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MARCH 10, 2008

Melbourne to seek 1700 start in 2009

The Australian Grand Prix says that it could be asking Formula One Management for a start time of 1700 in 2009. This will mean that the number of people watching the race on TV should increase significantly as the event will begin at 0700 in Europe and 0600 in Britain. In Asia the race will be televised in the afternoon.

This year's race has been pushed back from 1400 to 1530 in an effort to push up the viewing figures and Australian Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker says that there could be a further adjustment in 2009

"If starting the race later this year increases the television audience around the world, as we believe it will, well seek a 5:00pm start for the 2009 race," he said. "All this can be achieved without any additional infrastructure costs."

The 1700 start will mean a finish in Melbourne no later than 1900, as there is a two hour limit on F1 races. In practice the Australian race usually runs for one hour and 40 minutes, although this can lengthen if there are Safety Car interventions that slow the pace.

Walker said that moving the race to a later point in the day will not affect the spectator numbers in Melbourne as there will be plenty of action for them to watch before the F1 begins.

There is no perfect time for any F1 Grand Prix because moving the start will affect viewers somewhere in the world, but trying to hit prime hours in the biggest F1 markets is obviously a sensible commercial move.

Melbourne does not want to have a night race because of the additional costs involved in lighting the park, and because late night noise will not go down well with the local residents.