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Sepang organizers seeking return to traditional start time

NEWS STORY
07/04/2009

Following Sunday's fiasco, Sepang bosses are said to be determined that next year's Malaysia Grand Prix will be held at a "more suitable" time.

This year's Malaysian round of the championship, like the Australian race a week earlier, kicked off at 17.00 (local time) as F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone seeks the best of both worlds, the cash rich governments of the east and the dedicated fan-base of the west. Consequently, both races were held late in the afternoon, causing inconvenience to those attending and marshalling the event, while also compromising driver safety.

Ecclestone has been pushing organizers in Melbourne and Sepang for an all-out night race, with the 17.00 start seen as a compromise. However, the late start on Sunday meant that when the rains eventually fell - as had been widely predicted - by the time conditions improved it was too dark for racing to continue.

While the racing up to the point the race was stopped had kept fans on the edge of their seats, the subsequent forty minutes of waiting before the event was finally abandoned left, fans, teams and drivers frustrated. Pitpass editor, Chris Balfe, claimed it was like watching an exciting movie only to have someone pull the pug out of the TV as the film reaches its climax.

Looking ahead to 2010, Sepang organizers are adamant that the lesson of 2009 has been learned.

"We definitely need to propose a more suitable time for our race," said Sepang International Circuit Chief Executive Officer Razlan Razali, according to The Star. "The issue here is whether we have enough daylight, and on Sunday this was not the case.

"It was not just the fans who were dissatisfied with a shorter race but I think everyone involved in F1 also lost money," Razlan added, confirming that talks are already underway for the 2010 event to return to its traditional 15.00 slot.

With drivers awarded half-points for the shortened event, other than the question as to whether those fans attending the race will receive 50% refunds, others are asking, had Ecclestone had his way (again) and medals were awarded rather than points, whether Jenson Button would have been give half a gold on Sunday.

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