Bernie Ecclestone's plans to bring far-flung Formula One races into European living rooms at more acceptable hours backfired on Sunday, as the Malaysian Grand Prix was cut short by torrential rain, leaving viewers around the world looking at stationary cars for more than an hour before the event was finally abandoned.
While the late start for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix was generally accepted to have been successful, complaints about the low sun notwithstanding, Sunday's problems mean that it is questionable whether Sepang will be asked to stage a 'twilight' race in future.
The downpour that, first, interrupted, then ended the Malaysian Grand Prix was always a possibility according to anyone who knows the region, with the high levels of humidity regularly leading to rain at the end of the day, but F1 pressed ahead with its evening concept. The conditions, however, resulted in drivers complaining that they had never faced more dangerous conditions as a lack of both visibility and grip combined to make even lapping at slow speeds treacherous.
"These were the most dangerous conditions I've ever raced in," world champion Lewis Hamilton revealed, "When the rain came down, it was impossible to drive, I was aquaplaning everywhere. All I could do was try and keep the car on the track. It was the correct decision to stop the race because it was just too dangerous for everyone. I love it when it rains, but this was just too much."
Mark Webber, who could be seen lobbying his rivals for their views on the red flag and a possible restart, admitted that Formula One may have been unlucky in picking that particular day for its experiment.
"The guys made the best call to stop the race when they did," he confirmed, "It would have been nice to have had some more laps to give us a crack at getting on the podium - but that's how it is. It's dark now, so it was the right call not to make a restart. I'm not so sure you can blame the time of day for today's conditions, though, as the weather was bad at 3pm too. It seems it was just one of those days - it's been the mistiest and coolest day I've ever seen in Malaysia for race day."
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali underlined the pre-race fears and said he hoped that trying to run races later in the day - without the use of floodlights as full night races as in Singapore - would be reconsidered.
“We know that racing so late in this area of the world can be potentially critical in terms of light and in terms of showers," he pointed out, "For sure, it's something that the organisers and the FIA have to reflect upon for the future.”
It would appear, too, that those involved in staging the Sepang event are having second thoughts and, having already discounted following Singapore's lead - as had been rumoured - on the grounds of expense, could be looking to revert to a traditional 2pm start.