F1: In wake of Bianchi crash, Malaysian GP may shift to earlier start time

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The boss of the Sepang International Circuit, home to Formula One’s Malaysian Grand Prix, says he is seeking an earlier start time of the event in order to avoid the area’s tropical storms.

The possibility comes after last October’s devastating accident at a rainy Suzuka involving Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, who suffered severe head injuries when he skidded off-course and hit a recovery crane. The French driver remains hospitalized.

In the FIA’s panel report on the accident, one of the recommendations listed was that the start of a Grand Prix should not be less than four hours before either sunset or dusk (except in the cases of night-time races).

With that in mind, Sepang boss Razlan Razali has told Reuters that he and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone have discussed shifting the start of the Malaysian GP from 4 p.m. to 3 p.m. local time.

“Mr Ecclestone mentioned that because of the Suzuka incident, the FIA has some time limit,” Razali said. “So he is reviewing to move the start to the original time, maybe this year.

“For us, it’s good. It’s a safer time bracket…so now people can come in for lunch, watch the race and about five o’clock, they can go back [home]. He [Ecclestone] mentioned the possibility [of an earlier start]. We said, ‘If you want to go back to 3 p.m., we fully support it.'”

The Malaysian GP has had issues with weather over the years. Downpours have impacted several race weekends at Sepang, and even when conditions are dry, the race is usually one of the hottest on the F1 calendar.

In addition to commenting on his own race – which he expects will soon have a multi-year extension – Razali also talked about how he has come around to the quieter, V-6 hybrid engines that took hold in F1 last year.

He mentioned that he had been worried after Australian Grand Prix organizers complained loudly about the lack of noise from the new motors. But when F1 came to Sepang last year, Razlan noticed something: The families in the grandstands were more able to enjoy the race.

“I can remember in the past where a dad would put headphones on the kid and hold it, or a kid would be too scared and start crying, wanting to go home,” he said. “I think it attracts a new breed of fan base now. And that’s what you want.”

 

Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
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SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.