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. Did they ever consider making a morning race? In Australia, a 9AM start would mean saturday night races in Europe… as for Malaysia, it would be better having a race at 3PM…

    I know a morning race would be bad for the saturday night parties made in the host city… but what do you think of that?

    1. But afternoon parties are better they last into the night!!!!

  2. There’s two Simon’s commenting! I’m sure this is confusing because the other Simon has proposed Glock for drive of the day while I slated him in the live blog for losing 5 places off the start and just getting flukey with the tyre choice. I will post as SimonRS from now on to avoid confusion!

    I also strongly agree with ajokay. No french and canadian grand prixs this year is absolutely absurd. I can’t think of a country more poorly suited to F1 than China, in terms of politics and economics, but that’s where we’re headed next.

    1. Yes, and don’t forget us here in the U.S. among those who have been robbed of a GP date :(

      But just think, next week we will all have so much fun looking at all those multi-colored seats and thinking they are full of F1-savvy fans, just like at Montreal, Indy, or Magny-Cours :)

  3. Mussolini's Pet Cat
    5th April 2009, 13:42

    Greed is the word here. Bernie is hell bent on destroying European and especially Britain’s GP’s, but then disregards the local fans with putting the race on towards the evening to suit Europe.
    Also Bern, how would you have given Jenson half a medal today?

  4. I think Bernie is stressing out about the TV times for European audiences for no reason. The hardcore fans will always get up at 3am to watch the race, and for the more casual fans there is a ‘as live’ replay at a convenient time in the afternoon. As far as I can see this works fine for everyone.

    How long until he gives the ultimatum to Australia and Malaysia – make it a night race or your country will loose it’s GP?

    1. Err, he did that last year. Must be the first and only time Bernie has backed down in his life, as Melbourne refused to back down & host a night race as demanded. Thats why we ended up with this stupid ‘twilight’ compromise, which is even worse.

  5. I think this was an honest mistake from Bernie bowing to pressure from sponsors (who are predominantly european with products targeting european demographics). Now that he has this precedent, he can easily counter such pressure in the future.

    I’m finding a lot of F1 fans to be a little on the whiny side, forgetting that if the sport isn’t profitable, it won’t be able to continue. I also see a distinct lack of ability to see things from the commercial or organizational side, both of which have been running for half a century (highly successfully, I might add).

    All this over some rain. Keith, you want to add more perspective and balance to your posts; though I’m sure it helps your readership if some outrage is shown every race.

    1. I think there are a lot of things right about F1 and some things wrong with it. I think this was a silly, avoidable, hubristic mistake by Ecclestone and he should be held to account for it. As several commentators have pointed out, there’s a feeling that seldom happens at the moment.

      That said, the opening laps were pure gold and thr race report will reflect that.

    2. Do you really think anyone has that sort of influence over Bernie? Make no mistake about it, this was not pressure from anyone other than Bernie himself.

      And F1 is profitable, always has been. Its just that most of those profits flow directly back to Bernie himself. How else do you think a carsalesman accrued a five billion pound fortune? There ain’t that much money in used cars ;)

  6. I first suspected that the dodgy diffusers didn’t give that much advantage, but now it is clear that they work in all conditions. With the three teams Brawn, Toyota and Williams dominating proceedings, completely favouring these controversial diffusers.

    I personally think it is good to see some other teams up top, provided it is all legitimate. I guess that the diffuser hearing will come to nothing, or what would they do? change all the results again, surely not.

    It is time for others to catch up.

    If there was a legality box that the diffuser had to sit within then all would be fine, and nobody could complain.

  7. an absolute farce why didn’t stand up to this decision months ago. great chance the journalists won’t ask these questions to Max and bernie. a more simple reason would be to move the race to a more suitable, f1 related country for example montreal but no bernie can’t spare a few money notes. i wonder if bernie will take accountability, probably not.

  8. Why pander to the EUR TV crowd? What about the American, Asian, & Indian ones. Is this really developing F1 in Asia and other new markets ( read places with cash )? Probably the reverse actually.

    You’d be well trucked off – be it spectator, government, fan, sponsor, team or media. Everyone pay alot of money (during a fin crisis no less) to watch what everyone knew was going to happen – cars sitting in the rain with officials dithering.

    How many of these will be up for it next year? To be successfully just turning up isn’t enough. How many will upgrade their tickets, bring their kids, bring more reporters, purchase more signage, spend more on marketing, get rock bands etc. Want HD? – like the TV companies are going to shell out the cash for the BW upgrades to watch rain!

    In a world recession you have to be better – F1 is on the ropes. This is tragic as we are finally getting really good wheel to wheel racing and a ‘fairy tale’ for the Brawn team.

    Well I liked the race anyway but I feel bad for people that coughed up cash to watch Kimi eat an icecream.

    1. chaostheory
      5th April 2009, 14:44

      “Kimi eat an icecream”
      -HAHa , that was the best thing coming from Ferrari camp today. And I love Raikkonens attitude :P:P:P

    2. ipaid500usd
      5th April 2009, 19:01

      hahahahaha i love the last part….. sad of watching kimi eat ice cream

  9. Why the hell, FOM has to decide when the races has to start.

    Everybody knew that in Malaysia at 17’00h there is a high probability of storms, and, there is a twitlight problem.

    Quite annoying not been able to watch a full race. Let see how it works in China, I think the race will be at the same time (not very sure on this)

    1. Chinese Grand Prix starts at 3pm local time, according to Wikipedia.

  10. Why pander to the EUR TV crowd? What about the American, Asian, & Indian ones.

    Because the sponsors are predominantly European, with products targeting European demographics -hence the need to make sure European fans watch the race.

    Boy, what a bunch of know-it-alls. Between this and pretending to solve all the problems with stewarding, it’s such a surprise FOM doesn’t hire you all to run the show.

    1. Ignoring the American, Asian and Indian crowds, in my eyes is a very silly move.

      Both China and India have absolutely massive populations, if only a small percentage of these populations watched the races on TV it would probably total more than all of Europe put together, and then it might actually be worthwhile for huge companies, rather than European bankers, to sponsor F1 teams, cause they would be reaching a massive audience to sell their products to. It would become worthwhile for companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi to get involved. European bankers probably aren’t all that interested in selling their products to the average Indian or Chinese person, but you can guarantee Coke and Pepsi are, if only there was the audience in the emerging markets to make it worthwhile for them.

    2. I think if you sponsor F1, its because you are seeking to attract a global audience, not just European.
      I can assure you companies such as ING, HP, Shell, Bridgestone, Virgin etc have a huge presence in Australia. So you arguement there just doesn’t wash.

      I like your suggestion though, F1 would be all the better for it if it got people who knew about the sport to run it. If they are fans, then so be it.

    3. I agree those brands have a large presence in Australia, but Australia has a very small population. 20 million in total of which maybe 2% would regularly tune into watch F1, so 400,000 people in Australia. Where as China and India have populations of 1,330 million and 1,150 million, so if you could get 2% of both China and India to tune in that’s almost 50 million people, and 50 million potential customers. The only problem being the average wage in China and India is pretty low, so they wouldn’t have heaps of disposable income and aren’t that able to buy expensive products, which generally the companies that sponsor F1 sell. So there isn’t much inventive for the current F1 sponsors to expand into emerging markets, because no one in the emerging markets can afford to buy their products. Where companies that sell cheap products and heaps of it would be interested in the emerging market, because people can afford to buy a cheap luxury such as soft drink, and I would assume the marketing budgets of Coca-Cola or Pepsi would far exceed that of ING, HP, Shell, Bridgestone or Virgin. So if F1 paid more attention to the emerging markets, there would many more companies looking to get involved in F1, which means more money for the teams and for Bernie.

  11. Whatever one might say about the start time, how good was it to see close overtaking battles like the Webber/Alonso stuff? And great result for Button and BrawnGP….just wish they’d started earlier, and not scheduled the Malaysian GP in the middle of the monsoon.

    1. It was very good, just a shame it had to end early due to poor planning.

  12. makes me glad i decided to sleep it out and watch the replay today. i haven’t done that in years–probably when some guy named schumacher was in his 4th or 5th title year.

    my,my…the FIA (aka Mad Max and the Poison Dwarf-gotta love whoever came up with those monikers) are certainly showing the world what an expensive clusterf*** really looks like aren’t they? we all know that they aren’t actually capable of listening to what logical arguments are put before them but you’d think that after being in the racing business for ummmm decades now they’d have been able to see this one coming all on their own.

  13. No surprises that the rain caused the race to be stopped – I would think that the majority of people using this blog probably mentioned it before they even got to sepang.
    The absurd point about it is that F1 and the Fia – keep on with this myth that the are bowing to green issues – kers? – and there is demand in these parts of the world to host F1 – kers adds weight – weight more fuel power to drive a given weight?.
    These countries have no background history in F1 or mainstream racing development – they are given the chance to race in A1GP – a cheaper one make formula which has a certain degree of popularity – but also when you see the broadcasts hundreds of empty seats?
    Bernie is an old man – Max is a dirty old man – we need new blood at least in their fifties in charge of F1 and the Fia – they need to get back to their main fan base – stop shipping race cars around the world – more waste of earths rescourses – and develop race engines with either different fuels or give manufacturers the space to develop more fuel efficient systems – no refuelling possibly – of course that would lead to heavier starts but as the racing progressed would then give opportunities for passing as brakes and tyres degraded.
    Also having only one tyre supplier is looking no better as all of the tyres supplied seem to suffer from some fault or other – not enough grip – falling apart – tyres and racing teams should be allowed to work in developing suitable mixes – tyre development is one aspect that benefits all motorists.
    God I mind my first Honda motor bike in the sixties was supplied with bridgestones – deadly in even a light mist – put a set of dunlops on and the difference was amazing – nothing changed – I could go but enough of suggestions.
    P.S.Well done brawn and button, and co – just wonder what post race decisions will do for results now?

    1. I agree with everything you have there, except for the one tire supplier deal (see: Indianapolis 2005)

      As for Max and Bernie, I will gladly buy you a brew and we’ll commiserate when Max wins re-election in the sham vote he’ll stage this summer :(

  14. spot on billy7766. I bet none of us were complaining this morning when Webber & Hamilton were trading positions in a reminder of the legendary dice between Arnoux & Villeneuve. Spellbinding race, yes its a pity it finished early but what we did see was terrific.

    Why cant we talk about that?

    It seems a default setting of too many f1 fans, including you Keith, to be critical, to complain, to bemoan f1’s current state. Jeez, have you seen other sports?

    Today was brilliant up to the rain. Last week was too. My glass is half full, even if it is mostly rainwater.

    1. I liked all that stuff too, but it was a poor move to start the race that late. Just like with the sun in Oz, it was a danger to the drivers, first and foremost.

    2. Why cant we talk about that?

      What makes you think we can’t? I had a lot of positive things to say about the race here: Button wins again but rain stops play at Sepang (Malaysian Grand Prix review)

      But the early stoppage was obviously the first major story in its aftermath.

  15. I don’t know if I’m the only one but I actually don’t mind getting up for races early in the morning (late at night?!…whatever!).

    All this shenanigans with twilight races is a bit ridiculous.

    Stage the races at one o’ clock local time, Makes for better racing, is safer for the drivers blahdee blahdee blah.

    And if you do fall asleep during the race, just catch the replays later in the day duh!!!

    Just make sure you don’t watch the news or anything! :D

  16. I came to a similar conclusion in my blog http://www.stuffchannel.com/greed-killing-formula-1/ – greed is killing formula 1, as it the foolish belief that the only real audience for F1 is in Europe. Moving a race to a time that makes it more palatable for a certain part of the viewers, while risking the actual event is stupid. It is greed at it’s best – Bernie wants more money for the races, but he doesn’t want to run them when they are bad for his “key” audience.

    When people stop talking about the racing and start talking about other things, you lose them as fans.

  17. I agree with every word Keith wrote on this.

    All of us were well aware of the problem but Bernie decided to dash headlong into the mess any way. He knew there was a good chance this would happen so you have to ask why. Something must have motivated him to create this mess. We know he is motivated solely by the acquisition of the almighty dollar so how does this mess generate income for him. Simple. Thousands of newspapers and thousands of TV news programs will carry the story of this farce and all of them have to buy video or pictures from FOM/CVC. They all have to pay Bernie. The headlines that will be generated and the people that read them will be added to the numbers of viewers and readers that go into the count at the end of the season so that Bernie can claim that F1 has a bigger audience that the entire population of the planet several times over. Big audience equals bigger fees from TV stations etc for coverage and from trackside advertisers and anyone who wants to buy a race.

    Someone asked why the race wasn’t called off until ten minutes before the end of the two hour time limit when the teams must be given a minimum 10 minute notice of a re-start. It was obvious half an hour earlier that the race couldn’t re-start. TV companies pay Bernie a lot of money for the right to transmit his coverage. They sell advertising at very high prices due to the afer mentioned audience numbers. As soon as the race is declared their audience numbers drop and they and their advertisers become annoyed at Bernie and resist paying his inflated rates. So we are treated to half an hour of what amounts to a blank screen and Kimi eating ice cream. But at least we allowed Bernie to collect a few more millions.

    1. ipaid500usd
      5th April 2009, 19:10

      this is one good answer… should publish this in news paper… lol make sense after all.. he dont want to hurt media feeling because they the want who going to market formula 1 after all

    2. Hey I like any answer that says ‘I agree with Keith’ :-)

  18. Have watched F1 since early sixties and have never seen such stupidity before from the so-called “Governing Body”.They have,over the years,made the cars more dangerous by taking away ground effect,then slick tyres etc,etc.So now they come up with running the race into twighlight sunshine in Australia and now the daily downpour that all the locals warned them about.The drivers should insist that NO F1 race starts later than 12 o’clock midday regardless of location.Don’t let the media bugger the sport like they have in soccer,cricket etc,etc.The old saying “P..s-up in a brewery” keeps coming to my mind.How many ex-drivers are on the board that makes the rules.

  19. Praveen Titus
    5th April 2009, 17:28

    I don’t know if you guys have ever thought of this. But somehow the idea of one guy controlling a sport doesn’t suit me. Sport is not a commodity to be manufactured and sold. I know F1 can’t survive without commercialization or a rich guy taking over the reins, but it isn’t right way to do it. Are Olympics and World Cup Football and other sports run this way? Why do we let the pinnacle of motor racing fall into a pair of greedy hands that head the FOM? Here you have one guy called Bernie Ecclestone who calls the shots. Today he decides only maximum winners should become World Champions, tomorrow he’ll say all Asian races must be held in the night. He has robbed the entire North America of a race. The land of Gilles Villeneuve can’t appreciate F1 in the flesh anymore becuase one guy decides against it!

    CAN’T YOU GUYS GET THE PICTURE? Whatever you may wan’t me to believe (I know Bernie made F1 more professional and all…), this guy DOES NOT CARE ABOUT THE GOOD OF F1! All he wants is to fill his pocket with a good amount of green. I say a board or a group of elected people should OWN F1. Or the teams should OWN it.

    I know it’s all somewhat wishful thinking. BUT IF WE FANS WHO GENUINELY CRAVE FOR THE GOOD OF F1 don’t protest, who will?

  20. Does any one know if Jenson would have claimed a ‘win’ under the winner takes all Bernie rules?

    I’m guessing Bernie himself probably didn’t even know.

    1. I remember it was accounted for in the version of the sporting regulations that circulated after the ‘most wins’ rule was first announced, but I don’t remember how. The document is probably in the drop.io if you really want to know:


    2. Thanks Keith.

      Seems as though a ‘Bernie-Win’ would have been awarded for any race lasting over just 2 laps!

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