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