LONDON, England - The 2015 Malaysian Formula 1 GP could start earlier as a safety precaution due to Jules Bianchi's horrific crash in Japan in October 2014.
IN CRITICAL CONDITION: More than three months since Jules Bianchi's horrific crash at Suzuka in October 2014, his condition remains poor. Image: AFP
Sepang circuit boss Razlan Razali told Reuters on Wednesday (Jan 14) after contract renewal talks in London with F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, that a return to a 3pm instead of 4pm start (9am instead of 10am SA local time) was discussed.
That would mean less likelihood of the tropical downpours that have affected some recent races, including the 2009 race that had to be cut short with half-points awarded.
HORROR CRASH AT SUZUKA
Bianchi suffered severe brain damage at Suzuka when he skidded off the track, in fading light and heavy rain, and collided with a recovery tractor. He is still in hospital in a critical condition.
Razali said: "Ecclestone mentioned that because of the Suzuka incident the International Automobile Federation had some time limit, so he is reviewing to move the start to the original time, maybe in 2015.
"For us it's good. It's a safer time bracket... so now people can come in for lunch, watch the race, and at about 5pm go home.
"He (Ecclestone) mentioned the possibility (of an earlier start). We said if you want to go back to 3pm we fully support it."
Razali said turning Malaysia, the second round of the championship, into a night race like the one in neighbouring Singapore was also discussed but he was not keen on an idea first mooted in 2008.
He said: "It's a danger to force us to do it. In the past Ecclestone was pushing but now I think it's the first time he actually listened to us as a promoter… what we want.
"At the moment (we don't want it). Every circuit has its own identity, the danger is to copy someone else."
SINGAPORE MORE POPULAR
Malaysia has hosted F1 since 1999, with Singapore only joining the calendar in 2008 but rapidly becoming the premier event in the region with its floodlit street circuit.
Razali admitted that Singapore was "doing it better" but said Malaysia was keen to stay on the calendar because the race had a positive economic effect and promoted the country as a global destination.
He said: "Singapore has an edge because the race is in the city and it looks really nice on TV; it's cooler, but I still think Sepang offers better racing.”
The circuit head defined the talks with Ecclestone as “very positive” and was sure this season's race on March 29 would not be the last, with a multi-year extension expected to be announced soon.
However he warned that F1 needed to do much more to get “bums on seats” and provide more entertainment.
F1 TOO QUIET?
MotoGP, he added, provided better value for spectators and had drawn bigger crowds to Sepang for the past five years than F1. He confessed, however, to having been won over by the new V6 turbo “power units”, despite expressing strong reservations.
Razali said: "We were concerned after the feedback from Australia. Very concerned. When it finally came to Malaysia, I didn't like it. It was simply too quiet but what I noticed in the grandstands is that you get families with kids watching and enjoying F1 more.
"I can remember in the past that a dad would put headphones on the child and hold it. Or a child would be too scared and start crying, wanting to go home. I think it attracts a new fan base now. And that's what you want."