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

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  1. I’m an American fan from California and the race occurred at the worst possible time for me. I had to stay up until 3 AM watching a race that didn’t finish. In previous years, it wasn’t so bad because the Malaysian GP began at 11 or midnight. But every decision to cater to European audiences makes it more and more difficult for me to watch F1. It’s as though Bernie does not acknowledge me (as well as most of the USA) as an audience. For most of the other races I have to get up at 4:30 AM and it doesn’t help that any chance for me to watch the Asian races at a reasonable time are now being taken away.

    • Gman said on 6th April 2009, 3:37

      Steven,

      I feel the pain- i’m out here on the east coast, and had to drag myself out of bed at 5 AM to see the start.

      If you’re new to the sport, you’ll soon discover that Bernie has a secret hatred of the American market. Most of that revolves around the fact that the national and local governments, along with promoters and venues here, won’t bow down to his demands to pay mega-bucks for the right to host a GP. That’s not just the case with Indy- it runs all the way back to the Long Beach days. Also, Bernie knows how much the car companies value America, and by keeping them out of the U.S. market, he thinks he’s keeping them on a weaker footing to deal with.

      It’s all a very sad deal, because with some dedicated marketing and promotion, F1 can be a very successful venture in America. It won’t challenge the domestic sports in sheer popularity, but it can be a great and popular product, much like EPL soccer. But for Bernie, it’s all irrelevant.

  2. sajonaraman said on 5th April 2009, 18:49

    As I said before, the combination of Tilke, Ecclestone and his anything-for-cash attitude is killing the best motorsport in the world. Every single Malaysian knows it rains in the evening. It has been like that for centuries, nothing new happened today. Still, the all-seeing-Ecclestone and the likes of him took the decision to change the race schedule so us, in his oppinion lazy yet relatively rich europeans would move their butts from the bedroom and watch the race. Well done Bernie. I could have slept even longer if I knew it’d be such an utter farce. I’d be twice as glad if I had to get up earlier and see the whole bloody thing uninterrupted you old fool!
    Bravo BRAWN, cheers HEI and GLO.
    Bravo Martin Brundle- an epic performance.

  3. Patrick said on 5th April 2009, 19:04

    2008 made F1 a joke. 2009 has had the effect of making Formula 1 almost unwatchable.

  4. Yosu said on 5th April 2009, 19:06

    Nice one Bernie, this makes two fiasco’s in a row !!!

  5. HounslowBusGarage said on 5th April 2009, 21:29

    NEWSFLASH
    FOM to sue God over rain!
    In a shock move this evening Formula One Management has issued a writ against ‘The Supreme Authority’ claiming damages for loss of earnings and advancement of business in relation to the rain today at Sepang. The writ alleges that the Supreme Authority ‘was negligent, neglectful and just bloody-minded in allowing, permitting or otherwise causing to happen rain in Biblical Proportions at the Malaysian Grand Prix today.
    In a separate action B. Ecclestone is taking action against the Malaysian organising authorities for ‘not building Sepang circuit about a thousand miles west where it’s lighter, longer’.
    Mr Ecclestone insists he did not make a mistake.
    In a counter claim, the Malasian organising authorities are claiming the return of 50% of their fee to FOM of $25 million, on the grounds that FOM only delivered half a race.

  6. Dane said on 5th April 2009, 23:17

    Does this mean that the British GP should also be cancelled? It rains a lot in England. :)
    I thought that the 25laps or so that I saw were sensational. Especially Webber taking on & beating Hamilton. It was good watching some pitstop strategies going right & some going very wrong; Would have liked the race to restart earlier, but I enjoyed it all the same.

  7. theRoswellite said on 6th April 2009, 1:44

    Haven’t read everyone’s blog, as I usually do, but I must toss out one comment….

    The saddest thing about this GP for me, was the fact that Nico had a good lead, and was looking strong, when the rains came.

    Oh, one other thing…I’d like to know if Bernie even feels, as in…experiences emotional concern…, anything when he sees drivers fighting against the setting sun in Australia (and possibly decreasing light and rain in Sepang)knowing that he alone is responsible for the situation, and it is only being done for commercial reasons (keeping those TV ratings up!)?

  8. Blue said on 6th April 2009, 6:52

    @ Saab
    There are no seasons in Malaysia as Europeans know it. Google is always a good thing to utilize when you don’t have a clue.

    I agree with PinballLes .. as F1 and football fans in our part of the world, we make the effort to take time out or wake up whenever the races or matches are scheduled. We stay awake late Sunday nights into Monday mornings and we wake up at 3am to catch champions league matches. Where’s the dedication of a fan when demands are made for the sport to change to suit your comforts?

  9. Erico said on 6th April 2009, 8:04

    Finally people will start to realise that problems in F1 is not Hamilton and Mclaren but Max, Bennie and the F1 management, they were the root cause of the problem at Australian GP, they are the root cause of the problem at the just “concluede” Sepang, the sooner the root cause of the problem is eradicated the better.

  10. Does Bernie really care as he’s walking away with a pocket full of ££££££££££’s from the race.

  11. antonyob said on 6th April 2009, 9:53

    Whinge whinge whinge, its like a mothers meeting on here. There used to be a saying in motor racing, “just get on with it.” well?

    “ooh bernie this, mclaren that, lewis is xx” – yesterday was a great race, the rule changes have worked and we all saw the race at a civilised time. so….STFU!

  12. roser said on 6th April 2009, 10:16

    I definitely agree with Keith :)
    F1 was nice because of the technology, the strategies, the drives… But: if it rains too much, if there is not enough light, not clear rules about the design of the cars… what are we taking about then: racing or images on the screen? racing or sales of newspapers?

  13. PJA said on 6th April 2009, 13:12

    I don’t agree with twilight races. Even if the local climate meant there wasn’t an increased chance of rain later in the day, Melbourne showed that the light levels and glare cause problems for driver safety.

    While Singapore worked well last year as a night race I wouldn’t like to see anymore night races either.

    I don’t get what was so bad about the old system, die hard fans got up in the middle of the night, whereas casual fans could watch the replay. Anyway it makes a change for fans in other parts of the world who usually have to watch the race at unsocialable hours.

    Bernie doesn’t want European races yet he seems to be saying that most fans are in Europe.

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