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Further doubts raised over Melbourne start time

Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber reveal that the Grand Prix Drivers' Association raised doubts over the safety of Australia's evening race slot.

After reigning world champion Jenson Button expressed his concerns over the late afternoon start time allocated to the Australian Grand Prix in order to satisfy television viewers in Europe, GPDA representatives admitted that they had little influence in pursuit of a change.

Speaking at the first official press conference of the Melbourne weekend, both Jarno Trulli and Mark Webber revealed that they had raised objections to the switch, but had had to toe the line set by the FIA.

"We raised our concerns last year but apparently nothing has changed," Trulli sighed, "There is very little you can do on the safety side on the track, apart from starting the race an hour earlier - which probably won't hurt anyone.

"We have given our opinion and that's it, [but] the FIA or whoever has decided to keep the twilight race at that time, so we just have to deal with it. This year, if we want to make a change for next year, we will say that we are very happy at the end of the race. That's the only way."

Webber appeared equally frustrated, and shared his rival's sarcastic approach to trying to get the start time switched to something more favourable. The Albert Park race was moved to a twilight slot last season in a bid to attract a bigger television audience in F1's European heartland, but meant that drivers had to contend with low sun in the closing stages. While appreciating the motives behind the decision, Webber echoed the claim that it was not taking the drivers' views - or general safety - into account.

"Jarno has hit it on the head," the Australian noted, "If you picked the best time to have a high speed sporting motor race event, obviously it's not when the sun is at eye level with us, but that's how it is for lots of different commercial reasons.

"As Jarno says, next time we say it's fantastic and we should say we should have the race at five o'clock at every race in the season and I think they will move it somewhere else."

Button's McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, however, has attempted to play down the problem, claiming that racing into the sunset offered a unique challenge that made Melbourne different to other venues.

"It wasn't easy last year, but I think it adds something a little bit special," the 2008 world champion insisted, "As long as we have the correct visors, it's not going to be too much of a problem, and it is perhaps a bit better as it's a bit cooler."



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