After flirting with the idea of restarting suspended grands prix with a standing start on the grid in 2014, the FIA finally introduced standing restarts into F1’s sporting regulations midway through the 2018 season.
Since the system was introduced, races suspended by red flags outside of the opening two laps have been resumed with standing grid restarts a total of eight times – including twice in the final five laps of the scheduled race distance.
The last grand prix in Australia just two weeks ago was only the second race after the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix to feature three grid starts in the same race after two red flags – one after Alexander Albon’s lap seven crash which littered the circuit with debris and damaged the barrier and the second after Kevin Magnussen’s single-car accident with less than five laps remaining.
Currently, F1’s sporting regulations outlines in Article 58.11 that red flagged races will be resumed with a standing start from the grid “if track conditions are considered suitable to resume… from a standing start”. Article 58.12 specifies that rolling starts behind the Safety Car will only be used when “track conditions are considered unsuitable”.
This means that even when there are only two racing laps remaining until the chequered flag, a race suspended in the later stages by a red flag will resume from the grid – as was the case in the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and the most recent round in Australia.
But is it right for standing starts from the grid to be the normal procedure for restarting a grand prix interrupted by a red flag? Or should the rules change to limit their use to specific times during a race?
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In the late nineties and early 2000s, races were rarely suspended by red flags outside of major opening lap crashes – which were restarted from the grid as if the grand prix was starting anew, minus any drivers unable to continue. Then the rules were changed, meaning that only the initial race start would be a standing start on the grid, with any restarts being rolling restarts behind the Safety Car, even if the red flag was flown on the opening lap.
Standing restarts are inherently more competitive by their nature. Drivers start side-by-side staggered on the grid, with the potential to gain or lose positions on the run to turn one depending on how good or bad a launch they get when the lights go out. There are also more dangerous, with the field much closer together compared to a rolling start – which naturally strings out cars in single file – meaning there is a greater risk of contact and collisions, as demonstrated in the final restart in Melbourne.
Despite surviving the restart and winning the race, Max Verstappen suggested that a standing restart with only two laps to go was not the best way to try and resume racing.
“I think if you would have had a Safety Car and then just had a normal rolling start, we wouldn’t have had all these shunts and then you have a normal finish,” Verstappen said after the race. “So they created the problems themselves at the end of the day.”
Although the regulations insist that a standing start should be used by default, one alternative would be to outline when standing starts should be used in the rules. Formula 1 currently has a system to award four different sets of championship points depending on how much of a race distance has been completed when a race is ended by a red flag without resuming – at two completed race laps, at 25% race distance completed, at half race distance completed and at 75% race distance completed. Those same milestones could be used to outline when a standing start can be used to restart a suspended race and when a rolling start must be used instead.
The benefit of that would be to reduce the risk of further chaotic restarts in the final laps as witnessed in Australia, but still allowing for standing starts to take place if a race is red flagged early on in proceedings. Mandating which restart procedures can be used at which point in the race would also eliminate any ambiguity over what counts as an “unsuitable” track condition – meaning the decision is no longer ultimately at the race director’s discretion.
The argument against that is that this creates an inconsistency with different restart procedures being used based on whether a race is restarted with 60 or six laps remaining or even have two different restart systems used in the same race if there are multiple red flags. Also, as the so-called ‘pinnacle of motorsport’, it could be argued that drivers should be trusted to manage a standing start without triggering collisions – no matter how much of the race remains.
But how would you like to see F1’s rules over standing restarts change – if at all? Have your say below.
When should standing starts be used to restart grands prix after red flags?
- A standing restart should be used no matter when the race is restarted (30%)
- A standing restart should only be used for races stopped under 75% race distance (18%)
- A standing restart should only be used for races stopped under 50% race distance (13%)
- A standing restart should only be used for races stopped under 25% race distance (5%)
- A standing restart should only be used for races stopped within the first two laps (20%)
- A standing restart should never be used to restart a grand prix (14%)
Total Voters: 142
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