F1 races to start on the hour again, practice shortened

29 January 2021 - 13:23 By Reuters
F1 grands prix will start on the hour again during the 2021 season.
F1 grands prix will start on the hour again during the 2021 season.
Image: Hamad I Mohammed - Pool/Getty Images

Formula One grands prix will start on the hour again this season, rather than 10 minutes past, after scrapping a previous timetable intended to give broadcasters more time to build excitement.

The decision, announced on Friday by the governing FIA and Liberty Media-owned Formula One, reverses a change introduced in 2018.

Formula One said the move would help teams with time pressures on race day and simplify the schedule. The majority of European races will start at 3pm local time.

Friday's two free practice sessions will be one hour long, the same as the one on Saturday, instead of 90 minutes.

"That one-hour reduction in practice time will force the teams to cram in more on-track action to get their cars in the set-up sweet spot for qualifying and the race," the official Formula One website said.

The sport justified the switch to starting at 10 minutes past in 2018 on the grounds that broadcasters tended to go live on the hour and missed "the tension and emotion that characterise the minutes before the start".

"Thanks to this change, television viewers will be brought closer to the teams and the drivers and fully enjoy the spectacle offered just before the red lights go out," it said at the time.

The 23-race season opens in Bahrain on March 28 with a floodlit grand prix starting after sunset.