Formation lap, Hockenheimring, 2018

First drivers on grid to keep practice start advantage

2018 Japanese Grand Prix

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Formula 1 will not address a ‘loophole’ in its rules which allows the top two drivers on the grid to performance practice starts on the formation lap.

The sport has tried to prevent drivers performing practice starts when the formation lap begins due to the potential risk to the team personnel and other staff standing near the cars at the time.

This has been done through a rule which requires drivers to stay beneath the pit lane speed limit until they pass the pole position slot. However this does not prevent the driver who starts from pole position, and several of the other drivers near the front of the grid, from being able to perform practice starts.

At the Russian Grand Prix Kevin Magnussen qualified fifth on the grid and was heard asking his team on the radio whether he could perform a practice start on the formation lap. As the pit lane speed limit at Sochi was 60kph Magnussen was told he couldn’t as he would break the speed limit before passing the pole position slot.

This hands the leading drivers on the grid an advantage over their rivals who are unable to conduct an extra practice start from the same spot they will start the race from. However FIA race director Charlie Whiting sees no need to revise the rules to prevent this.

“They get an advantage from being at the front anyway,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “So it’s another perk of being on pole position, I would say.”

Whiting confirmed the first two drivers on the grid are always able to gain this advantage.

“You can see on the lights on their [onboard] camera when they’ve got their pit limiter engaged, you’ll see every car except the front two, every time. They’ve all got their pit limiter engaged, you see the mauve light and then the front two don’t.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 27 comments on “First drivers on grid to keep practice start advantage”

    1. you see the mauve light

      I had to Google mauve.

      1. It’s the colour of Charlie’s purple prose.

          1. I’m reminded of the scene from Monsters Inc. “It’s in the Puce Folder”, “So that’s what Puce looks like”

      2. There’s now so much stuff on the steering wheels they’re well past using primary and secondary colours. “Press the maroon button, Lewis… no, no that’s crimson!”

        1. Ah, so that’s why the drivers from the 80s say these cars are unnecessarily complex.

        2. I always thought strat 10 was an engine setting, so are you telling me it is a RGB colour code?

    2. They can all do their practice starts as long as they stop accelerating when hitting the speed limit.
      That 1.5sec can still be a very valuable experience as it is primarily to limit wheel spin off the line.

      1. Don’t tell them that. We could lose half the backfield in a titanic coming together before the race even starts :O

        1. Damnit, Ericsson!


          1. Quite a risk indeed @phylyp, @nullapax!

    3. That’s simple. Get pole and have that advantage.

      1. there you go, problem solved.

      2. @OOliver Or the 2nd grid slot.

    4. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      9th October 2018, 10:42

      A non story. You put it on the front row of the grid, you get to enjoy the perks, simple.

      1. That’s more or less Charlie’s take

    5. Makes sense, you’d want the as many rows as possible to get a clean start to avoid chaos that might be caused by a slow starter.

      Obviously this wasn’t the original reason for the double standards… but you’d take the benefit if you were the race stewards.

    6. This is sooo F1, I hadn’t even thought about it that the guys at the front can still easily do a practice start, against the intention of the rules, but of course the field did. And there are people feeling left out bc. not only did they miss the pole, now they have less chance of a good start than those ahead (for a close fight, we’d probably want that too, I guess?). And at the same time, Whiting is perfectly right: so get pole (if your car can …).

      1. @bosyber To be fair, the intent of the rules here isn’t to eliminate practice starts, it’s to protect personnel on the grid. So as you say, being on pole means you don’t have to worry about it.

    7. They’ve all done a ton of practice starts already, 1 more – 1 less – meh !

      1. In Drag racing, it is more about conditioning the tarmac surface than fine tuning the bite-point. aka a Burn-Out.
        I had understood that it was the same here, the drivers would like to lay down a little rubber to get better traction off the line. Hence the black stripes. The rule seems to be prompted by safety concerns and as such, you would be hard pressed to sell and impose it for the two front runners.
        Heck, if I am not mistaken, I believe there is something specific in the rules to prevent the crew from doing anything to the asphalt surface in the start box. Otherwise I expect someone would be tasked with handling the vacuum or the blower to clean the spot.

    8. But come on guys…
      Think of the show!

      Charlie and his old boys club may think its another valid perk for the top teams, but once Chase Carey finds out that the lower cars would have a better shot at overtaking into turn 1, he’ll outlaw this.

      Then they’ll probably make the dummy grid line-up a row behind your true grid spots, so that no one can gain an advantage and you only line-up in your true grid spot after the formation lap.

      Then there will be a scandal when someone does a burn out to lay rubber in what will become their team mates spot.

      Then Charlie will say “we never envisaged this loop-hole”…

    9. That is a very easy fix. Just extend it so they have to stay under the pit lane speed until turn 1 instead of pole position. Simple.

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