F1 Business Diary 2015: the Brazilian Grand Prix

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg claimed victory ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton at the Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the 2015 Formula One season.

The Brazilian Grand Prix returned to the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace at Interlagos, the permanent home of the Brazilian race since 1990. Recently crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton has already succeeded in emulating his hero, Ayrton Senna, by claiming a third title following his victory in the United States Grand Prix and the Brit was desperate to win in Brazil for the first time to pay homage to the Brazilian legend who took eight attempts to win in São Paulo. In a race that lacked the thrills and drama normally produced at the famous Interlagos circuit, Hamilton had to settle for second place as his Mercedes teammate, the German Nico Rosberg put in a faultless display as he led from start to finish.

And while Hamilton will have to wait another year for his “salute” to his boyhood hero, it was another driver, the 18-year-old Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen who earned comparisons to F1 greats Senna and Michael Schumacher from BBC F1 pundits David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan following a pair of impressive overtakes during the race.

The win was Rosberg’s second in succession at Interlagos and his fifth of the 2015 season, securing the German driver second place in the drivers’ championship as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel could only finish in third. Calls from Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, who share between them seven of the past eight drivers’ championships, to overhaul F1 cars’ aerodynamics in order to make it easier to follow closely behind, and ultimately overtake one another rung out after the race. “I had good pace, it's just you can't overtake here,” reeled Hamilton, who was involved in a car accident in Monaco and succumbed to a fever in the build-up to the race, but was ultimately cleared to take part.

Vettel said: “In general what we need to follow another car closer in medium speed, high speed, slow speed corners is more mechanical grip. So shift the percentage between aero-mechanical more towards more mechanical.” But both he and Hamilton raised doubts that driver’s demands would be listened to by those with the power to act at the top of the sport.

Meanwhile, race stewards chose to exclude Williams Martini Racing’s Felipe Massa from the results after his right-rear tyre was found to contravene the FIA’s temperature and pressure limits shortly before the start, denying him his eighth-place finish at his home race.

Doubts over COTA

Just a matter of weeks after its fourth successive hosting of the United States Grand Prix, the ability of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas to host future editions was thrown into doubt after Texan government officials announced cuts to the funding of the race moving forward.

A US250 million ten-year agreement from 2012 was signed with the track and the state government for Texas had contributed US$25 million towards the Grands Prix in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but the payment for this year’s race was US$19.5 million – a decrease of 20 per cent.

“To use a technical term, I think we're screwed,” Bobby Epstein, the COTA founder and chairman told the Austin American-Statesman.

“The state clearly made promises. I think we made a deal, and we lived up to our end of the deal. It's like if you go to a restaurant and order a dinner, and then after you've eaten the meal, they change the price.”

“An entire facility was constructed based on that deal,” COTA spokesman Dave Shaw added. “If the calculation changes now, that's effectively changed the terms of the deal.”

The cut in contributions follows a Texas state government review which has concluded that Formula One doesn't generate enough money.

Bernie Ecclestone has since admitted that the future of the race is uncertain if no additional funding can be found by the purpose-built track. “If it's changed, it's going to be difficult to continue the race in Austin,” Ecclestone said.

However, organisers have said that the Grand Prix has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in positive economic impact and stressed they are “hopeful Formula One will continue to race here.”

Red Bull to race

Months of speculation over the future involvement of Red Bull in Formula One appear to have been put to bed at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The team were reported to be ready to end its agreement with engine supplier Renault over poor performance, with Red Bull currently sitting fourth in the constructor’s championship with just three podiums all season.

Back in June, Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz threatened to quit the sport entirely, saying the team was losing its “will and motivation” to continue in Formula One due to their engine issues.

Despite these threats, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner confirmed during practice in Brazil that the team have lodged its entry to compete in 2016.

“We've entered the world championship so as long as we sort our engine predicament out, absolutely we'll be there next year,” Horner told Sky Sports.

The team have yet to announce an engine deal, but a renewal with existing suppliers Renault currently appears the most likely outcome as no other alternative has been agreed.

Wolff walks away

Meanwhile, in early November Williams test driver Susie Wolff revealed she will depart Formula One following the conclusion of the season.

The Scot made her debut for Williams during a practice session at the British Grand Prix in 2014, becoming the first female to take part in a Grand Prix weekend for more than 20 years.

However, in announcing her retirement from competitive motorsport, Wolff expressed her disappointment at having failed to secure a place on the starting grid since she joined Williams in 2012 after racing in the German Touring Car Championship.

“I can only tell you, I gave it my all. Do I think F1 is ready for a competitive female racing driver who can perform at the highest level? Yes. Do I think it is achievable as a woman? Most definitely. Do I think it will happen soon? Sadly no.”

The racing now heads to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit for the 2015 Formula One season finale on 29th November.

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