Race start procedure

What the sporting regulations say:

  • 30 minutes before the start of the formation lap the pit exit will be opened and cars will be permitted to leave the pit lane to cover a reconnaissance lap. At the end of this lap they will stop on the grid in starting order with their engines stopped.

  • Should drivers wish to cover more than one reconnaissance lap, this must be done by driving down the pit lane at greatly reduced speed between each of the laps.

  • Any car which does not complete a reconnaissance lap and reach the grid under its own power will not be permitted to start the race from the grid. 

  • 17 minutes before the start of the formation lap, a warning signal will be given indicating that the end of the pit lane will be closed in two minutes.

  • 15 minutes before the start of the formation lap the end of the pit lane will be closed and a second warning signal will be given. 

  • Any car which is still in the pit lane can start from the end of the pit lane provided it got there under its own power. If more than one car is affected they must line up in the order in which they qualified. However, any car reaching the end of the pit lane after the five minute signal must start behind any car already at the pit exit.
  • Cars starting from the pit lane may then join the race once the whole field has passed the end of the pit lane for the first time after the start.

  • There are signals shown ten minutes, five minutes, three minutes, one minute and fifteen seconds before the start of the formation lap.

  • When the ten minute signal is shown, everybody except drivers, officials and team technical staff must leave the grid. 

  • When the three minute signal is shown all cars on the grid must have their wheels fitted. Any driver whose car has not had its wheels fitted at this time faces a penalty.

  • When the one minute signal is shown, engines should be started and all team personnel must leave the grid. 

  • If any team personnel or equipment remain on the grid by the time of the 15 second signal, the driver of the car concerned must start the race from the pit lane.

  • During the formation lap practice starts are forbidden and drivers must circulate in grid order, keeping the formation as tight as possible.
  • Overtaking during the formation lap is only permitted if a car is delayed and cars behind cannot avoid passing it without unduly delaying the remainder of the field. In this case, drivers may only overtake to re-establish the original starting order.

  • 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.

  • Any driver who causes a start to be aborted, even if he is then able to start the extra formation lap, will be required to start the race from the pit lane. The same process will be applied to a re-start from a race suspension where drivers have been brought to the pit lane.

  • 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 initially start the race behind the safety car and then conduct a normal standing start once the track is deemed safe enough to do so.

Read the full sporting regulations