F1 Business Diary 2016: the United States Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton cut the Championship deficit to Nico Rosberg as he stormed to victory.

Lewis Hamilton cut the Championship deficit to Nico Rosberg as he stormed to an easy victory in the United States Grand Prix. Hamilton’s first win since Germany sees him sit 26 points behind Rosberg with just three races remaining. There are 75 points available across those races, but with Rosberg finishing second, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, the German remains favourite for the title. But as ever, there was just as much action off the track as there was on it.

Ecclestone’s marketing moans?

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has defended his much-criticised comments that Brit Lewis Hamilton would make a better winner of the 2016 World Championship than German Nico Rosberg, claiming that there is simply “nothing to write about” Rosberg.

As ever, Bernie’s eyes are fixed solely on the marketing potential of the enigmatic Hamilton sweeping home his third title in as many years. But despite the seemingly scathing nature of Ecclestone’s comments, put in context they might hold some truth.

“I have nothing against Nico,” he said. “He’s an excellent driver and would be a worth champion, but you just have to look at the job that Lewis does outside of the track.

“He carries the Formula One brand everywhere in the world, and for Formula one and for as a promoter, there is no greater ambassador for the sport.”

The entire 2016 World Championship has been a two horse race, and the sport is crying out for personalities at its top level. Some may call his words harsh, but after all, as he keeps reminding everyone, Ecclestone only ever wants the best for the sport.

If Rosberg is to take home the Championship, as is looking increasingly likely, he will have to step up his personal presence off the track. With new American owners to appease, and marketing central to their ideas, there is certainly the worry that he won’t make the grade.

 

Andretti against electric

Few can dispute 76-year old Mario Andretti’s status as a legend of motorsport, and there aren’t many whose word is held in as high regard.

It is for this reason that Formula One bosses must have breathed a sigh of relief to hear him sing the praises of the sport, particularly in opposition to the ever growing world of Formula E.

Mario’s son, Michael, who also raced in Formula One, now runs a Formula E team, but Mario has declared that he is no fan of the all-electric series.

“Frankly, it does not interest me,” he told Austrian newspaper Kurier.

“There is something about it that doesn’t feel right, and I hope it is not the future of motor sports.”

Formula E, set to enter its third edition in 2017, has been growing rapidly in recent months, and in the past month alone has secured a New York-based race as well as a major team sponsorship agreements with BMW, Panasonic and Hewlett Packard.

But even Michael Andretti himself, owner of a Formula E team, claims that Formula One still rules the roost.

“It’s so fun to watch the races,” he said.

“I think we are witnessing one of the best generations of driver in the history of Formula One. I wouldn’t get up every time in the middle of the night otherwise.”

As Formula E continues to grow, however, it is sure to have some Formula One executives worried. The boost from Andretti will be welcomed by many, but others will be desperately hoping that more will follow.

 

Bosses speak out on over-regulation

Over-regulation has been a bubbling issue in Formula One for a number of seasons now, with many fans and pundits alike expressing their fears that the sport is becoming complicated beyond recognition. And it appears now that that very fear has now spread to team bosses.

During the drivers briefing in Austin, a number of experienced stars criticised Max Verstappen’s perceived aggression and asked for a rule prohibiting changes of direction under braking.

The FIA’s Charlie Whiting responded swiftly to the recommendations, claiming that direction changes under braking would now be referred to the stewards, much to the appeasement of the drivers. But team bosses Christian Horner and Toto Wolff both claim this could by a symptom of a wider problem in the sport.

“It is important that there is clarity,” said Horner in Auto Motor und Sport.

“But we should take care not to over regulate the sporting side. There are now four different rules for overtaking, which is clearly too much.”

And Wolff added: “We can invent another 200 rules but the danger is that the racing just becomes more complicated.

“If the stewards intervene only when a driver has to take evasive action, then what we will see in the future is many evasive manoeuvres,” he warned.

With such swift action, it is a worry that the sport has developed a culture of regulation, one that it may find tricky to break out from.

With unhappiness brewing, and with team bosses now making their voices heard, it may not be long until over-regulation becomes a major issue in Formula One.

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