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Heidfeld questions start time

NEWS STORY
27/03/2010

Mat Coch writes:

Mercedes test and reserve driver Nick Heidfeld has expressed reservations over the start time of the Australian Grand Prix. The recently elected GPDA Chairman voiced his concerns to Pitpass, though stopped short of claiming the 'drivers' union' would become involved.

The race was first moved to 17:00 (local time) in 2009 in order to be more compliant with the European television audience, a move which backfired as viewing audiences actually dropped.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had initially demanded a night race, however, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation baulked at the idea due to noise and cost considerations.

"I think, and I guess most of the other drivers have expressed similar feelings, that they don't like having to start at this time," admitted Heidfeld. "Many people think it's dangerous."

The setting sun caused concern in 2009, however the additional threat of rain this year is leaving a number of drivers anxious, according to Heidfeld. "Last year the sun was low which was a problem, particularly on certain parts of the track," he said. "Yesterday when it was very cloudy it was actually even worse. We would definitely like to have it earlier."

Heidfeld was quick to distance his remarks from the official sentiment of the GPDA however, saying: "As the GPDA chairman, everything I say will be taken as me saying it as the GPDA President."

While he's happy to fill the position vacated by Pedro de la Rosa he feels it is important to separate his own views from those of the association. "We've done a good job up to now, especially Pedro in the last couple of years," he said, "and as I have a bit more time now on the weekends I was happy to take that role.

"The most important thing for the GPDA is to improve safety," he added, though refusing to be drawn further on the organization's position over the Melbourne start time.

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