LONDON, England - Formula 1's season-opener in Melbourne on March 15 is but one of five GP’s that will start an hour earlier through 2015 because of Jules Bianchi's crash in Japan in October 2014.
RED BULL'S DANIEL RICCIARDO: He was disqualified from his home Australian F1 GP in 2014 - this year the race is supposed to start earlier, but will that happen? Image AFP
Formula One Management detailed the start times for the 20-race season in a document sent to participants and broadcasters.
The Australia F1 race will start at 4pm local though Saturday qualifying remains at 5pm; Malaysia has been brought forward to 3pm and China, Japan and Russia will each start at 2pm local. Mexico, returning to the calendar for the first time since 1992, was handed a 1pm local start time.
French driver Bianchi incurred severe brain damage at Suzuka when he skidded off the track in fading light and heavy rain and ran at speed be neath a recovery tractor. He remains in hospital in France, his condition ‘critical’.
The International Automobile Federation set up a panel to investigate the crash. One of its recommendations, in a report published in December 2014, was for earlier starts. It said:
"It is proposed that a regulation or guideline be established such that the start time of an event shall not be less than four hours before either sunset or dusk, except in the case of night (floodlit) races.”
Floodlights illuminate races in Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain and the trend has been for later starts in Asia to boost TV viewing figures in Europe.
Malaysian circuit boss Razlan Razali told Reuters a week earlier that he would welcome an earlier start for a race sometimes affected by late-afternoon downpours. "We said if you want to go back to 3pm we fully support it," he said.
Qualifying in Sepang will remain as 5pm, however.
AUSTRALIA HOLDING OUT
Melbourne organisers had sounded less keen on the time change, with Australian GP chief executive Andrew Westacott expressing his reluctance in the Herald Sun newspaper. He said:
"The race time will remain 5pm as per agreement with the AGPC and Formula One Management, which means Melbourne, as the opening race of the season, will air in Asia at lunchtime and Europe at breakfast.
Russia's earlier start comes after talk last year of the race in Sochi switching to a floodlit night format.
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