Sebastien Bourdais

Albert Park Expected To Adjust 2011 Australian Grand Prix Start Time

Albert Park circuit officials are expected to move the start-time of the 2011 Australian Grand Prix after discussions with Bernie Ecclestone. During last weekend’s race the drivers were very forthcoming about the low levels of light experienced towards the end of the grand prix, and the FIA have taken measurements which back this claim up. Currently, the race is scheduled for a 5pm local-time start, but this could be bought forward by an hour to afford the drivers better and more safe conditions.

The start-time of the Australian Grand prix was moved in 2009 to accommodate a more appropriate air-time in Europe. Combined with the change in clocks in the United Kingdom on Sunday morning, the race started at 7am BST, but combined with wet weather in Melbourne, there was insufficient light by the time the grand prix had concluded at around 6.30pm in Australia.

I think somebody else decides whether we run at four or five or whatever time of the year. I just know that in Australia it was certainly over the limit. By the end of the race it was certainly too dark and I understand the FIA has measured this and will take action for next year.

But at least there seem to be some guidelines now as to what light conditions you have to have as a minimum for the future. Michael Schumacher.

Last year when we had this big [start-time] shift, we knew what the reason was. But then I say, let’s do it early in the morning so it is Saturday evening in Europe.

For a late start, it is risky if like today there will be big clouds and heavy rain and a lot of spray. I think after Australia we complained already twice. The FIA did some measurements and it is clear it is too dark for them – for the safety target they are putting. It is a serious problem and this year was very dark in Australia and the year before the sun was very low, which was very dangerous. Robert Kubica.

While Kubica’s idea of starting the race earlier in the morning is intriguing, it could create additional problems. With a time difference of 10 hours between Australia and the UK, a Sunday 8am start time in Melbourne would mean a Saturday 10pm start time in Britain and 11pm for the rest of Europe. This however would mean shifting qualifying to much earlier on Saturday morning and would disrupt the third practice session. As well as this, it may affect ticket sales for the event with few people wanting to wake up even earlier to ensure they arrive at Albert Park in time for the race.

Personally, I am a supporter of running grands prix at 1pm local-time and forcing Europe to wake up early/stay up late to enjoy the race. As a child growing up before these time-shifts, I have fond memories of creeping downstairs with my duvet and pillow at some unearthly hour of the morning to watch Formula One with the family dog. While Bernie Ecclestone may want to capitalise on revenue with the sport’s most popular market, it should be remembered that Formula One is a global sport and not everybody can be kept happy.

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