If Bernie Ecclestone gets his way (and how often does that not happen?) five Formula 1 Grands Prix will be held under floodlights by 2010 – which by then will probably be a quarter of the calendar.
It’s an ambitious target given that the first F1 night Grand Prix at Singapore hasn’t even been held yet.
Ecclestone has already demanded the Australian Grand Prix organisers hold their race at night and if it doesn’t happen at Albert Park (which is difficult because it is a park and not ordinarily illuminated) it is likely he will take the race somewhere else.
He’s snapped his fingers at Sepang too and the organisers have given him the “yes sir, three bags full sir” response. The 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix will almost certainly be a night race, the circuit owners using the same company as Singapore are to install the flood lights.
Next on the list is Shanghai International Circuit, home of the Chinese Grand Prix. Ecclestone said recently:
We’ll speak to the people in China, see what we can do there. Obviously when we race in South Korea, it will be good to have a night race there too.
The South Korean Grand Prix is due to appear on the Formula 1 calendar for the first time in 2010. Also new that year will be the Indian Grand Prix, another event that Ecclestone would surely want as a night race. As ever, the impetus is to schedule races at the optimum time for F1’s largest audience in Europe. (It should not be necessary for Abu Dhabi, new on the calendar from 2009).
The only obvious Grand Prix I haven’t head connected with holding a night race is Japan. With Honda and Toyota fighting over the right to hold the race at their venues (Suzuka and Fuji respectively) it is surely only a matter of time before one of them offer to install lights.
The whole thing is rather loony in a very Formula 1 kind of way. Fewer races are being held in Europe because no-one wants to pay Ecclestone’s exorbitant prices. So instead the races are held in countries where governments stump up hundreds of millions of dollars not only to build tracks, but to install lighting so the races can be held at night.
No word yet on the gigantic environmental cost of all this. And what happens if there are problems with the lighting used at Singapore? Would floodlights at Sepang be sufficient in the kind of torrential downpour we saw in 2001?