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Ecclestone stands by late start time

Bernie EcclestoneFormula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone sees no reason to abandon the move to twilight races, despite seeing the Malaysian Grand Prix cut short because of a downpour.

Ecclestone had insisted that the Sepang race should start at 5pm this year, because it would help boost television audience figures back in Europe.

However, as expected, the race was marred by the evening rain showers common to the region - and in the end had to be called off when conditions made it too dangerous to continue.

Despite the chaos of the race, Ecclestone has made it clear that he still thinks the start time is correct. Speaking to AUTOSPORT about whether he had regrets about starting the race at 5pm, Ecclestone 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."

Despite Ecclestone's stance about the start time, Malaysian GP organisers have said they want to speak to F1's commercial chiefs to discuss the situation.

Sepang International Circuit chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir told the New Straits Times that he was looking into the matter.

"We will review it," he said. "As to exactly what time it will start next year, we are not sure. But we are reviewing the timing for next year's race."

F1 teams themselves have had a mixed response to the decision to move the Malaysian race start time back to 5pm.

BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said: "We should not have a twilight race. Either we have a race without lighting, then it should finish earlier, or we have a night race and you can go on when you want. Here it was on the edge.

"It would have been on the edge in dry conditions and I have heard before that they are discussing to pull it forward again for next year.

"It [an abandoned race] is definitely not what we want to see, but that is not depending on the time of the day. We had that at Sao Paulo at 2pm too. What we have to understand is that here, generally in Malaysia, rain probability raises in the afternoon."

But Renault boss Flavio Briatore told AUTOSPORT: "This was about the weather. You can control the start time but you cannot control the weather.

"We were unlucky because yesterday the storm was at the same time, and today as well. I believe if it wasn't for the weather, then the timing was great for Europe. Sure, the people watching the racing had fun."

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