Sunday, February 28, 2021

F1 announces new race start times for 2021 season

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One of the first moves made by F1’s new owners Liberty Media in 2018 was to shift the sport away from a 2pm race start in favour of the later slot.

It was felt that shifting races back later than 2pm would be better for boosting American television audiences.

Furthermore it was felt that starting the races 10 minutes after the hour would help broadcasters, as they could schedule their pre-race programming to begin on the hour shortly before the action began.

At the time, a statement from F1 said: “Some broadcasters usually go on air precisely on the hour, hence missing the tension and emotion that characterize the minutes before the start of each grand prix.

“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.”

With no evidence of a dramatic shift in audience of television network behaviour, the 3.10pm race start was also not very well liked within F1 circles.

With greater demands for pre-race ceremonies, including the national anthem and the #weraceasone displays, the start being at ten past the hour complicated the timing of pit lane exits being opened and the pre-race ceremonies.

As Motorsport.com reported recently, the matter was discussed with teams and there was support for reverting to the previous start time regime. F1 decided again going all the way to the original 2pm race start slot though.

From 2021, the majority of European races will start at 3pm, but not all races will begin then – with Baku getting a 4pm slot.

The season opening Bahrain Grand Prix will have a 6pm start, while the night race start time for Singapore (8pm) and Saudi Arabia (7pm) will be later than normal.

Canada, Japan and America will start at 2pm, with Mexico getting the earliest slot of the year at 1pm.

F1 also confirmed that Friday practice sessions are being cut back to two one-hour sessions.

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