Vettel: Sorry for swearing, don't be sensitive
AUSTIN, Texas -- Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel says he's sorry about the fuss about his swearing. He also says don't be so sensitive.
Vettel, the championship points leaders with two races to go, is seeking his third consecutive Formula One title this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Vettel caused a stir last week after the race in Abu Dhabi when he and winner Kimi Raikkonen cursed during live television interviews.
Formula One officials sent a letter to the teams reminding them that such language "has no place" during media events and brings bad publicity to world's most popular motorsport series.
Formula One may be trying to appease an American viewers who are often sensitive about profanity on television and broadcasters who could be fined by federal regulators. In NASCAR, drivers can be fined or lose points for swearing in live interviews.
"I think if you are sensitive you should watch, I don't know, some kids' program," Vettel said Thursday. "You have the remote control in your hand, so you can choose."
Vettel said his swearing was unintentional, adding, "I think it's a bit unnecessary to create such a big fuss. But anyway, if I said some things that weren't appreciated, I apologize."
Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone didn't seem concerned about the drivers' behavior.
"The language drivers use is passive compared to what you hear on TV or in general," Ecclestone told The Associated Press.
Ecclestone also noted that Vettel, who is German, was not speaking in his native language.
"And the language he used is probably the language he uses all the time with the team. That's how it is," Ecclestone said.
THE FINAL FRONTIER: The U.S. Grand Prix hasn't made its first Texas race yet and Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone is looking for ways to expand in a country where it has struggled in the past.
Ecclestone said he still hopes Formula One can stage a race in New York-New Jersey in 2014 and even mentioned Los Angeles as a possible race site in the future.
Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix in Austin is Formula One's first race on American soil since 2007. Another race, the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey, which was to run on a street course set against the Manhattan skyline, was originally scheduled for June 2013. That race was postponed last month for at least a year.
"We're trying to get something sorted out in New Jersey-New York. Maybe we can do something in (Los Angeles) in the future," Ecclestone said. "I'm hoping we can resurrect (New York-New Jersey) in 2014."
As for the event in Austin, Ecclestone said he's excited about the race and the $400 million track built to host it. Formula One has a 10-year contract with the Circuit of the Americas to see if it can succeed. Ecclestone noted the commercial importance of creating a permanent presence in the U.S.
"It's a good market for everybody. It's Ferraris', I think, biggest market now," Ecclestone said.
Why the sport has struggled in the U.S. is a mystery, Ecclestone said.
"We've had good crowds in the past," he said, noting races in Long Beach, Calif., in the 1970s and `80s, and Watkins Glen, N.Y. from 1961-1980. The U.S. Grand Prix also drew large crowds at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 2000-2007.
The rise of an American driver who could win races and maybe even challenge for a world championship would help grow the sport, Ecclestone said. But even that can't guarantee success.
Ecclestone said in the 1970s, an American television network executive told him that if the U.S. produced a world champion, they would pay Formula One $5 million for broadcast rights.
"In those days, that was quite a decent price. When Mario (Andretti) won the championship (1978) I rang him and said "Do you want the bank particulars?' Nothing particularly happened," Ecclestone said. "What we need is some support from American companies to support an American driver and make sure it's a good team."
NO REGRETS: Despite what his current team boss says, Lewis Hamilton is very happy about his decision to leave McLaren for Formula One rival Mercedes after this season.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh recently said he believes Hamilton rushed into his decision after retiring from the Sept. 23 Singapore Grand Prix with gearbox problem, and will regret the decision to end his 14-year relationship with the team. Mercedes has won one race in three seasons.
Hamilton said he was surprised by Whitmarsh's comments but has no regrets about leaving.
"It's clearly absolutely not the case," said Hamilton, who the 2008 world championship and started at Abu Dhabi in pole position.
"I've got a great team and I've been with them such a long time. So I'm sure everyone has emotions within the team, but I'm still here giving 100 percent to them for the last two races," Hamilton said.
"Of course it's quite emotional for me, but I'm very, very happy with the decision I've made."
SAFETY FIRST: Spanish team HRT driver Pedro de la Rosa denied reports that the team's financial troubles have left it without spare parts for the cars and they won't be safe to race. The team has been put up for sale.
De la Rosa said he hadn't heard reports about dangerous cars until asked about them in the drivers' news conference.
"All I can say is that we might be modest, we are small and we are what we are. But we are a professional Formula One team and for sure when we start running it's because the car is safe," de la Rosa said. "I'm experienced enough .... you know, I would never jump into an unsafe car because of parts being too old. So no, the answer is the car is slow but it's safe."
NBC BROADCAST TEAM: Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), David Hobbs (analyst) and Steve Matchett (analyst) will be the new broadcast team for the NBC Sports Group's Formula One coverage in 2013, the network announced.
Diffey, Hobbs and Matchett have worked together for several years covering Formula One for the cable channel Speed. Diffey has called Formula One races in the U.S. and internationally. Hobbs is a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame and a veteran racing commentator of 30 years. Matchett is a former Formula One mechanic. The pit reporter has not been named.
"We are privileged to add not one, not two, but three experienced and respected voices to our Formula One coverage," said Sam Flood, Executive Producer, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. "Leigh, David and Steve are all gifted storytellers, who live and breathe F1."
NBC Sports Group announced last month a four-year deal with Formula One for the exclusive U.S. media rights, which will provide over 100 hours of programming across NBC and cable channel NBC Sports Network. The contract ends Speed's 17-year run as Formula One's U.S. rights holder.
Diffey will also call IndyCar races on NBC Sports Network, replacing Bob Jenkins who retired this year. The rest of the IndyCar broadcasting crew will not be changed.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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