Drivers object to late race starts but Abu Dhabi wants special start time for finale

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix organisers want a special start time for their race
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix organisers want a special start time for their race

The F1 drivers have collectively voiced their unhappiness about late race start times. A GPDA representative confirmed to Autosport the Malaysian Grand Prix might have been re-started had it not been started so late:

It wasn’t the rain that was the problem in Malaysia, because it can rain just as heavily at 2pm as it did at 6pm. But there was no chance to restart the race when it started so late because it got too dark – and that was the problem.

Bernie Ecclestone wants the late start to remain because they mean larger television audiences in Europe. Meanwhile the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix organisers are hoping its first race later this year will get an unusual start time of its own.

Circuit manager Philippe Gurdjian said:

We have a certain idea of what we would like to do, but I cannot tell you today what it is! We have a very specific idea, and I hope we will be able to do it – and it will be as unique as the track.

So what kind of time do they have in mind? At present the race is scheduled for a 3pm start (11am in Britain).

There has been no indication that they are planning to fully illuminate the Yas Island circuit to run a night race. In November Abu Dhabi sees sunlight between 6am and 6pm, limiting then to that time frame.

If they start the race much earlier the broadcast time would be inconvenient for Ecclestone. and if they start it any later they run the risk of the sun setting before the race finishes. So what could they be planning?

Whatever it is, they better tread carefully. They’ve been handed the privilege of hosting the final race of the year, which could in all likelihood turn out to be the championship decider, and F1 must not have another repeat of the Sepang debacle.

More on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

65 comments on “Drivers object to late race starts but Abu Dhabi wants special start time for finale”

  1. hitchcockm00
    10th April 2009, 14:48

    Whatever it is, they better tread carefully. They’ve been handed the privilege of hosting the final race of the year, which could in all likelihood turn out to be the championship decider

    Agreed. Why do they feel the need to mess with the start time when they’re already in the unique position of being the season finale?

    I can’t really think of a unique time-slot that hasn’t already been run though. There’s only really morning, daytime, evening and night isn’t there?

    1. 3am would be fantastic!!! Almost as absurd as Sepang but nothing could be that absurd.

  2. Should’ve left the season finale in Brazil..

    1. Agreed… the excitement of the Brazilian fans just enhanced the excitement of the season finale all the more.

      It will be weird having the season finale played out before an empty grandstand.

    2. How much racing heritage does Abu Dubai have? None. Would love seeing Brazil or Suzuka as the finale.

  3. 6pm local start time on an unlit circuit. Just require the cars to run headlights like that McLaren video last year. It should be no problem redefining the rules mid-season, as they already plan on defining the rules regarding diffusers two races in.

  4. Maybe they’re planning a 1337 O’clock race!

    1. I don’t get it!

  5. I seriously doubt that fans in Abu Dhabi will come close to matching the Brazilian fans. It was a mistake to give the finale to them. The race organizers there must have made Bernie a good deal of some sort.

  6. “As unique as the track” – so 3pm then, guys? Sounds good to me.

    (Do not confuse having a couple of gimmicks with being unique or original)

  7. I think it is obvious. Re-read how special they emphasize how they want it to be. Special and specific, like the track is special itself. Considering the custom made stuff, hotels etc around the track, I’m sure it’s going to be something like a near sunset or just past sunset start, with very cool and innovative lighting systems, really making it a spectacle. I don’t think just plain floodlights, I think more neat things. Maybe lights in the ground or low around the track itself.

    1. Isn’t it too late, though? We know about Singapore’s lighting plans more than a year in advance, as far as I remember. Unless the rumours about the constructions running late is because they are trying to rush these changes through…

    2. They will need a spectacle, because as others have pointed out, there does’nt appear to be a huge history of open wheel, single seater racing, and having built the place from scratch it could well be like a ghost town, it will be odd not to have the huge crowds found elsewhere at the season finale, lets hope we’re wrong.

  8. Just require the cars to run headlights like that McLaren video last year. It should be no problem

    Actually that’d be a huge problem. As it means putting the lights [most prolly] on the front wings – which would completely change (=ruin) the aerodynamics of the cars. Putting a single light into the nose cone couldn’t be done, as the hole for the light would reduce the nose’s strength in a frontal crash.
    The lights would prolly require the cars to be fitted with a larger/heavier battery – but as you can suspect, F1 cars are not build to have spare space inside them. Thus it’d mean either huge adjustments or rebuilding the cars.

    1. Um, he was referring to a joke video from McLaren… so not meant seriously…?

  9. The thing I’m thinking is running the race late evening where the race gradually gets darker as things progress. Of course, it would need full floodlighting but if they could have that get brighter as the surrounding sky was darker, I think we’d have something truly incredible.

    Of course, Singapore could do exactly the same thing.

  10. yes 13.37 O’clock sounds pretty special to me too
    or what about 14.23?

  11. unless it’s in the morning or itsn’t on the hour surely there can’t be anything unique about it.

  12. perhaps they want a late evening race that ends in night? seems like the only ‘unique’ idea.

  13. Why end in Brazil with a great new track coming aboard?

    It’s obvious that’s the right choice.

    Now them kids must behave and don’t play with light of day just for TV sake… even if a GP is on at 10AM here in Europe, on a Sunday, how many people will get up to see it live (one hour before, bla bla…), if they can record it and see it at 1PM without knowing nothing about what’s happening – it’s like seeing it live without commercials and with a pause button.

    I did it for Australia, Malaysia (it was live here at 10AM – but the TV Show started at 9AM…. and will do again for China, with the race starting here 8AM Sunday….

    REC and se it when I wake up. Sore about NOT seeing all those commercials et all… :)

    1. I’m going to do the same from now on, only I’ll be downloading the race, since I can’t watch it live in Australia without ads cutting 20 minutes of racing out.

      Looking forward to China :)

  14. This looks like a Tilke-Dome, located in a Mo-Town, within the republic of Bernie-Dahbi

  15. They’re going to run it at night with no lighting and the drivers wearing night vision goggles.
    The TV shots will be like all those clips from the police helicopters with the engines and tyre tracks glowing.
    The result won’t matter as it will all be decided in a special meeting in December.

    1. Night vision goggles? What a riduculous idea! Surely the best solution would be to have one of those miner’s lights wrapped around their helmets, or failing that, some super powerful strobe lighting could be used, providing that none of the drivers are epileptic.

    2. lmao

      And the sponsors logos will show up like lint on your shirt under UV lights.

      Please please please at the end can someone call in an Apache chopper to take out the Mad Dwarf as he leaves in his car?

  16. KingHamilton
    10th April 2009, 18:29

    Maybe they’re planning to make the cars race upside down or hover above the track or being towed by Plasma powered horses or something of the like.

  17. What if they’re going for a Saturday race? I.e. Qually and immediately after that – the race? ;-) That would be quite some excitement for the fans … and also exhausting for the drivers :-)

  18. This sounds reasonable to me. Malaysia (and/or Bahrain, perhaps) used to begin at 2-3 PM.

  19. I like the idea of the night vision helmets,

  20. Sorry, I read the article incorrectly. It’s stated for a standard time of 3PM but wants something different.

  21. Has anyone else noticed that the main building at this circuit has been clearly designed by a man? Yas Marina’s Manly Hotel

    1. Cackie Steward
      11th April 2009, 8:13

      Sounds like a giant YMCA. Why’s it shaped like that?

    2. Thank you for the link to the Yas Marina Adam. I read that F1 Badger likened the building to Newcastle’s Sage Centre, but has anyone noticed its similarity to the Selfridge Store in Birmingham?

  22. Bernie Ecclestone wants the late start to remain because they mean larger television audiences in Europe.

    Its too bad America is not a concern. I woke up at 4:30AM to watch the Malaysian GP… I won’t be doing that next year!

    Rain may not be an issue in Abu Dhabi, but I’m sure sandstorms could bring out a SC. Just a concern.

    Would people in Europe really mind waking up a few hours early if it meant they would get to see an entire race? I think so. This wreaks of the Indy 05 disaster. Both incidents were avoidable, both tainted F1 (particularly for US fans).

    Why end in Brazil with a great new track coming aboard?

    Brazil is an amazing track, (Not a Tik track, right?) which has produced the two best races of the past two seasons. This really sucks for Massa, he may never again get a chance to win the WDC in front of his home crowd.

    Lastly, What is it that keeps the teams in F1? There have been so many penalties, driver complaints, and arguments about profit sharing, it seems like it would make more sense to just leave. At least the Canadian GP would support it.

    1. He can very easily win the WC in Brazil… he just needs to be 11 points clear of everyone else going to Abu Dhabi!

  23. theRoswellite
    10th April 2009, 20:05

    We can only hope that the premier race for this circuit, coming as possibly the season deciding event, doesn’t suffer some similar snafu as has Sepang…business as usual for Bernie.

  24. WELL, Whatever they do, it can’t be any worse than Sepang, will miss Brazil for the final, with it’s possibility of rain to stir things up and cause real excitement

  25. Jonesracing82
    11th April 2009, 1:38

    could they be thinking of a morning/sunset start time? thats all i can think of as unique

  26. I’m thinking midnight or really early in the morning – as in before sunrise. Dubai being what 5 hours ahead in time difference would make a start time in prime time european viewing hours. That’s the only thing that can be unique a grand prix during prime time tv hours.

  27. Some renders and images of the Abu Dhabi circuit, which is apparantly otherwise known as Yas Island/Ferrari World

  28. kids complain less
    11th April 2009, 5:59

    i dont know what the big deal is with twilight race. and i hate to make a comparison to nascar because f1 is so much better, but they have races that start while the sun is out and then finish in complete darkness. f1 drivers were complaining that it is too dangerous, at daytona there are 42 cars within a couple seconds of each other doing 185 mph with the sun in there eyes. the likes of jeff gordon and jimmie johnson deal with the conditions, and so should alonso, massa and company…

    1. NASCAR has floodlights for such races. F1 doesn’t. It’s not a fair comparison.

  29. There’s more issues with the NASCAR comparison that don’t apply to F1:

    – The tracks are extremely monotonous and predictable and require very little attention from the driver in comparison (Only left, cambered turns and straights).

    – The cars are much much larger and easier to see.

    – The cars’ relative speed is always almost identical.

    – The cars are very robust in case of interaction with other cars.

    I exclude the possibilties of driving in low sun as well as night because the drivers cannot change the visor tinting that easily. I think it must be that the race starts just when the sun goes up or goes down, then track lights compensate for the rest.

  30. Drivers in NASCAR sit much higher than an F1 driver.

  31. floodlights have nothing to do with the sun in your eyes, nor does sitting higher in the car. tinted tear offs are used not tinted visors. and dont get me wrong, the tracks are boring when your watching someone turn left for 4 hours, but when they do that 3 cars wide at those places it gets pretty exciting. its not quite as much fun as watching a race finish with a 24 second gap to 2nd place like in f1 but hey…..

  32. If you are sitting higher in a vehicle you can discern shadows more easily.

  33. Are you sure about tinted tear-offs? That is illogical. Having that would make the sun-block much less effective as you tear them off one by one. There would also be glare coming in from the sides around the edges.

    In the Massa Ferrari communication from Malaysia he did shout for a ‘clear visor’, not clear tear-offs. This article on the official formula 1 website states they usually have tinted visors. It is also clear on photos of the drivers that the visor is darkened evenly all the way up around where the hinge attachment point is, not just where the tear-offs are.

  34. I think it might be like the day/night cricket where they start in natual light and the flood lights take over when it gets to dark.

  35. i’ll bet it will be a short time after sunrise. having a night race or after the sunset start of the race isn’t unique, singapore has done it, free practice there is the sun setting and at start of qualifying. i bet its early morning, weird but unique. or maybe breaking dawn

  36. Unique… it surely has to be a sunset idea. Sunrise makes no sense for trackside spectators or competitors and any anything else would just be during daylight hours, not exactly an original concept.

    Having the sun set during the final race would seem fitting as the season draws so a close, and could make for some spectacular photographs. They will definitely need some sort of lighting though.

    If the race is to finish in darker conditions, maybe they’re planning a big fireworks finish to cap off the season. It might sound tacky to some, but I thought Singapore missed a trick by not having fireworks at the end of the podium celebration.

    1. Or fireworks as the winner pass’s the checkered flag.

  37. An F1 race starts at 2:00 PM local time. Full stop.

  38. Ecclestone has been brilliantly described in another place as ‘coin operated’. Fantastic ! Describes perfectly his attitude. Who pays most gets everything. Who pays least gets thrown out.

    Classic Circuit with atmosphere in spades ? Too bad. If it doesn’t pay the bloodthirsty rate BE sets. Out it goes.

    Shiny new circuit costing billions and paying BE’s billion dollar fees, but built in a place where nobody lives? Great ! Welcome !

    Tradition ? Don’t make me laugh ! Huge Crowds and fantastic atmosphere ? Not interested if they don’t pay what I want !

    How we are all going to miss Montreal, Silverstone, and all the rest waiting for the chop because Bernie has big personal bills to pay and F1 is his milch cow.

  39. Looking forward to seeing the cars going “through” the hotel.

    Wonder what they charge for bed ‘n breakfast :)

    1. Mother nature rained on Moto GP’s parade!

  40. Stick to the 2pm start, should rain arrive, there’s room for a delayed start as light will still be adequate. We can fathom cancellation if the rain refuses to halt, due to nature. Bernie has lost too much F1 fans, not because of the viewing time. They left F1 due to the rubbish politics and the stupid rule changes from Max/FIA. So now he needs new superficial audiences to fill his pocket. FOM better start preparing free tickets at Abu Dhabi to fill empty seats. If the troll is smart he’ll reschedule Interlagos for the last race. We don’t need to be billionaires to understand the F1 format.

  41. Its probably got more to do with the time everyone in the Middle East wakes up after their afternoon siesta than anything else. Also the temperatures out there get outrageously hot – its not so noticable in Bahrain since its an island surrounded by water, but most of the other countries in that part of the world close down during the afternoon as its too hot to do anything.
    The only sensible times for racing will be early in the morning or in the evening, and from what I remember, there isn’t really a ‘twilight’ either – one minute there is daylight, the next minute its darkness.
    Which might cause a few headaches around the paddock :-)
    On another note – the MotoGP in Qatar was delayed by some serious rain, so the organisers in Abu Dhabi might have more problems than you think!

  42. We have already had afternoon races, twilight races and floodlit night races.
    In terms of European start time we have also had all variations on a Sunday from very early morning to morning to regular afternoon to evening.

    The only things they can do, if they want it to be unique is not have the race on a Sunday, or try to do a sunrise/sunset race as some have suggested. Considering no one seems to have heard anything about floodlights how long would these take to sort out.

    In the end I don’t think we will have a unique start time, just some PR fuss claiming it to be unique.

    I agree with the other posters in that I would prefer the season finale to be at Brazil, but at the end of the day its all down to who is prepared to pay the most.

  43. Regarding the earlier posts that commented on “empty grandstands” in Abu Dhabi… not to worry.

    I tried booking two tickets directly from the race organizers the day after tickets went on sale. All of the seats in the main grandstands were already gone with mostly singles remaining in the most interesting stands. Only the two stands with the cheapest seats still had a decent supply of tickets remaining. I was fortunate to get two very good seats in the U-shaped North Grandstand.

    Brazil may have more passionate fans, but race fans in the Middle East are very knowledgeable and the atmosphere will be exciting – especially if the final race again decides the title.

    1. There are a lot of European ex pats living in the UAE and many of my friends bought tickets in the first few days that they were on sale. Lewis Hamilton got a lot of people interested in F1 over the last 2 seasons and now that Brawn, Red Bull and Toyota are doing so well many people that I know are switching on to F1. I just hope it goes down to the last race this year as it has done for the last 2. I’m sure that Bernie the “Ringmaster” will do all he can to ensure that it does. Don’t rule out the big boys just yet, remember there are still 140 driver points up for grabs and so far the championship leader only has 21.

  44. Could be something to do with prayer times considering the UAE is a muslim country. Prayer times for that day in Abu Dhabi are 1545 and 1743hrs.

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