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


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. Chris P said on 5th April 2009, 12:53

    Last week the FIA handed a 10-grid place penalty to Vettel for an accident that most people agree was 50/50; a racing incident. Bernie decides to move the race back to late afternoon, in the tropical climes of Malaysia where torrential afternoon downpours are frequent, bordering on regular, occurrences. This decision was not 50/50, nor was it a racing incident, it was intentional and with a clear end-goal. I vote that the FIA disqualifies Bernie immediately from this race and the rest of the season!

    That said, it was a great race, just wish it could have had the ending that it deserved.

  2. arporter said on 5th April 2009, 12:54

    what a farce by the FIA

  3. Simon said on 5th April 2009, 12:56

    Don’t know what to do next weekend with no race to watch!!

    • Go out, take drugs, have sex.

    • Clare msj said on 5th April 2009, 13:58

      First race of MotoGP season…

      by my calculations, the only weekend until November without F1/Motogp/GP2/A1/F2 now is the weekend with 9th August in it. And theres probably some other motorsport on, its just those are the only ones i watch

    • sajonaraman said on 5th April 2009, 21:41

      Get yourself a rifle and finish the business with FIA. We’d all be glad if you did.

    • Gman said on 6th April 2009, 3:20

      Gosh you guys are living on the edge…

      First week of baseball season over here- time to watch the Yankees chase down World Series Title #27 :)

  4. Paige said on 5th April 2009, 12:59

    F1 isn’t the victim of its greed. It’s the victim of Bernie Ecclestone’s greed.

    Can’t he just take a long walk off a short cliff, or something?

  5. Arthur954 said on 5th April 2009, 13:00

    I am happy for people like Button, Glock, Trulli, etc — finally they are getting the rewards for their talent.

    But this sure is a complicated championship !!!
    and now the decision on diffusers is coming up ….
    with KERS and not KERS and now maybe more rules changes coming, the teams must be going crazy ….!
    Bernie and Mo could not have made it more complicated if they had done it on purpose

  6. Internet said on 5th April 2009, 13:04

    As a McLaren fan, I am sure I am not the only one. Heikki has to go.

    • Simon said on 5th April 2009, 13:23

      But who to bring in, and also was unlucky in Australia, needs to just get taught where to place his car at starts.

    • Matthew said on 5th April 2009, 14:20

      Heikki “Captain No Laps” Kovilinen?

      Bring in Anthony Davidson. I don’t think he’s signed for Brawn yet?

    • TST said on 5th April 2009, 18:25

      Preceded by Hamilton.

    • Gman said on 6th April 2009, 3:21

      Don’t forget that Heikki was taken out in Australia before he could even get going- Sepang was different, but still, give the guy a chance- he’s been outperforming Hamilton in practice and quali.

  7. I believe the Results might change AS USUAL :P

  8. Philip said on 5th April 2009, 13:23

    The thing that gets me is that we’re not even talking about really crazy times of day to watch this race! If they are still desperate for it to be a bit later, what would have been wrong with a 15:00 or 16:00 local time start? Just one or two hours earlier and, even if it doesn’t completely rule out the chance of late afternoon rain, they’ve at least made sure the light issue doesn’t factor as well. Those times give a 9:00 or 10:00 start for central Europe…

    • Simon said on 5th April 2009, 13:28

      Who wouldn’t get up for an 8 o’clock start in the uk? Fairweather fans, and they would have turned off in droves at todays race, complete lack of news from FIA, until race declared over. Even if they needed time to sort out the result, at least tell us that. Information is key, and the lack of transparency from the FIA is killing people’s interest just when it should be thriving with such good stories from the start of the season.

  9. ajokay said on 5th April 2009, 13:25

    As my dad said during the podium celebrations ‘What a bloody stupid sport this is’. I had to semi-agree with him.

    But in that same way that they will probably never have a race in Siberia due to the high probablilty of snow, I also believe that having a race in a tropical jungle is equally stupid, espicially at a time of day and year that invites a torrential race-stopping thunderstorm.

    Formula One is a European sport, the whole shebang is designed around European mid-spring-to-mid-autumn climates. THe first forrays into fly-away races were more sensible. Australia, South Africa, the USA, Aregentina. All countries in a similar lattitude to europe on either side of the equator, and they all worked (apart from that one time in Adelaide). And taking F1 into areas where climates do not suit it, such as Malaysia or Bahrain is a very silly thing to do.

    I noticed that there were many empty seats too. Seats that would be full in Europe or the Americas.

    • ipaid500usd said on 5th April 2009, 18:58

      im semi-agree with you to…lol… but F1 is not just about racing… its about money..investment..corporate sponsor and GDP and GNP of country(if u know what i mean)…. kindda look silly but these company from the country paid for it.they paid FIA to give them licensed to do f1 in their country.like malaysia the contract continue till 2015 as long they follow the rules they deserve it.if im not mistaken the austalian contract should be end last year due of some problem(i cant remember).about the seat,they dont give a damn… local people like us generate less money than corporate company that paying them billions to let f1 run in their country.example like petronas which is number 1 company in malaysia and listed in fortune 500 company gave more than 50% i think seats at main grandstands which i paid more than 500usd.more over student who studied in malaysia can purchased the ticket with less 80% than ususal price.i think this is the cheapest f1 race i ever been.try check it out the padlock club for corporate ppl. cost more than 5 000 usd per person and the best is it is full house.conclusion,they dont care about empty seats,the only thing they care is u paid for it u gave 5 star facilities u deserved to do F1 race. (just my oponion)

    • Gman said on 6th April 2009, 3:24


      You’re correct in many ways, although I don’t think Argentina or South Africa are exactly on the same latitude as Europe ;)

      Seriously, as long as Malaysia is willing to pay the bucks to bring F1 in, Bernie will be happy to show up every year. That’s what it all comes down to- what venues will pay his fees for a race.

  10. Moving time for Europr races makes complete sense as most of the audience is European, just a pity they dont bring back some of the old classic European tracks.

    That track cant cope with monsoon conditions..regardless of light conditions it woulda ran outta time anyways

    Loved the race, seen some super overtaking moves, GLOCK showed some spirit and seems to be an upcoming star…the only reason I would complain is if I was at that track, and waited in the wet to see more racing which didnt take place!

    • sajonaraman said on 5th April 2009, 21:44

      Moving time for Europe makes no sense at all if the outcome is what we’ve seen today KB…

  11. Daniel said on 5th April 2009, 13:34

    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?

  12. SimonRS said on 5th April 2009, 13:38

    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.

    • Gman said on 6th April 2009, 3:26

      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 :)

  13. Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 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?

  14. CRM said on 5th April 2009, 13:50

    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?

    • 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.

  15. kurtosis said on 5th April 2009, 13:55

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th April 2009, 15:44

      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.

    • 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 ;)

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