision has been taken.
Nigel Moore joins Formula Palmer Audi Successful Ginetta driver Nigel Moore is set to make his single seater debut this season after his participation in the 2010 Formula Palmer Audi Championship was confirmed today (11/03).
18-year-old Nigel has already notched up an impressive list of racing achievements. He won the Ginetta Junior Cup in 2007, the Ginetta G50 Championship in 2008 and became the youngest ever British driver to compete at Le Mans in 2009 when he raced the Ginetta-Zytek LMP1 car.
De la Rosa plays down tire performance reports (GMM) Pedro de la Rosa has backed his boss in playing down reports the 2010 Sauber car could be set to be a dark horse in 2010.
Although often impressive in the February tests, it was previously not thought the Ferrari-powered C29 would be good enough to trouble the top four teams this year.
But a Bridgestone official said earlier this week that the Sauber has proved better than all its rivals in terms of looking after its tires on long runs, which given the refueling ban could prove a significant strategic advantage.
Team boss and founder Peter Sauber said: "I've said it many times: interpreting the results of testing is like reading tea leaves. After all these years I have become quite cautious."
Green light for McLaren's controversial wing (GMM) McLaren's 2010 car, including its controversial rear wing design, has been given the green light by FIA officials in Bahrain on Thursday.
At least two teams, Red Bull and Ferrari, had asked the governing body to issue a clarification about the British team's rules interpretation, with the wing design believed to give Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton a 6kph straight line advantage.
The FIA's Charlie Whiting had intended to check the innovation at McLaren's Woking headquarters last week, but after flight delays from Brazil opted instead to leave the inspection until the day of scrutineering for the season opener.
It is believed McLaren's system involves an air inlet on the upper left monocoque top, which is opened and closed by a trigger activated by the drivers' knee.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport quoted an FIA official as describing it as a "simple but brilliant trick".
Senna's HRT car fired up in Bahrain garage (GMM) After the garage doors stayed closed all day Wednesday, the Cosworth engine in the back of the HRT car marked 'Bruno Senna' barked into life in the Bahrain pitlane on Thursday.
In perfect weather conditions at the Sakhir circuit, mechanics were also busily preparing the other single seater, destined to accommodate Karun Chandhok, ahead of the Friday free practice 'shakedown'.
The news follows rumors that the cars had not yet arrived in the island Kingdom from Europe, after the former Campos team's last minute scrabble to be ready for the 2010 season.
But while the performance of the Spanish team's Dallara-designed car for now remains a mystery, Mercedes reserve driver Nick Heidfeld tipped Lotus to be ahead of F1's third new team this weekend.
Speedway Motorsports shows huge profits made on backs of race fans Speedway Motorsports Inc.'s overall revenue declined by 9.9% in 2009, including a 13.3% drop in ticket revenue, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Speedway Motorsports Inc., finished 2009 with a balance sheet showing a $10.3 million loss, while its income from continuing operations was $74.9 million, down 28.2 percent from $104.3 million last year, according to the filing. Part of the difference comes from a $74.5 million devaluation of Motorsports Authentics, the struggling merchandise company that SMI co-owns with rival International Speedway Corp. Both companies now consider Motorsports Authentics to have no carrying value. For 2009, overall revenues dropped from $611 million to $550.5 million. Admissions revenue dropped from $188 million to $163.1 million. Event-related revenues (sponsorships, concessions, merchandise, etc.) dropped 15.5%, from $211.6 million to $178.8 million, and broadcast revenue increased 3.3 percent, from $168.2 million to $173.8 million. SMI's 2010 forecast is for the economic struggles to continue as it projects overall revenues to drop to $500-$533 million and for its diluted earnings per share from continuing operations to be $1.00-$1.40 after it was $1.66 in 2009 and $2.40 in 2010. Scene Daily
Sprint Pit Crew Challenge tickets on sale March 13 Tickets for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman, featuring a fan-friendly, pit-crew competition between the top-24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pit crews, are on sale March 13. Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased online at www.pitcrewchallenge.com or by calling the Time Warner Cable Arena box office at (800) 495-2295. The NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge is scheduled for Wednesday, May 19 at 7 p.m. ET at Time Warner Cable Arena and will air on SPEED at 9 p.m. that evening. Now in its sixth year, the competition precedes NASCAR Rev'd Up, a NASCAR-themed festival held in Charlotte, N.C. on May 20, and is a signature lead-in event to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Saturday, May 22 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Aspire PR
LG links up with Cosworth LG, the official Technology Partner of Formula 1, has increased its commitment to the sport by moving into a partnership with Cosworth. The Northampton-based company returns to F1 this year following a break of three years and in doing so partners the Williams , Lotus, Hispania and Virgin teams. Having been a Global Partner of F1 since last year, LG holds exclusive marketing rights in the sport for Official Consumer Electronics plus the Mobile Phone, Data Processor and Flat TV of Formula One.
The LG-Cosworth partnership will see the engine manufacturer which first won a Grand Prix with Jim Clark in 1967 be supplied with LG devices such as high definition LCD televisions and projectors, DVD recorders and laptops to be used both at base and on location at races.
By order of Timothy Bramston FCA for A1 Grand Prix Operations Ltd (in Administration) and Tony Murphy FCA for A1 Holdings Ltd (in Liquidation).
A1GP founded in 2004 is a single manufacturer, open wheel Grand Prix formula racing series ratified by the FIA. The series was nation-based and included high profile drivers such as Nelson Piquet Jr., Vitantonio Liuzzi and Sébastien Buemi, who also raced in Formula One.
The Administrator and Liquidator are together offering for sale the assets of A1 Grand Prix known as the World Cup of Motorsport, which includes the latest Ferrari engined single seat race cars (2008), the earlier Lola-Zytek cars (2005) and all the support equipment, including the Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT Semi-Auto 4 Door and Ferrari 599GTB Semi-Auto Coupe track safety cars.
12 Hours of Sebring: Peugeot on the Le Mans trail For the third year running, Team Peugeot Total will be travelling to the United States to use the punishing 12 Hours of Sebring as part of its preparations for its main objective in 2010: a repeat of last June's win in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The American classic provided an exciting, drama-packed show in 2009 when the Peugeots and Audis were never split by more than a handful of seconds. With three hours remaining, the N°8 908 HDi FAP was challenging hard for the lead when it was forced to pit after picking up a slow puncture. When the checkered flag came down, it missed out on first place by a mere 22 seconds… after 12 hours of racing! This year, Audis has chosen not to attend the event, but the new regulations promise to make the petrol – powered cars – including the Aston Martins – a far more competitive threat.
Webber groans after seeing longer Bahrain layout (GMM) Mark Webber groaned after taking in Bahrain's revised layout on Wednesday.
Like Fernando Alonso who cycled the new 900 meter section on a mountain bike - and Heikki Kovalainen, Robert Kubica, Lucas di Resta and Robert Kubica who sampled it on foot - the drivers were keen to discover if it added a new challenge to the venue of the 2010 season opener.
"Nothing but tight corners," Australian Webber concluded. "Accelerate, brake, accelerate, brake ..."
His Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel admitted: "I would have preferred a couple of fast corners."
But track designer Hermann Tilke is not taking the blame for the extra eight bends.
"This loop has been around for years. It was designed for long distance races to accommodate more cars," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
It is believed the longer layout will bring the average lap time close to 2 minutes, which will exaggerate the expected gap between the fastest and slowest cars.
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