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Formula One Considers Later Start Times for Races, and Fans Are Not Happy

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For decades, Formula One races have begun on Sunday at 2 PM local time. That could change for the 2018 season, as the sport’s new owners Liberty Media are said to want to shift the entire weekend schedule back by one hour and to set the new race start time at 3:10 PM.

According to Motorsport, the idea was raised with television broadcasters during a meeting with Liberty Media last week and has been discussed with teams. Predictably, the fans aren’t happy.

Seventy minutes don’t seem like they should make much of a difference, but the move is carefully calculated to help boost television coverage, especially among American audiences. That extra 10 minutes would allow American channels to run their mandatory commercials before the start.

Night races would be unaffected and the French Grand Prix may be pushed back even further to 4:10 PM in order to avoid a clash with the England vs. Panama World Cup game that will begin at 2 PM, French time.

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The change would also be to the benefit of American viewers. As most of the races on the calendar take place in Europe or Asia, they are broadcast early in the morning in the US and only the most dedicated American fans tend to watch them live.

So why are fans unhappy? For starters, most Formula One viewers are not American. While the change benefits viewers in the US, it comes at the cost of viewers in Asia and Australia.

There’s also a safety argument to be made against pushing back the start time. In recent years, races have been delayed for up to hours to allow for excessively inclement weather to pass. This was an issue at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix—by the time the race was finally underway, light had begun to diminish, and the track was not equipped to provide visibility for the cars like Singapore or Bahrain. This played a part in Jules Bianchi’s unfortunate, life-ending crash.

That being said, the aforementioned scenario is not likely to occur again. On the whole of it, the change is probably a good one—displeased fans or not. They’ll get used to it.

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News Source: Motorsport