What happens in the hour before the race start? 

Category: F1

60 Minutes out…

The pit lane opens for teams to start their pre-race preparation. They begin the process of shifting all the equipment needed to complete the car set-up and start the race, including tool boxes, generators, tyres and computer stations.

The team in the garage spend this time completing their set-up and running through their pre-race checks, including radio checks and confirming that the telemetry is working. 

40 Minutes out… 

The light at the end of the pitlane goes green, indicating that the track is open. Cars leave their garage on a used set of tyres and carry out installation laps on their way to the grid.

Depending on the track, they may have the opportunity to pass through the pits to do more than one lap to check the car and gather data from last-minute setup changes.  There may be an opportunity for a practice start at the pit lane exit. 

Cars pull up to the back of the grid and are lifted onto trolleys for the pit crew to roll them through the throng of teams, media and others.

Prestart procedure –

30 Minutes out…

The pit lane closes, and anyone not on track at that time must start from the pit lane.

On the grid, the driver exits the car to run through their prestart ritual. This might include a bathroom stop, a last-minute briefing with the engineer, focus and reflex work as well as hydrating and keeping cool. 

The car is in parc ferme, so there is very little that can be done on the car. Tyre pressures can be adjusted, and electronic settings like the engine map can be altered. The engineers will run through final checklists, carry out fire-ups to run the fluids and place custom fans around the car to keep specific components cool. 

17 Minutes out…

Around the 17-minute mark, the drivers will assemble at the front of the grid for the national anthem of the host country. 

10 Minutes out…

The driver will don his helmet and get into the car to be securely strapped in, and a final test fire-up may be carried out. 

5 Minutes out…

Race tyres, still in the tyre blankets, are fitted, and the team begin to disperse as only eight are allowed to stay on the grid from this point. They take as much equipment as possible with them. 

1 Minute out…

With a minute to go the engine is fired-up. The blankets left on the car until the last possible instant are now removed.

30 seconds to go…

The crew move off the grid and with 15 seconds to go, they have to have their feet behind the white lines marking the edge of the track. 

Formation lap

The grid sets off on a single lap to prepare the car while the crews remove everything trackside. The drivers spend the lap warming the brakes and tyres, cooling the engine, learning various gears, and preparing the clutch.

The last part of the formation lap, after the last corner, is critical and when drivers test the bite-point with their clutch control and do a sequence of burnouts to get heat into the rear tyres. 

The cars line up in their grid positions and once the last car is in a marshal signals to the starter by crossing the rear of the grid with a green flag

Lights on…

The start sequence is initiated, and the five lights over the start line come on progressively, followed by a short hold before they go out and… “It’s lights out and away we go…”

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Andrew Burden

The author Kiwi F1 Fan

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