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The new start procedure - who got it right and who got it wrong?

26 Aug 2015

The introduction of new procedures aimed at putting the emphasis back on driver skill made the start of the 2015 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix one of the most anticipated in years. As expected, when the lights went out and it came to the delicate juggling act of balancing clutch release with acceleration, some drivers fared far better than others…
Sergio Perez - from P4 to P2

The main change to the starting procedure for Belgium was that drivers had to prepare the clutch settings for the start themselves, without the usual assistance from their data-equipped race engineers. And when it came to finding the optimum bite point, no one did it better than Force India’s Sergio Perez, who made a magnificent getaway from fourth on the grid that was only amplified by Nico Rosberg’s own lacklustre start (see below). The Mexican’s rapid increase in momentum also carried him past Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and set him on course to challenge race leader Lewis Hamilton a few corners later on the way into Les Combes. 

Nico Rosberg - from P2 to P6

In Nico Rosberg’s own words, he “completely messed up the start”, though what’s interesting from the onboard video is that his initial launch looks comparable to team mate Hamilton’s. But whereas the Briton then continues to accelerate in the second phase of the start, Rosberg struggles, picking up a dash of wheelspin which then slows his transition up the gears. The German is passed almost immediately on his outside by Perez’s Force India, while Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel all sweep past the Mercedes on the inside before Turn 1. With a getaway so poor, Rosberg was fortunate that the run down to La Source is so short…

Sebastian Vettel - from P8 to P5 

Like Perez, Vettel makes an almost perfect getaway from eighth on the grid, with not even a hint of wheelspin. The German’s progress is initially mirrored by Pastor Maldonado in his fast-starting Lotus (seen on the right), but as the duo speed past Felipe Massa, who has bogged down badly in his Williams, they choose very different courses of action.  The Venezuelan moves from right to left onto the outside line, whereas Vettel, in stark contrast, makes a bold jink to the right. This move, along with some similarly aggressive late braking, enables the Ferrari driver to pass not only Maldonado but Rosberg too, lifting him to fifth by the exit of the corner. But none of it would have been possible without a smooth transition off the line.

Felipe Nasr - from P14 to P17

Before the race Nasr told that he was hoping to take advantage of poor starts from those around him to move up the order, but when it came to crunch time it was he who struggled to get up to speed. From the onboard it’s clear that almost everything that could go wrong does go wrong for the Brazilian: not only does he bog down initially, he then gets wheelspin in the second phase, enabling those ahead of him to disappear rapidly into the distance. Somewhat amazingly it’s a while before anyone passes the Sauber man, but as he hits the brakes early for Turn 1 he’s engulfed on both sides. First Fernando Alonso swoops past on the outside, the Spaniard having made an electric start from the very back of the field. Then fractions of a second later the second McLaren of Jenson Button and the Marussia of Will Stevens nip up the inside to complete Nasr’s disappointing start.

To watch an exclusive video examining the new starting procedures, click here