The much-criticised evening races in Australia and Malaysia looks set to remain part of the Formula One schedule, at least into next season, after commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone insisted that they had served their purpose with regard to boosting television viewing figures in Europe.
The setting sun in Melbourne and torrential rain at Sepang gave proof that local conditions were not prepared to play ball with Ecclestone's dream of allowing Formula One's heartland to get a more convenient fix, with the Malaysian GP abandoned after just 31 laps - but not before audiences had been kept waiting for nearly an hour with no action on track. Drivers reported that conditions in Kuala Lumpur were among the worst they had ever encountered, and complained that Ecclestone and race organisers should have known that the chances of such heavy rain were high at the time of day the race was run.
Complaints about problems caused by the low sun in the season-opener also look set to fall on deaf ears, however, with Ecclestone telling Britain's Independent
newspaper over the weekend that he plans to keep the Australian and Malaysian races in Europe-friendly slots in 2010.
"All our TV up to now has been up 300 per cent," he said of the 5pm race starts, "We have been getting more than 50 per cent of the market share."
The only chance of a change appears to lie with either race moving to a night-time slot, following in the footsteps of Singapore, which hosted Formula One's first fully-floodlit event in 2008. Australia's late-afternoon start was a result of compromise when organisers insisted they would not go down the 'after dark' route but, embarrassed by the circumstances surrounding this year's event, Malaysian officials have hinted that they may revisit a floodlighting plan previously thrown out for being too expensive. Ecclestone is confident that the £10m cost will be surmounted to make a second night race feasible next season.