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.