F1 races to start on the hour again in 2021

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 plans to reinstate the practice of starting races on the hour this year, RaceFans has learned.

The change will be discussed between Formula 1 and teams, and is expected to win approval.

The start times for Formula 1 races were moved to 10 minutes past the hour in 2018. This was done in order to allow broadcasters to begin their coverage on the hour with 10 minutes of introduction before the formation lap began.

Formula 1 expected benefits from the change when it was introduced. “Usually broadcasters go on air precisely at the hour hence they miss the tension and emotion that characterise the minutes before the start of each grand prix,” it stated at the time.

It expected starting races at 10 minutes past the hour would mean “television spectators will be brought closer to the teams and the drivers and fully enjoy the spectacle offered just before the red lights go off.” However the practise has now fallen out of favour, and the simpler arrangement of starting races at the top of the hour is preferred.

In a further change which will also be discussed, Formula 1 may also bring the start times for European races forward by an hour. Most European races began at 3:10pm local time last year; this year’s races could therefore start at 2pm instead.

The start times are yet to be confirmed for races on the 2021 F1 calendar. However, as RaceFans revealed last week, the season-opening Australian Grand Prix is expected to be postponed from its March 21st date, which will make the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28th the first race of the new championship.

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Author information

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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  • 59 comments on “F1 races to start on the hour again in 2021”

    1. I guess we should be happy that when they now had the data to show their expectation was not confirmed, they ditched this idea about starting times. The same goes for the postponed times, they really didn’t bring much IMO (not enough to help make sure races start at good times for the USA market, but does restrict time for delays etc.).

      1. @bascb I agree with all that, I’m just slightly peeved as it’s taken me three years to get used to races starting at 10 past…

        1. Yeah, i wholly get that @keithcollantine.
          I still haven’t gotten used to it. And since they started changing starting times based on who knows exactly what I am quite likely to either sit down for the start of the race an hour too early, or find out it has already started (or even that it has already finished) unless I keep a close eye on the calendar updates Racefans puts out on Google!

          1. Completely agree with the both of you @keithcollantine and @bascb – neither have I gotten quite used to the 10 past thing, nor have I adapted to the hour-late shift. This year’s unexpected races and odd schedule didn’t help my feeling like I was about to miss a race, or was sitting waiting until one would start sometime later (perhaps a week and an hour), though I suppose that confirms their data that it didn’t work!

        2. But, it did give you a chance to finish that hot milky drink and arrange the tartan blanket round your legs properly.

      2. They fixed something that didn’t need fixing in the first place.
        I somewhat understood the need for that chance but it was still unnecessary.

      3. Coventry Climax
        6th January 2021, 20:05

        I guess the 10 minute delay was because they found out that millions of people also had trouble being in time for the eight ‘o clock news every day?
        Glad to see it back on the hour. Now please also have (most) races start at the same time again, like it used to be. The current situation is not helping us fans at all.

        1. I thought it was due to ESPN not wanting to use the extra half hour before the race and coming in hot to the start.

          1. Coventry Climax
            7th January 2021, 18:47

            Spell it out for you, @BradB? C-y-n-i-c-a-l.

      4. From a selfish standpoint living in Australia, pushing the European races from a 10pm start time to an 11pm start time on a Sunday night has basically rendered the sport inaccessible, so bringing it back an hour (and 10) would be well received.

        1. You are spot on mate!
          Staying up to midnight before work on Monday is very doable.
          Stay up to 1AM and your entire second stint is compromised!

        2. As a fellow Aussie, I agree with you 100%.

          Races starting at 11:10pm Sunday night or even 12:10am on Monday morning during daylight savings is challenging for people that have to go to work in the morning.

          I quite often fall asleep during the races that aren’t exciting and just look up the result in the morning.

          1. yep, same same.
            Even 10 minutes will be good, an hour earlier will be great.

    2. Interesting. I thought the move to cut the maximum total race duration (including red flag periods) from four hours to three was a precursor to moving start times later, if anything.

      1. @red-andy Maybe it’s about something else. For example, broadcasters might’ve asked it so that the races wouldn’t get delayed as much in the worst-case scenario so that delays wouldn’t impact their programming times as much.

        1. I think you could be spot on there, for both the 10 minutes & the 3 hour limit.

          It’s not an issue for dedicated channels like sky, but for mixed content channels knowing the action will last a maximum of 3 hours must be more manageable

          1. @the-edge This indeed is my thinking. Knowing a race can last 3 hours at max rather than 4 could be more manageable for TV channels with other program timings to take into account.

        2. @jerejj

          I thought the 10 minute delay would ensure viewers wouldn’t miss the start of the race, especially considering it’s the highlight of every race. I remember missing the first couple of laps if I tuned in 5 mins late and it really ruins the experience.

          1. I think it was meant for broadcasters who don’t have a build up prior to the race. For example, in India, Star which is now owned by Disney, just cuts to the Sky feed at the time the F1 intro is played prior to the race.

            They don’t make any use of the buffer time. For quali, they simply commence the feed 5 minutes prior to the start. So it makes no difference to broadcasters who don’t have a build-up and less so to broadcasters who have a pre-race show.

            1. @f1g33k
              You’re right. I watch it on star.. And it cut straight to the formation lap

          2. @todfod Never a problem for me pre-2018. I always watch pre-race coverage anyway.

    3. I never really cared about the ten-minute thing in the first place, nor the delay in the race starting times for European races, as they didn’t have an impact on me.

      1. I don’t mind the 10 minutes delay, but the 3 pm start sucked. I’m glad they are bringing it back

    4. Good news. As a European purist, I would also welcome more frequent starts of European and Middle East races at 2PM (simply from an egoistic point of view – I hardly do anything else on Sundays before the race than wait), but I also understand that there fans around the world who would welcome later times. Personally, I would be ok with 4PM or even 5PM start during the summer races.

      1. @pironitheprovocateur The Bahrain GP couldn’t take place under artificial lighting if it started earlier in the day, although the Abu Dhabi GP already commences at around 2 pm already in Central Europe.

    5. “Usually broadcasters go on air precisely at the hour hence they miss the tension and emotion that characterise the minutes before the start of each grand prix,” it stated at the time.

      Which broadcasters do this? I’ve watched F1 races in a few countries and they all have a build up show which shows the pre-race stuff which merges fairly seamlessly into the “race broadcast”.

      1. @geemac maybe it gave THEM a chance to set up F1 TV on the dot and have 10 minutes of buffer time…

      2. Russia does not have a dedicated live build up. Moreover, when they switch to F1 on the clock, they immediately go to commercials. That’s why most people simply prefer watching Sky’s broadcast.

    6. Opposite viewpoint: I actually liked the 10min-past start.
      Haven’t been bothered to watch pre-race buildups for over a decade.
      The 10 minutes gave me the time to setup F1TV and made sure I didn’t accidentally miss the start.

      1. I think 5 minutes would be about right.

        Right now I start recording on the hour, but fast forward through the first 8-9 minutes unless I see something going on. So 10 minutes is too long.

        5 minutes would be ideal for me. That would be enough to discuss important post race developments, like cars or drivers with problems, but short enough I could watch it.

      2. Agreed-10 minutes build up is plenty. Enough to get major developments of the weekend.
        Half hour/Hour is excessive.

      3. 100% agree.

        I think fans who watch all the build up, week in, week out, would prefer the on-hour start. I’m like you – 10 mins going through the grid from qualifying and rounding up the main talking points before a race was fine for me.

        I also had a habbit of missing the start of races as I didn’t quite get home in time. The 10 min buffer time sorted that problem out for me.

    7. Races been moved forward an hour back to the pre-2018 times would be a welcomed change as i’ve never liked the later start times.

      Yes it was only an hour later but that somehow made it seem like F1 was taking up more of the day.

    8. Finally. I just started tuning in at 10 past the hour.

    9. José Lopes da Silva
      6th January 2021, 9:27

      “However the practise has now fallen out of favour”. They must have strong data to support this.
      I got immediately used to it and it was good. I won’t miss it now as I won’t be watching in 2021.

    10. Excellent news for Australian fans (on the eastern seaboard). European races will start at 10pm again instead of 11:10pm, early enough to watch before bed and still have a half decent night’s sleep before work in the morning.

    11. Great, now put them back an hour so they start at 2PM CET again.

    12. I would prefer for the races to start as early in the day as possible, because they always ruin the entire morning of my Sundays, when I am just waiting for the race to start. I particularly like races like Australia which happen at 4 in the morning, because I can watch the race as soon as I wake up, without any waiting time.

      1. @f1frog I generally also like the timing of the races in Faraway Asia (except Singapore, of course) + Australia, which fall into the morning hours where I live. I prefer these over the American ones in the evening, for example.

    13. Just got used to 10 past the hour. I hope fom does adjust starting times. The slightly lower sun can make some shots and angles look pretty awful to me.

    14. I’d prefer races start as late as possible, allowing you to use the day for other things and come back to a race. Starting right in the middle of the day makes it awkward to watch live and is why the North/South American races always have such huge viewership figures.
      Appreciate this isn’t easy to accomodate, but moving them an hour earlier seems like a backwards step for Europe/America.

      1. That really depends on your culture.
        In Mediterranean countries, where people have a big family sunday lunch, F1 is the after lunch special. Where people digest in front of the TV and watch F1.

        Whereas in more northern countries, F1 is more of a snack and beer time event, because they don’t eat Sunday lunch, and they rather spent lunchtime in line at the shops.

      2. @racerjoss I prefer races that fall into the morning where I live to those in the evening. Last year, the only way I got to enjoy morning racing in my place of residence was through Super Formula.

    15. This really was a change for the sake of change in the first place.

      Luckily for us, LM has seen the error of its ways.

      1. Tuned in at 10 past anyway as one can only take a limited dosage of Croft every 7 days. So it doesn’t really change anything for me, and some common sense returns to scheduling.

        1. Wonder if the site admins will ever figure out the edit/delete button.

          This comment wasn’t meant to be a reply to another.

    16. Tuned in at 10 past anyway as one can only take a limited dosage of Croft every 7 days. So it doesn’t really change anything for me, and some common sense returns to scheduling

    17. This is great, races will start sooner. Most of us probably watch extended coverage anyway?

      1. @jureo I do. I watch both pre and post-session coverage of QLFs and races.

        1. Man I miss having that much time on my hands! Nowadays I tune in on the hour, skip through as much of Crofty talking as possible before the race start, and switch off at the checkered flag. I don’t like the podium interviews and it generally features the same 3 people anyway. I watch qualifying too, but not the pre/post show.

    18. Common sense, but it’s just suddenly dawned on me that I won’t be watching any races live this season so for me at least this makes little difference. I’m fully aware that this isn’t anyone else’s problem, but that’s the sad situation in the UK for those that choose never to give money to Murdoch.

      1. (I have been tuned into RTL for the past couple of years for anyone wondering, but they have now lost their coverage).

    19. But, but, but we won’t have time for the pointless “End Mean People” ceremony we’ve all had to endure for the past year!!! If F1 doesn’t make all the drivers stand round in matching t-shirts, how will viewers know not to be racist?

      1. I mean you’re an adult who still hasn’t learned not to be racist so clearly it isn’t that easy to do.

    20. This sucks! Reversing a very positive change to my ability to watch racing live.

      Guess we’ll watch a replay sometime between Sunday and Thursday again like we used to.

    21. Swearing F1 fans to increase by 300% when they turn on the TV at hour:08 and realise it’s lap 3 already.

      Anyways, the sooner it’s race time the better.

    22. Roberto Giacometti
      6th January 2021, 21:30

      Finally , some common sense is prevailing. I live in Australia and i know our miscule viewership figures do not count for much , but i am a diehard and have been watching every gp since 1981. And to have the races put back one hour and then another ten minutes meant that even the euro races were starting at 11pm local time. It’s bad enough and then when you consider the snooze fest that a lotof the races currently are , combined with knowing the outcome of who is going to win and come second, i will be brutally honest and say that for the last 5races this season , and for the firsttime in my life, i simply timer recorded the racesand watched them the next day.
      Now this is from a diehard F1 fanatic !!!!

    23. I actually liked the 10 minutes after the hour because I admit sometimes I come to the TV late and miss the first few laps!

    24. As an Aussie brining it back to a 2pm start helps a lot with watching live. Where I am most starts were 10:40pm making it pretty hard to stay up for. I think Liberty were hoping for a increase in USA viewers on the change but doesn’t seems it worked.

      Also it may increase attendance at the races as fans are more likely to be able to get Sunday night flights home than spend an extra night on accommodation. Easier for the teams to get a move on as well.

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