Should F1 have ‘twilight’ races? (Poll)

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Low light looks good but it's hazardous for drivers

The Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend will, like the Australian Grand Prix last weekend, be another ‘twilight’ race.

These two races have later start times in an effort to improve television audiences in Europe. But is it safe to start races so late, and does it make any difference to the television figures?

Should F1 have 'Twilight' races?

  • No opinion (5%)
  • No (67%)
  • Yes (28%)

Total Voters: 1,104

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Nico Rosberg was one of the drivers who criticised the decision to run the Australian Grand Prix so late in the day. Speaking after the race he said:

If the monsoon comes down, the race is going to have to be stopped because we can’t race and drive with that amount of water,” the German told Reuters. I think twilight racing is not the way to go. In Melbourne it was obvious that it just increases the danger so much. The visibility is so difficult, you can’t even see the edges of the track in some corners. I was driving into the sun and that’s not what racing is about. So I really hope they reconsider that.

Robert Kubica agrees:

In Australia it was a big issue with the visibility at the end of the race, it was very poor, especially in the last sector. It was quite dangerous, even very dangerous. Here by postponing the race you have a higher probability of rain but we will see. It will be cloudy and rainy, most likely it will be very dark, if there will be no rain but it’s sunny we might have the same problems as in Australia with very low sun.

With heavy rain very likely during the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, starting the race so late ay make it impossible to run properly.

The combination of low evening light and a Malaysian rain storm could make visibility too poor for the race to be run. What would happen then? Would they delay the race until Monday? Would we see dozens of laps completed behind the safety car as happened at Fuji two years ago?

And do ‘twilight’ races really improve TV viewership in Europe? Early audience figures for the Australian Grand Prix broadcast in Britain do suggest a significant rise over last year but there are competing reasons for why that might have happened: such as increased interest due to Lewis Hamilton’s title victory and Jenson Button getting into a race-winning car, or because of better coverage and promotion by the BBC.

These races may now be on at a more sociable hour in Europe but it’s bad news for fans in America and other countries.

The later start to the race caused various problems for the Australian Grand Prix organisers. Valuable corporate customers stayed away as the later start made getting flights after the race difficult.

I think twilight races are a poor compromise. Casual sports fans are increasingly used to be able to watch events when they choose to thanks to personal video recorders and on-demand ‘as-live’ replays. They are not much more likely to watch a race at 7am instead of 4am.

What do you think of ‘twilight races’? Cast your vote above and have your say in the comments.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “Should F1 have ‘twilight’ races? (Poll)”

  1. One or two is OK, more than that they start to lose their special appeal, just like having lots of night races would. Probably not too great to have the drivers driving around half blind, too.

  2. hitchcockm00
    4th April 2009, 8:34

    If tomorrow’s race gets delayed, stopped or mostly run behind the safety car then that’s just going to put the casual fans off.
    Why not just run the race at the usual time and make sure all the tv channels that are showing the race live show an as-live replay?

  3. No – in addition to driver safety, I’ve always been against the idea that hosting GP countries shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to saftisfy European audiences. As already pointed out, fans on other continents have a hard enough time as it is without having to keep up at inhospital hours (that’s if they’re lucky to have live feed, then decent feed after that).

    Should just be 1pm local time, I think it just makes the event better as it’s not early and not late – gives people time to enjoy before/after, and would be a nice day out. Night race is different, that’s quite cool, but one is enough.

    1. sorry, that should be I’m against hosting countries HAVING to bend over backwards to satisfy European countries…

    2. Exactly my point below Loki :)

  4. I don’t think it “looks good” at all. Sunset just makes me think of old people – seriously. I thought this was supposed to be a “new dawn” for F1. Starting it off with two “twilight” races seems horribly backwards. I don’t see how it’s an improvement at all, getting up at 3AM to see F1 cars going round Albert Park was fun, yes it’s a terrible hour but it seems a much better deal to me than getting up at 7AM, which is still annoyingly early, to squint at the TV for two hours trying to make out the cars in the gloom.

    And what is even the point of going all the way to Australia if you’re going to basically say to the fans outright “this isn’t about you, it’s about the people on their couches in Europe”.

    I’m totally against twilight races, every conceivable aspect of them.

  5. Robert McKay
    4th April 2009, 9:00

    I think it does make a difference to the TV viewing figures. Malaysia moving from a 6/7am UK start (can’t remember exactly which) to a 10 am start is a significant move.

    Having said that, I’m against this “chasing the light”. All you need is a delayed start, a bad crash, a heavy downpour that red flag suspends the race for a bit and you’re in trouble. I think we may well see a problem in Malaysia because of this.

    In essence, this is Bernie trying to have his cake and eat it by having more and more races outside of Europe but still pandering to European TV viewing figures.

  6. Can we stop calling them twilight races please? Twilight is after sunset, dusk is what they’re racing in. That’s annoyed me more than it should I suppose….

  7. I am totally against it, for a number of reasons.

    Mainly the safety aspect, the sunglare from turn 13 at Albert Park is ferocious at twilight. I would not like to be heading into that at 200 kph+. Then there are the shadows between from turn 3 onwards which would make it hard to see the track properly. I fear that there will be a serious accident from racing in those sorts of conditions, especially if we get a wet race.

    The other reason I am against them is why the **** should Australiana/Americans/Asians have to suit the timing of their events to European TV schedules? This move shows the poison dwarf has nothing but contempt for those fans south of the equator. Hey Bernie, could you change the British GP timeslot to be held at a more convenient time for me? Didn’t think so !

    To be an F1 fan in Australia or America requires a special level of dedication. Most races are not shown until midnight or so on a sunday night so to watch them live is no small effort. But I, and thousands of others do it, because we love the sport. We can’t wait to watch it after work monday, because we want to discuss it during the day. So I spend every second monday bleary eyed from having had only a few hours sleep the night before, and yet Europeans can’t get up early on a Sunday morning to watch my local race once a year?
    *note obviously I don’t include fellow F1fanatics in that statement.

    And really, who is Bernie trying to fool with this casual fans nonsense. I hardly think a casual fan is any more likely to get up at 7am than he was at 3am to watch.

    Bernie should just concentrate his efforts on not alienating the already established fanbase that he has, rather than pandering to fairweather fans who might tune in if it suits them. Afterall Bernie, who contributed more to your bank balance????

    1. I found it difficult to go back to sleep after the first race. Usually when its shown at its traditional time I can fall alseep afterwards.

    2. 1000 % agreed Pink- here on the east coast of the U.S., these first few races are absolutley brutal. I’m not complaining, but locla fans should matter first and foremost 100% of the time. I would enjoy it if European races started a few hours later, and I was able to grab a few more hours of sleep on Sunday mornings, but I would never think of wishing that on any GP.

  8. London, UK here so technically benefit from dusk racing. But it has taken away a lot of the special feeling at getting up at hours when everyone else thinks your mad.
    If they are going to change the time then they need to make other changes to match. The drivers are rihgt to complain. Light is important to seeing. If they can’t play cricket, tennis or golf in such conditions then that says it all really.
    I’ll watch every session and the race live whenever its on!

  9. Go Renault 09"
    4th April 2009, 9:53

    Yay Pink Peril,

    Totally agree it’s rubbish but like you said if you are a true fan you will make the effort to watch as we do down here.
    it was incredibly hard to see in the second half of the gp in melb, i was at turn 9-10 and everyone in the stand had there hand over there face ; couldn’t even see the screen.
    I don’t know how the drivers did it???
    I love F1 season staying up late or getting up early ie Brazil its part and parcel really for the sake of a couple of races over this way safety should always outway trying to get casual viewers to watch.
    Then again bernie doesn’t have to drive does he!!

  10. Bigbadderboom
    4th April 2009, 11:10

    Not sure who is being kept happy with these late runnings. Not me, i’d actually rather watch a race at 3.00am with better light. For me it’s all part of the magic of watching global sport, just like the brits when they go boxing in the states. The only people Bernie should be bowing to are the local motorsport/government officials who in most examples suffer sometimes enormous losses in staging an F1 race. I wouldn’t want the British GP run at dusk so why should i expect any other country to. And as Pink Peril points out it can be simply dangerous as well.

  11. There was no point of having a twilight race in Australia because it was far too early still (6am). The only way they can rectify this is by scrapping the race or moving it to a night race.

    However, I love the fact that the Malaysian GP is held at 5pm local time, as a 10am start in the UK is very reasonable and this will be the first Malaysian GP I will have seen live.

    Bernie’s right to be doing this (for once) as the European audience is the backbone of F1 and needs to be catered for with the most priority.

    1. Yet Bernie farms out numerous races to farm flung deserts instead of keeping them in Europe, so I fail to see his, or your logic.

  12. No, and purely for selfish reasons.

    I enjoyed getting up in the middle of the night to watch the race in complete peace and quiet while the rest of the family slept. Perfect.

    Though I do agree that why should the local population have to suffer for a european audience, they have just as much rights as the rest of us. F1 is a global sport and the time is all part of the appeal.

  13. So Bernie wants optimal viewing times for Eurpeans yet he’s spent so much time adding new Asian races and getting rid of North American races that were at perfect prime-time slots for European viewers?

  14. Robert McKay
    4th April 2009, 13:57

    So Bernie wants optimal viewing times for Eurpeans yet he’s spent so much time adding new Asian races and getting rid of North American races that were at perfect prime-time slots for European viewers?

    With the important proviso that he’s got governments in Asia willing and able to pay what he asks to hold a race, yes, that’s more or less it.

    I think Bernie would love races in America and Canada but Canada were struggling to pay the going rate and Tony George at Indy wasn’t prepared to spend more than he budgeted for (because, funnily enough, they want to run the race at a profit).

    1. Robert McKay
      4th April 2009, 13:58

      Let me be clear that Bernie would love races in Canada and the USA but not so much that he’ll effectively subsidise their appearances.

    2. Robert is exactly right- for Bernie and CVC Group, profits are all that matter. If there were 3 or 4 tracks in Canada and the U.S. that were willing to pay a cool $30-40 mil for his show, we’d have 3 or 4 grands prix over here. It’s all about money in their books….

    3. It won’t even be a subsidy. It will just be less of an extortion than what he’s getting from the Middle Eastern and Asian races that use F1 to signal that they have “arrived” on the international scene.

      Though I hear the Chinese are making unhappy noises about Shanghai too… figures, really, they don’t really need to kowtow to an Englishman when they *owns* the US Treasury already, do they?

  15. Interesting words from Martin Whitmarsh in this month’s Motor Sport hinting that the teams (FOTA) could look at organising or investing in American races.

    Appreciated the 7am UK/5pm start in Melbourne, maybe the light would be better if the race was 4 weeks earlier. I’m aware it has to fit around major tennis, racing, swimming, cricket, footy etc in Melbourne, but it seemed like a late start to the F1 season this year.

    No need to move the Malaysian race so late; we may not get all 56 laps in tomorrow. 3 or 4pm (8 or 9am) would have been fine for European viewers.

    1. 159tom,

      Whitmarsh’s remarks were great- not only was he trying to bring up a new idea for reinstating more races, but he also brought up some ideas for the teams working to promote the sport in North America- things such as nationwide driver media tours and the like. That’s the kid of fresh thinking we need more of :)

  16. Will they have amber visors? lol.

  17. When it comes to the issue of these late-starting “twilight races,” I believe I agree with the vast majority of you in saying….. NO! NO NO NO NO AND NO!!!!!

    One more time, for good measure….NO!!!!!!!

    There are three good reasons for this, in order….

    1. Driver Safety: All the safety regs that have been implimented in the last 20+ years are slaped in the face by this ruling. If the drivers think it’s unsafe to race in, then they shoulden’t be racing in it- the sun glint off the sidepod mirrors last week was annoying me watching on TV- just think what it’s like out there on the track!

    2. Spectator preference: When it comes to staging Grands Prix, local fans should have the most say in when the race is run. Sure it’s nice to accomodate the fans in Europe, but if the Australian fans want the race to start at 1 PM local time, then it should start at 1 PM local time. The fans are the ones who come out and make race day what it is- and we pay pretty darn good money to do so! Make local fans at all venues the most important- anyhting less is a disgrace.

    3. Additional TV markets I’m not trying to launch a personal rant here, believe me, but al of these late-start races in Asia are absolutley brutal to watch live here in the western hemisphere. This adds up to huge masses of fans who have a very difficult time tuning in- a case in point is the 5AM local start time for this weekend’s GP. The late Asian starts hurt fans not only here in the United States and Canada, but also Mexico and Central America, not to mention Brazil and the key South American fanbase.

    Any way you cut it, “Twilight” races are a bad deal!!!!

    1. Well, for brazilian fans, the Australian Grand Prix was 3AM, and the Malaysian Grand Prix will be 6AM. Last year, it was midnight and 3PM respectively, which means it didn’t change that much… what you lost in Australia with a good saturday night friends reunion to watch it, you gained in Malaysia by waking up reasonably early to see the race alone on sunday morning, or a little bit later, in time for Q3 on saturday morning…

      But for driver safety it is a disaster, and it shouldn’t be sustained by the european viewers’ confort…

      The funniest thing is: twilight races have become a much more serious issue than night races, that were tested and approved, in terms of safety and visibility, and not only in Formula 1… perhaps more race organizers will follow Singapore Grand Prix steps…

  18. How many people actually live in Europe? 1 Billion maybe? About the same as China or a bit more? If Bernie wants to encourage and please casual fans, maybe he should look at a). Where all the people live, and b). Where the races are. This year there are at least 8 races out of the European region, next year there’ll be more. China and India have about a third of the world’s population between them, indeed Asia has probably half. Surely if race times are to be changed, it should be to suit the majority of potential fans, to apply Bernie’s so-called logic.

    Apart from any of that, it was hard to see at the track in Melbourne and hard to see on the broadcast, it’s dangerous for the drivers and officials,and I missed the Who’s first song while standing in line for a beer because they had to start immediately after the race, due to the fact it was getting late. On a Sunday night. It felt like I’d been watching a European race by the time I got to bed. Not impressed. But as long as Europeans can get out of bed a bit later, it’s ok? Rubbish. Try telling that to the Euro fans with little kids. They’ll know what I mean!

    1. But Chinese and Indian fans can’t (and won’t) put up with the extortion that is F1 official merchandise. Over 100 quid for a baseball cap?

      The counterfeit stuff is so much cheaper :P

  19. The one and only thing that should always be is SAFETY and if SAFETY is compromised it should NOT happen.
    What is Bernie waiting for: a driver getting killed.
    Besides as someone pointed it out with the DVR’s and Tivo’s most people watch the race when it is convenient.
    Bernis STOP always thinking of MONEY…… Greedy B…d

  20. Hahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaa very wet egg on the face of Bernie – pity they didn’t ask the locals.

  21. After the Australian GP I thought twilight races were a bad idea because the light levels and glare for the drivers was unsafe, and this view has only being reinforced after the Malaysian GP.

    Also I don’t know about anyone else but in some camera shots I had trouble making out which car was which.

  22. Younger Hamilton
    26th October 2009, 15:34

    if F1 are gonna have Twilight Races then they shouldget Good Lighting Systems and start with the Lights on, Like in Abu Dhabi.Austraila is the Perfect track 2 do it in

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