What Is a Practice Start in F1?

Published 06/28/2021, 7:15 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Steiermark Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria – June 27, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen leads at the start of the race REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger


An F1 driver is always looking to be the fastest on track. While some cars go faster than others, the starting grid puts all drivers within striking distance of each other. On some occasions, an excellent launch can help a driver gain multiple positions on the grid right as the race begins.

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However, the age-old ‘practice makes perfect’ statement holds true even in Formula One. In order to improve their race starts, drivers do customary ‘practice starts’ to launch their car better on a racetrack.

Why do F1 drivers do practice starts?

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At every racetrack, F1 drivers may carry out a ‘practice start,’ which helps drivers launch their cars from a standing position from a particular point on the racetrack. More often than not, this position is just outside the exit of the pit lane.

Formula One F1 – Steiermark Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring, Styria, Austria – June 25, 2021 Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in action during practice REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

This practice start helps drivers get in sync with the gearshifts along with providing valuable data for the team to analyze. Ultimately, the main reason for a driver to carry out a practice start is to make the best possible start in the race.

What are the rules for practice starts?

According to FIA guidelines, drivers must perform their practice start from the exit of the pit lane. However, some tracks like the Red Bull Ring permit practice starts on the grid because of the elevation between the pit lane and the pit exit. In addition to that, drivers can perform practice starts only during free practice sessions and before the race, when the pit lane is open.

While practice starts aren’t broadcasted on television, breaching its procedures comes with consequences. Last season, Lewis Hamilton took a 10-second penalty for practice start infringements at the Russian Grand Prix. After his incident, race director Michael Masi clarified the rules for practice starts ahead of the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.

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Formula One F1 – Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in action during the race. Pool via REUTERS/Kirill Kudryavtsev

He said“During the time the pit exit is open for the race, practice starts may be carried out after the end of the pit wall and adjacent to the orange band on the right-hand side barrier.

While the penalty for infringements is harsh, there’s no doubt a practice start aids drivers. Hence, all F1 drivers carry out this procedure to leave no stone unturned in gaining an advantage.

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Sanket Nair

302 articles

Sanket Nair is an F1 Author at EssentiallySports. A Sports Management student, he is a huge fan of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo and hopes to see Red Bull break Mercedes' dominance and win the World Championship soon. Sanket has been hooked to the sport ever since he watched the battle for the 2010 World Championship go down to the wire at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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