Formula 1 drivers are pressuring Bernie Ecclestone to bring the start times of the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix forward for next year, following safety issues that marred the first two events of this season.
Poor light and a low sun in Melbourne, allied to atrocious weather and fading light that forced the abandonment of the Sepang race, have forced the drivers into action to urge a shift in the start time of the 2010 races.
Although Ecclestone has said he is keen to keep the races running at 5pm local time, because it boosts the European television audience, the drivers believe that safety could be improved if the starts are shifted forward by just one hour.
Sources have revealed that part of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) regular post-race report to the FIA following the first two events will include a recommendation for the start times to be moved forward. It is understood that the GPDA will also write to Ecclestone to ask if he will consider shifting the start time so as to alleviate safety concerns for 2010.
A source within the GPDA told AUTOSPORT: "We already spoke to Charlie [Whiting, F1 race director] in the drivers' briefings to express our concerns about what could happen, and our fears came true. It was common sense that there would be problems
"In Australia it was very difficult. Because of the low sun, it was hard to see into Turn 1 and the pit lane exit line. While in Malaysia, the fading light made things very difficult.
"It wasn't the rain that was the problem in Malaysia, because it can rain just as heavily at 2pm as it did at 6pm. But there was no chance to restart the race when it started so late because it got too dark – and that was the problem.
"I think even if the races are shifted to one hour earlier it will make a difference. We understand that there are commercial reasons for running the races so late, but safety always has to come first."
Although Malaysian Grand Prix organizers have also expressed their desire to see the start time of their race moved forward, Ecclestone has so far remained adamant that things do not need to change. When asked by AUTOSPORT at Sepang if he had regrets about the start time, because the race had to be abandoned, he said: "No. I just have regrets about the rain.
"I don't see anything wrong with the start time, we just didn't know about the rain. If we had started at 2pm then it would have rained as well."