Prior to every Grand Prix the teams and drivers must adhere to a very strict starting procedure. This gets underway 30 minutes before the formation lap when the pit lane is opened.
Drivers are then free to complete a reconnaissance lap of the circuit before taking up their grid positions. If a driver wishes to complete additional reconnaissance laps he must pass through the pit lane each time in order to bypass the grid.
The pit lane closes 15 minutes prior to the formation lap. Any drivers still in the pit lane at this time will have to start the race from there.
Ten minutes before the start the grid must be cleared except for team technical staff, race officials and drivers. With three minutes to go all cars must have their wheels fitted (any car not complying will have to start from the back of the grid or the pit lane).
With a minute to go all cars must have their engines running. All personnel must then leave the grid at least 15 seconds before the green lights come on to signal the start of the formation lap.
Any driver who has a problem immediately prior to the green light must raise his arm to indicate this. Once the rest of the field has moved off marshals will be push the car into the pit lane. If the driver restarts the car while being pushed he may rejoin the formation lap.
During the formation lap no practice starts are allowed. Overtaking is also forbidden unless passing a car that has slowed due to a technical problem. Passed cars may in turn re-overtake in order to regain their grid position if the problem is resolved during the course of the formation lap.
However, any driver who is still on the grid when all other cars have moved off on the formation lap, but then subsequently gets away, may not re-pass cars to regain his grid position, but must instead start from the back.
Once all cars have safely taken up their grid positions at the end of the formation lap five red lights will appear in sequence at one-second intervals. These red lights are then extinguished to signal the start of the race.
If a driver has a problem on the grid immediately prior to the start he must raise his arm and the start will be aborted. A new formation lap, which will count towards the race distance, will then be completed.
The only exceptions to these start procedures are connected to the weather. If it starts to rain in the three minutes prior to the start then the abort lights will come on and the starting procedure will revert to the 10-minute point to allow teams to change to appropriate tyres.
If the weather is exceptionally bad the race director may choose to abort the start and resume the starting procedure only when conditions have improved. Alternatively, he may decide to start the race behind the safety car.