F1 victim of its own greed as Malaysian GP fails to go the distance after late start

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

The race ended in darkness after a widely-predicted deluge
The race ended in darkness after a widely-predicted deluge

The Malaysian Grand Prix failed to run its full distance after a massive downpour made racing conditions impossible

F1 races have always been at the mercy of the weather and everyone understands the impact that can have on them. But Bernie Ecclestone’s decision to start the race so close to sunset was a serious mistake.

There was widespread incredulity in Malaysia at his decision to run the race at a time when it was so vulnerable to the kind of heavy rain we saw. Local opinion should have been heeded, but it was ignored, because Formula One Management wished to start the race late to suit television audiences better. F1 has become a victim of its own greed.

This was the 11th running of the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, one of the first new Asian venues to appear on the calendar as Eccletone sought to take the sport to emerging markets.

But of late he has woken up to the problem of how races in foreign lands are broadcast at unsociable hours for European television audiences, and has put race promoters under pressure to run night races or – in the case of the Malaysian event – twilight races.

The problem of these twilight races has been discussed here earlier. Not only is low light more of a problem, but in Sepang there is the additional problem of heavy evening rain.

Since F1 arrived in Malaysia this year it experienced the full force of Malaysia’s rain storm on several occasions. But at no point did it choose to move the race earlier.

The powers that be have managed to bring the sport into disrepute at both races of the year so far. The stewards’ inept handling of the safety car rules at Melbourne turned a minor error into a week-long row. And FOM’s naked greed has ruined the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Both of these points should be made by the F1 teams’ association should make very forcefully in future. When the FIA comes to elect its new president, the candidates should be asked why the Sepang farce was allowed to happen and how they would prevent it in future.

Read more: Should F1 have ??twilight? races? (Poll)

168 comments on “F1 victim of its own greed as Malaysian GP fails to go the distance after late start”

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  1. What a farce. FOM ignored sound advice, and this is the result.

    1. Heidfeld second… what a shame to f1. Hi was overtake by half of drivers in this GP…

  2. i know nothing about the local climate, but as somebody mentioned on the live blog… maybe move the race to summer or autumn? as a european i like to be able to watch some of the asian gp:s at “decent” time of the day.

    1. How about european races start at 7am for the sake of eastern fans?

      Come on, this is the world championship – if in Malasia let them have their own schedule.

    2. Malaysia’s climate is the same all year round, there are no seasons, temperature remains the same with little variation. There are rainy and dry seasons though.

    3. sajonaraman
      5th April 2009, 21:10

      Did you even think about waking up earlier?
      It is an F1 race for God’s sake, not a Dusseldorf Karting Meisterschaft ( with all due respect for those racing karts in Dusseldorf:)!

    4. I can see the reasoning behind the twilight races, to suit European fans, however living in Australia, we only get to see about 4 races a year at a “normal” time of day. The rest of the year most of the races start at 9pm, 10pm, 11pm on a Sunday night, not that we complain. We just deal with.

  3. I never understood with Bernie moving races all around the world away from europe…why does he still want to cater for europes time, makes no sense. Everyone else watches at insane times…he threatens to remove grand prixs from europe, but still wants the start times for them.

    1. His commercial policy has made many of europeans tracks resign, so he has found another victims in the far east, (until they also die).

    2. Nick,

      Good question, and in Bernie’s world, he’s got a perfect answer for you…

      Bernie makes a huge slice of his money for CVC Group by selling F1 TV advertising and broadcast rights. He sees Europe as his biggest TV market, and the more people that watch F1 in Europe, the more he can charge for advertising on European TV and for the broadcast rights in European countries. Since most European and North/South American venues can’t and/or won’t pay his fees to host a GP, his solution is to move most races to Asia (where they pay whatever he wants, without question) but try to get the races on in the best times for Euro TV audiences.

      As with pretty much everything Bernie dose, it’s all about money, and has nothing to do with anything else.

  4. F1 fans always suffer from stupid decisions like these, yet we have no voice.

    We should get organised.

    1. the Sri lankan
      5th April 2009, 12:36

      Lets form Grand Prix Watchers association (GPWA)

    2. How about Formula One Real United Supporters and the chant F1 FORUS!

    3. Eddie Irvine
      5th April 2009, 13:38

      that’s a brilliant idea, our president could be Keith and for first time the fans will have a word on Formula 1

    4. Keith for President?

      No I would like to keep him out of politics!!! (Just in case)

    5. http://www.fosa.org/

      They seem to be the most organised.

    6. “http://www.fosa.org/
      They seem to be the most organised.”

      Never heard of them – so not that organized

    7. Let’s start a breakaway series…bring a round to The Glen and we can all party at my house, as long as you guys/girls don’t wreck the place ;)

    8. Praveen Titus
      6th April 2009, 15:38

      Yes, Mission 1 : oust Ecclestone
      easier said than done,

  5. Hopefully FOM will take notice and next year it’ll be run earlier. Less chance of rain as well as the fading light.

    Great win for JB and Brawn though….

  6. 2009 is turning into a farce.

    No Ferrari, No Mclaren, FIA at its idiotic best.

    1. I don’t agree Sumedh, just coz the normally front running teams are struggling, doesn’t mean it’s a farce at all. It’s leveled the playing field and made the whole thing a bit more entertaining…

    2. It was a farce before it started: basically it seems that designing and loading KERS on the cars of last year’s main contenders – and later allowing the diffusers – has severely harmed their aerodynamics and qualifying performance, offset by extra acceleration during races. It’s fascinating to watch but we should amit that it’s artificial and based on FIA’s ‘failure’ to enforce the adaptation to its own rules, giving undue advantage to non-KERS teams for now. Levelling the field (unfairly) is great, but I think they can only get away with it once – there’s no way Ferrari, McLaren and their backers will remain happy with this situation for long or any repeat.

    3. Revolutions are fun to wish for, but the results are always harder to cope with than what anyone predicted beforehand…. I have no problem with a total reshuffling of the order; it’s up to all teams, no matter their pedigree, to show that they can adapt to new rules rather than complain that they have to do so. BUT, it’s up to the FIA to make the rules absolutely clear and level for everyone – as soon as there was grumbling about the diffusers, the FIA should have announced clear and stringent clarifications WITHOUT waiting for protests, appeals, yada yada.

    4. What? This is a sport teams come and go – during the 90s it was Williams and benetton – before that Brabham, Lotus, before that Tyrell – thats how it goes. Its not a farce – now maybe its time to end the McLaren Ferrari era.

    5. sajonaraman
      5th April 2009, 21:19

      I agree with Maciek. Rules put forward in a clear, transparent manner should do. For that though, we need the Weird Little Guy and The Spanker to step the hell down and enjoy their pensions in some forgotten land. No progress shell be made in F1 untill their sick approach is gone. La revolucion? Might be very close to that if the circus continues to take orders from clowns.

    6. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      19th April 2009, 16:04

      No Ferrari, No Mclaren – what’s farce about that? They’ve got very poor cars, end of story.

  7. I’m sure Bernie will try to blame Fota for this joke. “If the drivers had all driven faster, they would have finished before the rain got too heavy.” Because of course Bernie, as God, is completely blameless.

  8. As I said in the live blog… who calls them on this though? Imagine what would happen to a journo’s F1 career if they asked Ecclestone a question about it? Someone needs to stand up to that, it was pathetic and inexcusable.

    1. As I mentioned in the live blog, all the journalists get this chance and they get it often. Both Bernie and Max frequently entertain the regular paddock flacks. The problem is that none of them have any balls to ask the tough questions – they let everything slide.

      As an example – Ed Gorman from the Times had lunch with Bernie a couple of weeks ago and wrote it up in the paper. Instead of being about budgets, the FIA, Max, teams, FOTA, etc. Ed spent the whole time being charmed by Bernie as he talked about his personal life, his thoughts on the environment, his divorce and generally crap like that. The full reason why the FIA and FOM get away with this complete crap is because none of the journalists with access are game enough to challenge them – they are all afraid of losing their credentials or of whatever else.

      Instead now we have frustrated fans, drivers, teams and headlines that are consumed with the politics of the sport. It is a real shame considering how good the cars are this year, how good the drivers are and how excellent the racing has been in the past two races.

      The media attacked McLaren for what happen in Australia – and didn’t even mention the fact that the stewards completely screwed the situation up during the race by not resolving it there and then and also for completely not knowing what to do when a car leaves the track during the SC period. Same thing happen last year after Spa – the media focused on Hamilton and McLaren rather than asking why the hell the FIA are so disorganized that they can’t, with all the technology available, inform a driver and his team on the spot if they should re-pass or not.

      Complete disgrace. 2009 in F1 is more about what is happening off the track and it is getting worse and worse and worse and worse with each passing day..

  9. Go Kate! Change the World! (of F1) :)

    BTW : next headline has to be: “Top Button not undone in wet weather”.. surely? Someone use it! Please!

  10. Can’t help but feel ripped off…..not a great way to feel after an F1 race!

  11. Why do the teams not know the rules?
    Why did the Fia keep everyone in the dark about chances of restart?
    Why did the BBC not keep James Allen on, hating Legard commentary?

    1. We know the second one at least. The FIA kept quiet because they needed to give themselves time to figure out who finished where.

      Countback curse strikes again (hopefully not as powerfully as last time).

    2. re Vettel : “He’s gone off again! No, it’s a replay..”.

      I think we’ll get used to him, and he’ll get used to the job eventually. But I know what you mean, as I couldn’t stand his commentary on the first race.

      Poor James Allen. His blog is very good though. http://www.jamesallenonf1.com. He’s also on Twitter if that interests you :)

    3. Had James’ twitter feed on all race, would turn off commentary but Martin is excellent, gives you that extra bit of feedback you want. And his grid walk today witht the toyota mechanics was laugh out loud funny!!

    4. Switch the the 5-live commentary if you have the Red Button or the CBBC one. Its not like the BBC aren’t offering alternatives. And given that it is his 2nd race whats the issue. James Allen was rubbish for most of his time with ITV, it was only in the last couple of seasons did he come good, Brundle took time as well. Give him a break

  12. Makes me wonder what would have happened if they were using Bernie’s medal system?!

    1. Good point, can they count half wins?

    2. Half gold medal: using 18K gold instead of 24k :-)

  13. How about “Button unzipped for title bid”?

  14. F1 has to show some respect to countries that host the GPs They pay their hosting fees, hence they should have the opportunity to put up a memorable event.
    No one will remember that its Bernie that made the Malaysian GP a farce, we will just have the memory of cars having to stop just past the half way point.
    I wonder if the “European” viewers were satisfied with the outcome, since thats the reason Bernie often gives.

    1. Well I certainly wasn’t…

    2. I’m satisfied & I’m in the UK. It is fantastic that the ‘real’ world intervened.

      Utley daft putting the time back though. Here in Europe I always watch live.

      I don’t get the time changes because there is/was always a ‘socialble’ full re-run anyway.

    3. In Bernie’s world, he shows little respect for the host countries- instead, he demands their total and complete compliance for him bringing his superior product to their shores. That’s why, when some venues complain about his price hikes, he refuses to negotiate- he’ll just go somewhere else where some rich government shells out the mega-bucks.

      If Sepang’s promoters complain about the start time, he’ll just tell them that he will cancel their contract and take the race somewhere else.

    5th April 2009, 12:27

    ha ha …Matt!!! brilliant!!! #:)

  16. True, half a medal?

  17. chaostheory
    5th April 2009, 12:28

    Another proof that no amount of sporting and technical rules changes will have no difference as long as the sport will be run by Bernie OR as long as he wont change his politics (and himself).
    BTW – this GP was historical: BMW engine failure! :)

    1. sajonaraman
      5th April 2009, 21:28

      True and sad at the same time. Sad cause I’ve had my fingers crossed for Kubica. As always.

  18. But haven’t races been stopped earlier? I mean, what’s the whole fuss about? In the USA they don’t even race (on ovals) when it rains, and the fans don’t mind that, attending (NASCAR) races in great numbers. Of course, I would have preferred dry racing today, there has been lots of overtaking anyway and Nico Rosberg had a good chance of finishing on the podium, or even winning. Nevertheless, had the race been red-flagged a lap later, Timo Glock would have scored his and Toyota’s first GP win…

    1. What evidence for Glock winning one lap later?

    2. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, yes. But they were told by many people that if they started the race late this would happen. And they ignored what they were told.

    3. It’s just like that wet race in Monaco. Glock’s the new Senna! You heard it here first.

    5th April 2009, 12:30

    Simon!!! :) cracking !!! hes not the messiah, hes a very naughty boy!!! :)

  20. Getting up in the middle of the night or coming home late to watch races from far flung corners of the world used to be half the fun. There you were on a dark, cold march night and there they were in the heat and brilliant sunshine of Melbourne, it was cool. Having said that I do like a rain hit race.

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