True F1 fans make time

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There's been a subtle tweaking of race times recently for safety reasons. This year Melbourne's start time was brought forward after years of pressure to push it back into a more friendly window for viewers in Europe.

Re-watching races from the 1998 season I've been cast back to the days when I watched races on delay, sometimes by several hours, on free to air TV.

Just picture it; sketchy reception, 4:3 aspect ratio, HD transmissions were still just a gleam in the eye of NASA, or Sony, or whoever the hell invented it. 

Sunday night coverage wouldn't start until around 11:30pm, and pushed well past 1am. Yes, 1am! I doubt very much that Channel 9 had my 8:30am Monday morning Discrete Maths lecture in mind when they scheduled that.

Discussing the Bahrain GP on the podcast last week, Zach admitted that he missed the start of the race, which made me realise that what we think of as "prime-time" is pretty misleading. 

The debate about scheduling is getting attention on the Sky website with Claire Williams proposing a later start time for "local races" to capture more eyeballs.

"If we moved it to later on in the afternoon," she explains, "you could go out, do your day with your family, you come home and watch the grand prix at 4pm or 5pm in the afternoon."

I couldn't agree more! The middle of the day isn't an ideal time to sit down and watch a grand prix. I would be 100% in-favour of pushing it back too... if it weren't for the fact that it would impact the time I get the watch races.

Most Australian F1 fans tune in for a race start around 10pm (or at least they did before moving to pay TV, a topic for another day). You know what Australian's are like, if that time changes we'll get all confused, random strangers will start fighting over who is the biggest flog between Dicko or Kyle Sandilands and we'll fill the available airtime with another insufferable season of The Block.

Late evening is a pretty easy time to negotiate, even if you are busy throughout the day... or have dinner plans... or there's a good movie on that you've already seen before. 

(I'm not going to pass judgement here, but I know the kind of utter garbage you all watch on a Sunday night. Let's just admit we've all seen Legally Blonde 2 and Spies Like Us more times than their quality warrants and move on.)

The point is, all things being equal you can be in bed at midnight without missing any of the action.

Chatting to Matt Clayton recently about how loyal and almost fanatical Australian F1 fans are given that most of the races are so late, it occurs to me that it's really not all doom and gloom.

Zach in the UK said he missed the start in Bahrain because he was "doing stuff" (getting a milkshake... or so he claims) so it's questionable whether Europe gets races in "prime-time" either! Apparently the race clashed with prime milk-drinking time, and sometimes lactose trumps lap times.

It's a practical necessity to run the races during the day, but frankly having to watch races on a Sunday afternoon seems like quite a sacrifice to make!

Anytime I've become invested in a sport that starts in the afternoon there's always a nagging feeling like your day has to be based around it, like visiting your Aunt Edna or something. 

But ultimately, true F1 fans will make time for the race. Fiddling with the start time is unlikely to move the needle enough to correct the current downturn.

The root of F1's problems are more complicated than the start time, and while I don't claim to have the silver bullet to all of the sport's problems, I have a theory (that I will reveal all in good time).

At the end of the day (quite literally) pushing back the time the cars line up will just make me cranky on a Monday morning, and you won't like me when I'm cranky.

^ Rod