F1 race start times could be brought forward to avoid Spa-style wash-outs

2021 Russian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 will discuss allowing race start times to be brought forward to avoid a repeat of the wash-out which ruined the Belgian Grand Prix in August.

The series awarded half-points for a race which officially consisted of a single lap behind the Safety Car at the end of last month.

During the Russian Grand Prix last weekend a Formula 3 support race was moved earlier in the schedule, from Saturday to Friday, in order to avoid the heavy rain which fell during its original time slot.

Moving the round was “absolutely the right decision” said the FIA’s F1 race director Michael Masi on Saturday. “It was torrential at the time we would have been having the F3 race.”

However he denied the decision to start the F3 race earlier had been prompted by the experience of Spa.

“The conditions looked as they did. Probably the overriding factor in that scenario was that it was the last round of the championship and we had the ability to fit it into the programme.

“So you’ve got to take all of those factors into account, but Spa certainly hasn’t come into it whatsoever.”

F1 has not previously moved sessions earlier in the day at short notice, even when facing forecasts of bad weather. This is believed to be due to a reluctance to inconvenience broadcasters who may not be able to begin their coverage earlier.

Other series such as IndyCar, where racing does not take place in wet conditions on ovals, have brought race start times forward in order to avoid rain. Masi said this will be discussed in light of events at Spa.

“It’s not so much TV schedule dependent, I think it’s something that we’re going to be discussing in the coming weeks,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans.

“We said following Spa that there’s obviously a whole lot of strategic discussions that need to take place between the FIA, F1 and the 10 teams and that’s going to be one of the discussions of the strategy group meeting.”

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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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16 comments on “F1 race start times could be brought forward to avoid Spa-style wash-outs”

  1. This is common in NASCAR if the day before the race the weather really doesn’t look good they can move up the start up to an hour earlier. I assume also up to an hour later although I can’t think of any instance where that was used except on the actual day of the race. The day of the race though they are limited with fans and tv so the maximum they can move up is 20 minutes.

    In some instances if they have to pull the plug on Sunday and Monday doesn’t look any better they will just automatically go for Tuesday that’s happened a few times.

    The 2012 Daytona 500 was washed out on that Sunday and Monday afternoon didn’t look so good weather wise and they were able to negotiate with FOX and they had it Monday evening.

    1. I do not think moving F1 races to Mondays is viable due to several reasons including the dependency on hundreds of volunteers whom already took Friday off from their regular jobs. I also think F1 has a much higher “out-of-town” attendance — in other words, people travel a long way to attend F1 and staying an extra day at the last minute would not be possible.

    2. The 2012 Daytona 500 was washed out on that Sunday and Monday afternoon didn’t look so good weather wise and they were able to negotiate with FOX and they had it Monday evening.

      iirc, that turned out to be a ratings coup for FOX.
      And, an ex F1 guy was the highlight of that party.
      @ckyriazis2006

  2. For these rare extreme rain occasions, this move would be good.

  3. Sounds like a plan but there’s always times when mother nature has other ideas, and bringing the start time forward still won’t help. I say that as a fan who sat in the stands during MotoGP’s rained off 2018 British Grand Prix. Despite bringing the start forward, it still was delayed and delayed until it was cancelled.

    Nice to have the flexibility though.

  4. Maybe this needs to be something FOM negotiates with the TV company when they discuss broadcast rights. They bring up the point that in the case of heavy weather if it is necessary to move races/qualifying they can do it without penalty. Not so they can abuse it obviously, but in the rare instances where it is necessary

    The event can still be screened on it’s normal time slot it just won’t be broadcast live, but at least you would have a race to watch. To guard against spoilers just don’t issue the press releases until later

    1. The event can still be screened on it’s normal time slot it just won’t be broadcast live
      Not that the 2 sports have anything at all in common, but this is done fairly frequently with golf. Tee times are regularly brought forward when bad weather is threatening, and the broadcaster just sucks it up and doesn’t display the little “live” icon on the screen when the event comes on the air at its scheduled time. Of course professional golf tournaments don’t have to deal with numerous other events being held the same day on the same course. The F1 situation in this scenario is a bit more complex.

  5. If it chucks it down at Interlagos, will they have the race before The Sprint?

  6. We’ve had 14.00 CET start times like forever until they brought it up to 15.10 (and now 15.00) a couple of years ago. Never understood why. With the seasons getting longer, you’ll end up without daylight in some regions of the world. Not to mention the 15.00 start time usually messes up my dinner prep, so the Russian GP had excellent timing.

    1. The why was an attempt to attract larger TV audiences, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen data that shows whether it worked or not.
      For North Americans, it made it easier to get up on Sunday mornings when most of the races are aired.

      1. I don’t get how this is relevant anymore. When I get up on Sunday in NA the race is waiting for me when I want it. There is absolutely no coverage in the news of the races here so it is hard to have the race spoiled even if you wait a couple days to watch it. I used to get up when I was a child to watch them early Sunday until college, but it seems pointless now.

      2. @x1znet

        X1Znet said “For North Americans” – that’s your answer right there…

  7. As an Australian viewer yes please. As long as whatever new schedule they introduce doesn’t clash with MotoGP.

    1. Totally agree, the 10pm starts are perfect. 11pm not so much as I’m barely able to keep my eyes open by the end of the race, not to mention actually follow what’s happening.

  8. Bring 2pm start times back.

  9. Bring back the post-lunch start at 2pm CE(S)T, please. 3pm doesn’t allow compromises with family time.

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