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

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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)

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

  1. TommyB said on 5th April 2009, 12:28

    True, half a medal?

  2. chaostheory said on 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! :)

    • sajonaraman said on 5th April 2009, 21:28

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

  3. 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…

  4. tEQUILLA sLAMMER said on 5th April 2009, 12:30

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

  5. 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.

  6. ceedas said on 5th April 2009, 12:32

    Last Sunday you were all saying that the stewards had come to the right decision to reinstate Hamilton to 3rd (albeit that Trulli’s penalty seemed harsh, but at least consistent with Spa last year), but because McLaren and Hamilton lied misled them, the matter was re-examined. This was down to the team and the driver, not the stewards and nothing at all to do with FOM.

    Sure, was all thought moving the race to a later time seemed to be risky, and it was, and perhaps it’ll be moved back next year. There’s no guarantee that the same thing won’t happen at lunchtime, although it’s unlikely.

    So the race didn’t make the end – what’s the real problem? It was an exciting 30 laps, plenty going on, plenty to talk about. Just because a race doesn’t make it to the end, does that really warrant an article with this tone?

    • Nik Black said on 5th April 2009, 12:46

      You don’t see that what happen during the race should have been a NON ISSUE if the FIA simply had a published rule on what should happen if a driver leaves the track during the SC period.

      Instead of being able to resolve it with a quick radio call during the race – it lead to a series of events that escalated during the following days which lead to the McLaren situation.

      I don’t blame McLaren at all because it shouldn’t have been allowed to reach that point in the first place. There should be clean and published guidlines on what the rules are. It is completely the FIA’s fault that even one year after a similar incident in Spa, the drivers STILL have to radio their teams to get a clarification on what to do – and even the teams, nor the stewards know! How such a gaping hole in the regulations was allowed to survive for so long (and it STILL hasn’t been cleared up, so that same thing can happen AGAIN) is beyond me..

      It has also been mentioned a thousand times leading up to the Malaysian grand prix that Kuala Lumpur is in a damn tropical zone, prone to evening thunder storms and low light conditions – so a twilight grand prix should have been completely out of the question. That was all ignored for the sake of European TV audiences.

      FOM will still collect $25M odd dollars from the promoters of the Malaysian grand prix, FIA still won’t clarify any of the rules and the fans, drivers and teams will suffer further. Not only is this a complete shambles but nothing will be done about it..

    • Gman said on 6th April 2009, 3:11

      100% Correct Nik- esp. the part about FOM collecting their check.

    • My thoughts exactly Nick.

      BTW, did anyone notice how empty the grandstands were?
      If the race is run at the same time next year with the high possibility of red flags, I think you’ll see crowd numbers dwindle even further. And will Malaysia then be happy to continue forking over the $$$ for the ‘privelige’ of holding a race?

  7. Oliver said on 5th April 2009, 12:33

    <blockquoteI’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.

    Very funny James, but thats the way he thinks sometimes. He may even withdraw the race from Malaysia as they are unable to stop the rains from coming down. I was really scared some of those pit personnel might get struck by lightening, or even the cars too. A bit like driving with the KERS system outside:-)

    • ipaid500usd said on 5th April 2009, 18:42

      i dont think he going to withdraw the race from malaysia.rain supposed to be the challege for f1 team using their wet tires and think of new strategy whenever rain coming.one of the team(i cant remember) change full wet tires too fast and make them lost few minutes and destroyed the tyres just because they think the rain will come down in few minutes.the question is why the race start at 3 pm and they knew heavystorm will be around 5 pm and the maximum time race is untill 7pm… the reason why the drivers are waiting is because they confirmed that it will restart again but the fia make decision to end the race because of time.10 minute before 7pm will not complete the race. i paid more than 500usd for the ticket but its worth it… haha XD

    • Gman said on 6th April 2009, 3:13

      ipaid500uds,

      Bernie will withdraw the race if the promtoers don’t pay what he demands, or they try to tell him what time to stage the race. With Singapore putting on the new smash hit right down the road, he has a real threat to use against the race in Sepang.

    • James said on 6th April 2009, 18:07

      Unfortunately, Oliver, I was only half joking. And it turns out my prediction was not too far off:

      From the Evening Standard:

      When Ecclestone was asked if he had any regrets over the late start he insisted: “No, I just have regrets about the rain. I don’t see anything wrong with the start time, we just didn’t know about the rain.”

      You didn’t? Quite a lot of people pointed this out to you…

      Full Story:

      http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-sport/article-23672184-details/Winning%27s+not+enough+as+Jenson+Button+reigns+in+Malaysia/article.do

  8. Simon said on 5th April 2009, 12:34

    Thinking for more Headlines, German one for you all.
    “Heidfelt he could have won”

  9. Simon said on 5th April 2009, 12:34

    Classic for jarno victory “Trulli the best”

    • Trulli puns don’t count, they’re too easy.

    • matt said on 5th April 2009, 12:46

      I also like how every news site/paper has finally used up within two races every variation of the ‘brawn again,’ ‘natural brawn winner’ pun.

    • Brawn to be wild?……

      I’ll get my coat…

    • Matthew said on 5th April 2009, 14:17

      Trulli Oarsome. (Wet weather pun;) )
      Glock: You’ve been Nicked son. ( I like that one, lost his 2nd place after red flag )
      A Massa not amassing.
      And of course:
      “Top Button not undone in wet weather”

      Drivers Nicknames:
      Heikki “Captain No Laps” Kovilinen.
      Alonslow. ( Bit unfair really, he’s damned good given the car he’s got, but he got overtaken a lot today )
      Nelson “Job Seekers Allowance” Piquet. ( Fully justified! )

      Anyways off the top of my head, I’m going back to bed ;)

    • “Top Button not undone in wet weather”

      Quality.

      Button opens gap at the top?

  10. matt said on 5th April 2009, 12:41

    It seems that even a casual F1 viewer would have a better grasp of the situation than the FIA. Anyone tuning in just for the race would’ve heard about the stupidity of starting late, because even if it hadn’t rained it was bound to be cloudy with no visibility. Plus, what difference would 1 hour earlier have made to audiences? Admittedly I would ideally get up at 12 on a Sunday, but that’s just because I’m a student.

    • ajokay said on 5th April 2009, 13:46

      Being a student, you have 6 other days during which you can get up at midday. I know I did. Surely you could reserve one day for getting up early :)

    • Loki said on 5th April 2009, 14:39

      or if you’re in the middle/end of your dissertation you take a couple of powernaps a day and adjust accordingly to the GP :p

    • matt said on 5th April 2009, 20:05

      Ah but I’m a college student, so missing lessons by getting up late is looked at pretty seriously. Saturday and Sunday are lie-in days, although I will (and did) sacrifice both for F1.

  11. Simon said on 5th April 2009, 12:41

    Did you see Raikkonen having a Magnum ice cream, closest he’ll get to a Magnum this year!!

  12. Simon said on 5th April 2009, 12:44

    Driver of the day, Glock for great tyre choices, or Button for those fantastic laps before his pit stop?
    Or Massa for not spinning 5 times in the wet, for the first time ever?

  13. Neil said on 5th April 2009, 12:45

    The point I would make is more that we don’t need these races in far away lands. Look at how many people actually attended over the weekend, it was terrible. Compare that to the audiences in Canada, France or Austria, where the racing was just as good (if not better) and it makes you wonder why they are so keen to go abroad.

    • sajonaraman said on 5th April 2009, 21:37

      I’ll give you a hint:
      $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    • Gman said on 6th April 2009, 3:17

      Exactly, and while you’re at it, don’t forget that even after the 2005 mess, Indianapolis still had over 100,000 fans in the grandstands in the later years, even if the circuit wasn’t the best for F1.

      In Bernie’s world, it doesn’t matter if 10 or 11 people come out to see a Grand Prix- as long as the host nation pays his $30-$40 million every year, they’ve got a race. Things like motorsport heritage, market value- those are all irrelevant to his plans.

  14. SYM said on 5th April 2009, 12:48

    Bernie and his ‘good’ol boys’ club aka the FIA, is now a liability rather than an asset to F1. There decisions are quite clearly influenced by out dated political and ideological views that have no place in this or any sport. He and Max have all sorts subplots, vendettas against certain teams and their owners, certain drivers and even each other going on behind the scenes!

    Personally i dont believe anything out this F1 Mafia. And you know what, not even this ‘rags to riches’ story of Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams-Toyota coming up with the 3 fastest cars all on their own….
    I guess it shows i didn’t like this race huhh :|

  15. I am the only one that would actually miss having to get up/stay up until ridiculous times to watch races that are far removed from my own timezone, if the whole season was brought in line with European times?

    Staying up all night for the start of the season feels like a tradition, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. For me, its always given races like Australia and Japan a special feel to them.

    Call me crazy, but my point is that die hards will always be willing to watch races in unsociable hours while casual fans can watch re-runs.

    And besides, why should European viewers benefit at the cost of people in other parts of the world?

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