F1 insight: How to do the perfect Grand Prix start
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 May 2013   |  8:40 pm GMT  |  167 comments

This season we have seen how starts are almost as important as qualifying in setting up a driver for a good result. Crucial places gained off the line by Alonso in the Spanish Grand Prix or Raikkonen in the Australian Grand Prix, for example, set them up for their wins in those respective races.

Starts at Monaco make a huge difference; last year 13 cars ended the opening lap in a different position from their grid slot.

So how is it done? What is the secret of a good start?

JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan provides the answer.

The two crucial technical elements in a start are tyre temperature and clutch preparation. The grippiness of the tyres on the track surface and the stability of the clutch are first order priorities in getting the perfect start.

Each driver has a control engineer alongside his race engineer and they are responsible for making sure all the preparations are correct for the race start. This work begins early in the weekend with practice starts; at Monaco for example the drivers are allowed to do practice starts at the end of Free Practice.

Ideally you want your driver to practice his start from the grid slot he expects to occupy on Sunday. The control engineer can then analyse the tyre grip, the level of grip from the track surface and the tyre temperatures, as well as the clutch settings based on the wheelspin experienced. All of this is analysed ready for Sunday.

With the preparation of the race clutch, what you are looking for is something which is consistent. It’s about finding a particular bite point where the clutch is stable.

On the parade lap to the grid, you see the drivers doing burn-outs, lighting up the rear tyres. This gets temperature into the rear tyres and gets them into their working range. You can’t really have enough burn-outs.

The performance engineer and control engineer monitor the temperatures on that lap via telemetry and advise the driver how many more to do.

The tyres will have been in warmers and the wheel rims will have been heated up while the car is on the grid. The mechanics will leave it until the last possible moment before leaving the grid to remove the blankets, in order to retain the heat.

Also the brakes put heat into the rims on the lap to the grid and this maintains the temperature. The preparation of the tyres by the team and driver on his way to the start grid is critical to the start.

Some drivers complained, for example, that pole sitter Nico Rosberg had led the field around too slowly in Barcelona, which meant that they lost tyre temperature on that slow lap. Not something Mercedes suffers too much from…

The grip level of the track surface can make a difference to a start. The most extreme example of that was the new surface in Austin last year where the dirty side of the grid was at a massive disadvantage to the clean side. So much so that Ferrari penalised Massa with a gearbox penalty so Alonso could start on the clean side.

Normally the difference between the clean and dirty side is between one and two places gained on the run to the first corner.

Ferrari has had consistently strong starts for the last few years, which has made up for their deficiencies in qualifying.

What is their secret? It’s about procedure and about getting the above right and also giving the driver the best possible chance of doing it consistently.

When the driver is ready to make the start, he releases one of his two clutch paddles on the steering wheel, holds the engine at 13,000rpm or the exact level he is instructed by the control engineer and then when the lights go out he releases the second paddle. The aim is to match the torque demands and not have too much wheelspin, and conversely not bog the engine down either, to have the perfect getaway.

Getting the driver used to doing that under pressure in a repeatable way is very difficult, as we see from the inconsistency of starts of many F1 drivers. Ferrari has the control systems optimised and the drivers are able to perform consistently.

All of the above plus a consistently accurate picture of tyre temperatures, grip levels, tyre compound information as well as engine mapping and driver discipline makes for a perfect start.

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Very nice article. Learned a lot. Didn't they have electronic launch controls in the Beneton days ? Are they banned now?



What about driver reflexes? Does it matter?


Pedro de la Rosa (the reserve/simulator driver in Ferrari) was one of the commentators for a Spanish television channel at the last Spain GP (Barcelona). In the warm up lap PdlR said three things that in my opinion were very interesting. Firstly, that Rosberg was leading at very low speed, which surely would provoke anger in many drivers behind because they could not warm up tires properly. Secondly, PdlR drew attention to how Alonso made ​​maneuvers to heat not only the rear tyres but also the front tyres, unlike some other drivers. Thirdly, PdlR explained that Ferrari engineers and team drivers devote together long sessions before each GP in order to plan different alternative strategies for each start. Then when Alonso passed other cars on the outside of the second curve to place himself in front of Rosberg, PdlR said something like ... "Do you see, Fernando had heated well the front tires." The implication was clear to the listeners.

IMO, the usual excellent starts produced by Ferrari/Alonso/Massa are based on well prepared clutches, correct planning of several alternative strategies and last but not least, drivers. They have not only good hands but a decision making fast and accurate. Even so, it sometimes it fails, is not it? Not out of possibility.




Well, in my turn... yes but mostly no. ; )

My story is what PdlR said and implied. He said the Ferrari team prepares for each start alternative strategies that include more than the mere departure from the right or the left. He did not elaborate much more, He could not do it, working for Ferrari. He did NOT say that Ferrari strategies cover ALL the possibilities that might occur, he only implied that they carefully prepare some, more than one.

I think not only the Ferrari team prepares strategies for the starts, other teams will surely, each with more or less success. What is certain is that in this, Ferrari engineers and drivers stand.

Pilots warm up front tires, I am sure of it. My story just says that PdlR said that Alonso did at that time, others were not doing so then. PdlR suggested that Alonso, having qualified to the third row, had on his thinking the possibility to pass some cars right after the start and then go along the outside on second corner. Of course, things could have happened differently. Nothing was said about a possible alternative.

PdlR did not comment anything about Hamilton, neither did I. Now I say that Mercedes warms well the tyres, it is well known.




Well..yes and no.

FA would have liked a car that was faster then the others around all corners. 😉 All drivers do.

Heating up the fronts more then the others can mean he needed to do so because of the characteristics of the car. Or because he lacked heat in them halfway through the parade lap.

If it's that simple, why didn't the others do just the same to be able to drive through these corners at equal speed as FA?

A start is 1 of at least a couple of hundred of scenarios. You can't cover all bases and most decisions aren't taken upfront, they are taken when an opportunity presents itself.

You can plan upfront for the 10 most likely scenario's, but in what scenario would FA been better off NOT properly warming his fronts?

Your story seems to imply "If only Hamilton had better warmed his fronts, he would have been able to hold off FA." I don't believe for a minute it's that simple.


Thanks for sharing that with us!


I wouldn't think so, all the drivers react ridiculously quick anyway


Of course driver reflexes, skills and instincts matter. But that´s not enough. The article is pointing out the team work behind the driver.


Didn’t they have electronic launch controls in the Beneton days ?


Are they banned now?

Yes and they were back then too (1994).


Secret to a great start? Don't ask Mark Webber. (I'm a fan, Mark, but come on........)


Mark only has problems when Seb is close to him.....hum...and the engineers are in control of that....so that means RB only wants Seb to get as good start.


His starts are bad for a number 2 driver....even for a number 2 driver.

Tornillo Amarillo

What else? I cannot believe Webber is not disciplined, is his car different or his engineer is not doing it well?

Tornillo Amarillo

Honestly, we have many factors to Webber's start problems, but we cannot really get the ultimate cause about the clutch performance, for example between Alonso and Webber, or why Massa is not so good as Alonso.

IMO it is more technical -including conspiracy theories- about clutch-setup, than psychological, but it remains a mystery for me.


What I would infer from it is that the greater weight transfer means that Webber has tighter bounds on the clutch and throttle settings that he can use to get a got start. The amount would be in the order of 2% greater total weight transfer. It is real, but I do not know if it is significant. You asked what else is there - this is a real physical difference.


another good one, keep the physics coming


I don't think Webber's poor starts are to do with anything mechanical. No technical issue would go unresloved for the duration over which Webber has had problems with the getaway (conspiracy theories aside).

I think it's purely the pressure of the situation and sometimes Webber doesn't deal with it. Even with all the carefully prescribed parametres -engine revs, torque settings etc -dictated to him it's the driver's foot on the accelerator and finger on the clutch paddle.

In all sports, pressure can make a competitor "tighten" up and nervey and this could quite easily translate into dumping the clutch at the wrong time or not feeding in the power smoothly.


Here's one useful article on reaction times:



About reaction times: I believe it is a common misconception to think F1 drivers have better reflexes then other, normally fit people. Schumacher was even one of the more slow responders, if my memory serves me correct.

What they train to, is to limit the amount of brain-CPU energy that goes into reacting. So making a 1000 decisions doesn't fatigue them as much as it would do to us.

Schumacher didn't react to a slide, he anticipated them. And so do the others.

There's simply no time to react, even if your reaction times are 25% better then mine.

Just wanted to clear that up.


Novak Djokovic has 37 career titles including 6 grand slams; the guy is as mentally tough as it’s possible to be yet I’ve still seen him get tight occasionally on big points. MS Dhoni has 6 test match hundreds and has played 77 tests in total, yet he still let the proximity of another test match hundred get to him and was run out for 99 in the 4th test in India.

To say that psychological factors play no part in elite level sport shows is a vast misjudgement. In fact, the converse is true; these guys are very closely matched in terms of physical and technical ability. The ability to handle pressure and control the adrenalin is a big factor in separating the best from the rest.


I can't say I subscribe to that theory, Dan. This is a guy that has now done 200 grands prix. When you do something 200+ times, pressure and psychological considerations just aren't likely to come into it. Neither do reaction times: these guys would be able to correct a slide before mere mortals would detect that there was a slip. Webber's mental fragility seems to come into question in many an online forum, but the guy would be as tough as nails - as are most of the grid.


Webber can handle pressure just fine .. I consider his poor starts a "Vettel Tax" which Mark has to put up with. You sure don't see RB trying to improve Mark's starts. Just sayin'


Webber has referenced a weight distribution and centre of gravity difference between his car and Vettel's as part of the reason for his worse starts. Certainly as he is heavier and therefore the CoG is raised, he will get a greater transient weight transfer shift to the rear than Vettel and that would reduce the stability Gillan references.

Tornillo Amarillo

But sometimes he get it right... so how explain it really, what is it the ultimate cause?


Had exactly the same question in mind.


sounds like the driver is pretty well at the mercy of someone giving him instructions and setting up his car right, also, by the team, not the driver.


I agree with you but since it happens so often to him, what is the issue? If I were him, I'd have gotten to the bottom of the problem and fixed it by now (whether in himself or the car). And if it's the car, why doesn't Vettel have the same issue?


yeah... well, I agree with most of what you say, as well, but the possibility that it is because of the driver is not the only possibility here, is it? I mean, it has never been any different, the extent to which the driver is dependent on the team around him... your points are good, but maybe the breakdown, of the occurances of the Webber bad starts might yield a pattern? I don't know, but it might.


Please show this to Mark Webber.


His starts have been awful for so long. I find it absurd that he, or the team, or someone can't seem to find a solution to the problem. Clearly compared to Vettel, he or his engineers are doing something fundamentally wrong at the start, or the car isn't behaving in the same way. After Malaysia it wouldn't take much to get one thinking about conspiracy theories...!


For the sake of all his fans can some one who's more tech savy than me tweet this to him or something..!


It would be really interesting James to understand why Webber has really bad starts almost every race.


Stupid question alert!

What is a bite point?Is it the same as reffering to a load point?


Bite point is that moment your clutch engages.

In a standard road car there's a 'dead zone' in the cluch pedal before it begins to engage.

(Ie: you can let the clutch pedal out a little and nothing will happen, yes?)

But at a certain point, you car will begin to move as the clutch engages, this is your bite point. Then you 'gradually' let the clutch pedal out while balancing the throttle, and your away.

So, in F1, the first paddle lets the driver hit that bite point instantly (hence why the driver will build revs to 13,000 RPM to stop it from stalling) the second paddle then allows the driver to gradually feed in the rest of the clutch - preventing wheel-spin or 'bogging down' - in a controlled manner.

Although there is no cluch work involved mid-race, this procedure is required for pitstops.

Hope that helps 🙂


So it the same sort of procedure for pit stops?



Well that's easily fixed. All cars should carry a loudspeaker that plays the teams national anthem at full blast. You wouldn't miss 'Nano waltzing down pit lane to "Il Canto degli Italiani" would you?


The FIA has scrapped that rule for the time being, hasn't it? Teams were saying that if that was implemented, a) the cars would have to carry starter motors onboard and b) it'd be very dangerous as you'd have virtually noiseless cars crusing down the pit lane at 100 km/h.


Just to back-up the comment on 2014 regs, article 5.19 states:

"The car must be run in electric mode (no ignition and no fuel supply to the engine) at all times when being driven in the pit lane."

For the full set of regs, visit:



I believe that will be postponed...


That's correct. In the same way you have to 'clutch in' at a set of traffic lights on the road to prevent stalling, F1 cars need to do the same when in the pits. If the gearbox was engaged, the wheels would spin, making it impossible to change tyres.

Under 2014 regulations however, cars will run under full electric power in the pit lane, so things will probebly be a little different from 2014.


Thanks.It does.


If I understand it correctly, basically the bite point is where the clutch begins to transmit power from the engine to the wheels.


Sneaky Rosberg! But too bad for everyone else. Obvious solution to this issue is to get pole. I hope the Mercedes locks out the front row, and that everyone has to find a way around them in Monaco.

Also, a little rain please? It's time to say bye to these lovely tires in style by throwing in an intermediate stint into the mix.


We ain't sayin bye bye anymore. The FIA won't let them change them, they said it breaches the rules and minimal changes can only be made on safety ground but they have told Pirelli to improve the bonding process to make a stronger bond between the tread and the main body of the tyre to eliminate the delamination problem. No change to structure, dimensions or compounds so we stuck with these inadiquate tyres for rest of season.

I'm interested in next years tyres as the cars have more tork (sorry for spelling) so more wheel spin and lateral loading. This generation of Pirellis wouldn't last 5mins literally.


What about special engine maps for the opening laps?


No longer allowed I believ, they went out the window with blowen diffusers and a rule which states just how much varience to the base torque map each engine is allowed.


It is allowed, but there is a rule that means the driver has to stay in the same map for a period of time that performance wise is undesirable for everything except the start.


I thought the driver released the first paddle only when lights went out, and then released the second paddle afterwards.

The text implies that the drivers keeps sitting on the grid with the first paddle already released, which sound a bit strange to my layman's knowledge


AFAIK, both paddles control the clutch at the same time, meaning that the clutch will be in the most disengaged position. When they have one paddle in the bite point and the other in the disengaged position, the clutch is actually disengaged. By releasing the first paddle they're actually moving the clutch to its bite point, and that's when the driver's ability comes to play, which would explain the difference regarding starts between Alonso and Massa or Vettel and Webber.


Massa has better starts than Alonso, Vettel has better starts than Webber.


Ya even I have heard DC saying that the driver release the 1st clutch when lights go out and then slowly release the 2nd clutch before shifting to 2nd gear.

Maybe things have changed since DC retired.


I doubt it, he was doing voice over's of in car footage last year to explain it.


On second thoughts, there could be some merit on using a combination of clutch, throttle and brakes to hold the car at specific revs under load. Trying to maintain a constant amount of revs on an F1 engine with no load might be impossible.

So I think the process is probably stop, foot on brake, put car in gear, hold first clutch just on the bite point so that the engine is fighting the brakes - a differet bite point means a different amount of throttle and revs. Lights go out and the driver comes off the brakes and modulates the throttle and the second clutch based on experience and feel for the current start.

On reflection that seems more likely.




If you consider the logic of it, what is the point of releasing the first clutch lever and having the car still stationary?

From memory drag racers use at least four clutches to increase the torque to the rear tyres through the first couple of seconds. A bit later the tyres become a lot taller and that effectively becomes another gear change in a car without a gear box.

DC is still quite close to Red Bull and gets to drive some two year old cars quite regularly. He drove an RB7 in Melbourne for example.


Have to agree with you. I think I sometime last year saw a feature with Coulthard, where he mentioned the same thing. And with that I mean the fact that they 'release' the first clutch-paddle at launch, and the second paddle when they've gained some speed.


You are correct, they drop the first at lights out and feel/feed the second clutch paddle out as the car starts to move to try and balance the amount of wheel spin/traction to ensure the optimum acceleration.


Wonder who is reckoned the best [ie most consistently good] starter?

Prost, Senna, G Hill, Schumacher ??


Seems like you've missed out quite a lot of opening laps from the last couple of years.

Alonso has been pretty good, and Massa's joined his party lately.


I think you mean Alonso has joined Massa.


I think he is talking about the opening lap, not just the start off the line. Alonso has been doing magical opening laps since he entered Formula 1. Massa has improved his consistency in this regard lately.


Statistically it would be hard to prove Senna was a great starter when for more than a third of his races he couldn't move forward. In the same team Prost was generally regarded as the better starter, but Senna was more committed for the rest of the lap as the tyres came up to temperature.


Vettel's won the odd race from lights out to chequered flag. I reckon he qualifies as a good starter. Current best must be Alonso though.


You should include Massa and Alonso to that list. I thought I read Schumacher was not a good starter. Was it in your book James?


In Schumi's time, Mika was the demon starter.

Stephen Taylor

You're right many people notably Hakkinen had the better of him on starts.


Well Micheal made a good start in his first ever F1 race for Jordan- up to third but he did wreck the clutch!


The "Schumy chop" came about because he was a poor starter.


Alonso also is in the company of greatest startes he had great starts in Renault and now in Ferrari. His start in USA (9->3) was the best I have ever seen.


You haven't seen Indianapolis 2004 then... From ninth to third... Have a look if you can!!


If by start you mean the start off the line plus first couple of corners, you don't have to go back in time to find the best starter, you have him on the grid right now, and his name is Fernando Alonso!

But if by start you mean just the start off the line, I think there are two or three drivers as good or better than Alonso, and Massa is one of them!


Yep, Massa is the demon starter on the grid. Jenson too tends to make up quite a few places, but that could be because he starts a few places below the cars capability.


Yago: Totally agree!


Nice article! Any insight as to why Webber seems to suffer more bad starts that other drivers? Surely the team apply the same control systems and approach to both cars and drivers.

Luke Clements

His start engineer is one "H.Marko" possibly explains it! ;)...I wish it were as easy to explain as that. It is a mystery, though he got a great start at Monaco last year. And remember Silverstone 2010? When he was fuming angry, he got a fantastic start. I know it goes against all sports psycology rules etc. but that man races better when angry, I'm sure of it. They need to show a video of SV & HM kicking his dogs before every race!

Brad Withyman

Awesome comment. Lol :0)


I just posted further up but I tthink the sports psychology element is spot on.

Webber is an intense character and I think this translates into his driving more so than some of the other drivers. Sometimes it's a boon, sometimes it's to his detriment.


Lucky I wasn't drinking anything when I read that, it would have shot straight out my nose. That was very funny.


Or just simply nick the latest spec front wing off him. 🙂 From Silverstone 2010 seems like latest tech and gadget isn't what he need to drive faster than Seb 😀


When his engineer moved over to Lotus, Kimi also doesn't start to well...


Kimi's issues are likely down to the nature of Lotus car, being gentle on the tires in general, thus I'd assume it's a bit slower for them to put temperature in the tires.

Other than than, I cannot imagine that Kimi doesn't know how to handle the clutch levers consistently.


James, what are your thoughts regarding starts in 2014? Do you expect that we will see a lot more wheelspin/starts becoming more crucial with the increased torque of the turbo V6s?


My best guess is that the initial start will be similar as the combination of the first clutch and the brakes put some load on the engine. The feeding in of the throttle and the release of the second clutch will take more feel to get just right as there is more torque. I don't think there will be a big issue with turbo lag or general torque spikes with these engines. It will just be easier to get the second phase of the start wrong.


It would be interesting to see Webber in a Ferrari, just to see if his starts improved.


Webber has missed his chance of going to Ferrari and even then his starts will be poor, just like his Jaguar days when he qualified on the front row but gets swamped as usual so I wouldn't expect too much even with traction control his starts were diabolical.


Haha yes!


It cant get any worse, I Wonder if you look down through the midfield if any of the others have a net loss of places after one lap as bad or worse than Mark. Hes lucky its not the pre Pirelli/DRS/KERS era as he would be much more severly punished.

Justin Bieber

Well, I think its obvious the problem is between his seat and the steering whell..


Some drivers are good qualifiers, some are good starters. Webber is quick when it counts the most: during the race. Trulli for example was a great qualifier but could not maintain competitive pace during the race; he achieved one win in 252 races (at Monaco where passing is near impossible). I recall Irvine being a great starter but in 147 races only managed 4 wins. Webber has 9 wins from 201 races.


What a superb article.

Mr Allen thank you very much.


I 2nd that.. very insightful.. Thank you


Ferrari seems to get it right each and every time for both drivers, and the Ferrari seems to have great acceleration in that initial phase coming off the line and in the first few hundred meters.

With teams always looking for tenths here and there, even in the pit lane, perhaps this is a neglected area of development?

Has Ferrari found something that other teams haven't?

If they have, is there even more to it than optimised control systems and warm tyres; Mercedes aren't exactly great off the start...


The only reason Ferrari have had good starts in the last few years is because they prodiced duff cars that were typically 5th-10th placed on the grid.

And when they pay top rates for good drivers, it is not surprising they performed better than the cars around them.

Compare those stats with McLaren and Redbull who have been in pole or close to pole position and the probability of improving is more difficult or impossible. One can only go backwards if on pole.


What?!! So a driver's skill is most evident off the start?


Ferraris often at least Alonso was starting right behind those 4 cars was jumping McLarens and Reddbulls in the start. Ofc when you start from pole you can't gain positions, but if you would put those 6 cars in the same line they (RBR and McL) would not stand a chance against Ferraris.


Lol could you point to a time Alonso has gotten ahead of Vettel from the start and he has stayed there?


Very informative article, as always!


Can anyone explain why Mark Weber has difficulty making good starts? It can't always be his fault. The car, the crew, the team must be responsible as well!



I did read in Wheels magazine in a feature on Webber (probably at the end of 2010) where there was reference to the weight difference between Webber and Vettel (around 10-12 kg I believe) and the associated increase in centre of gravity leading to a weight distribution disadvantage. There would be more dynamic weight transfer with Webber to the rear wheels during the launch, so for the same clutch settings a perfect start for Vettel could lead to a slight bogging down for Webber. As they are often on different sides of the grid, they would have different settings anyway. It could be that Red Bull in trying to save weight is making the clutch quite marginal, and the greater weight transfer with Webber is putting more load through it than it wants to cope with. The greater weight transfer would increse the revs that he'd use, and that would generate more heat in the clutch prior to moving and that could reduce the clutch stability further.


It's easy to do some rough calculations in regards to c.g. and Webber's weight differential to Vettel by looking as some basic information:

1. All the cars are at the same minimum weight.

2. Weight distribution front/rear is set by regulation.

3. Ballast is added at the lowest possible points to keep the c.g. low.

4. The c.g. of Webber and Vettel is probably located at about the same point , so Mark is giving up 15 kg of low mounted ballast and replacing it with 15 kg of weight with a higher c.g.

5. Making some assumptions about actual c.g., if the c.g. of Webber's car is 30 cm above the ground, the c.g. of Vettel, with 15 kg less body mass and ballast of 15 kg added low as possible, is 29.98 cm above the ground.

We could do a calculation of weight transfer at the start, but it looks like a very small difference, and not enough to explain Mark's awful starts.


Yes, you are correct, I did make a mistake in calculations converting pounds/kg for the cars minimum weight (in a hurry at work). My assumptions were c.g. at 300 mm, 50 mm chassis height above the track. By moving 15 kg to the bottom of the chassis for Vettel I see a change of c.g. to 295 mm vs Webber's 300 mm, approximately 1% with a 790 kg car/driver. I think this is too small to be critical.


I found your maths a bit odd. If we assume Webber's CoG is the same as the car's at 300 mm, then we are moving 15 kg from just above ground level to 300 mm up. This is a bit more than 2 per cent of the car weight. So we would expect the CoG to move a similar amount.

Rearward weight transfer, to use a suspension text book that I have is the weight (force) x height / wheelbase. So in this case if we assume 1.5 g for the launch acceleration, you get 2.25 kg rearward weight transfer. The weight transfer from Vettel's ballast is effectively zero as it is nearly on the ground. In Webber's case this same 15 kg is being transferred. You can ignore all the other masses in that consideration.

The CoG movement is about 7 mm, again around 2 per cent, not 0.2 mm.

With a starting weight of around 790 kg, the 2.25 kg will be about 2 per cent of the 118 kg weight transfer through the car. Not necessarily a lot on top of the static weight of the car, but if the Red Bull's clutch stable operating window is small, for example to save weight, this could be a contributing factor.

There may be other factors, such as the length of time Webber has the first clutch paddle engaged, which if that is transmitting some drive with the car being held against the brakes, could generate more heat and reduce stability further. Vettel may be more comfortable bringing everything together later.


...that's my $64,000 question Paul. The next one is why it has been an issue that has gone largely unresolved for the past three years? Usually starts are refined to a fine art and seem to be something largely controlled by the equipment, yet when Mark's starts are observed there is not often a lot wrong with the driver input. It seems strange that when F1 engineers leave no stone unturned that RBR have yet to get on top of this one.


Marks are refined. He looses exactly 3-4 places everytime.


Yes, thats Marks greatest skill which no other driver seems to have mastered. He's been good at it for a decade or more now. 🙂


James, thank you for this article. There seem to be no mystery in what Ferrari does. Why other teams cannot do it?


Other teams do it, as of this season Alonso has not gone past Vettel after the 1st lap.


Another news: Merc has just pouched the entire Ferrari pit crew.


Fernando Alonso


Not really Felipe has been equally impressive if not more so on some starts from worse grid spots in traffic


Indeed Massa regularly passes Alonso on the start. Its hard to recall Alonso ever lepfrogging Massa off the line.


It means that Ferrari have a clear edge in launch performance than the rest


No where near as consistent as Alonso, or as successful. Some of Alonso's over-takes in the first 2-3 laps of (a lot of) races are incredible.


I think there is a bit more to Ferrari's great starts. I suspect if the FIA started poking around they would find something on the fringes of legality. They start too well and do it too consistently for it to just be chalked up to driver skill and tyre temps.

Justin Bieber

ah yes conspiracy theories.. so entertaining..

Here's a FACT = ECU


Invisible rope tied to MWs car under tension to give them a sligshit effect!!!


For example.......?

A traction control system would be obvious - you can hear the engine. ngine note is what gave away RB's part throttle over-run blowing the diffuser. So just wondering what you think is responsible.


I remember Brundle driving the Ferrari F1-2000 and noting that the power delivery was linear, and that while it didn't have traction control, it felt like it did. I suspect that it has more to do with the engine mapping


I've thought this too. Hard to think of when they last had a bad start. But anyways ...

I hope they police that 1st chicane at Monaco better than last year! So many cars just went thru there, making no attempt to make the St Devote chicane. They should erect temp barriers there for the first lap, then take them down once everyone's thru.


Yes see my comment above


Can't agree more. FM & FA are in a slingshot on the grid, while MW is up to the hubs in quicksand.

This is too consistent to be down to chance, Ferrari has something. While Webber has to be his own culprit, finger-boy has no such problem.

Yes, this is worth a look (again). James, you remember me beseeching you for some insight on Mark's leaded feet on the grid, about a year ago? There is always some lame explanation from MW, tries to act like it's not an issue.


Or, just maybe, they have designed their car to be quick off the grid, knowing that is the best way to recover positions lost due to inherent poor qualifying performances of the car.


I remember years ago they had Tad Czapski working on the electronics, and he seemed to be able to program cars to jump pretty quickly. Maybe it has something to do with his legacy?


Thank you guys,

you 've been once more informative and useful.


One of the very best articles ever on the JAonF1 site ! Really informative.


One, even two places lost starting on the dirty side.

So you can beat everyone except the pole sitter in quali, then be penalised for your effort. Maybe the even grid numbers could be placed say half a metre forward to compensate.


'Not something Mercedes suffers too much from...'

Cheers for the article, and good to see you have a good sense of humour too 🙂


"last year 13 cars ended the opening lap in a different position from their grid slot."

Not sure what this means James!

If only the first of the 13 cars overtook, then all 13 changed positions. What I'd like to know is how many actually overtook/crashed out. Thanks!


That would possibly be the best opening lap of all time, one guy making 13 overtakes on lap one!!!! at Monaco!!!!! However if the first of the 13 cars had crashed it would change all 13 places rather less spectacularly


Very good


Grosjean had an "incident" and he qualified 4th. So theoretically, if no passes for position were made into St. Devote, then 20 cars could have finished the first lap in a different position from which they started.


Something I've always wanted to know - does doing burnouts on the formation lap increase wear on the rear tyres? If so, is there any advantage to be had by not doing burnouts and having longer lasting tyres? Maybe not for the front runners but further back could it help?


No because tire degradation is a greater factor than wear


So, a slow parade lap could be a tactical ploy!


With Hamilton (or Rosberg) as tour guide pointing out the sights of glamorous Monte Carlo! 🙂


It always is. The pole setter dictates the pace of the parade lap. If at the same time that particular pace helps others, good for them. But the pole setter is helping himself.

I´d like to know what happens when the SC is on track leading.


The clutch and the grip are pretty much everything in the drag racing. The properly executed burn out is also extremely important. I am not surprised that is largely the case with F1 as well.


For anyone who hasn't seen an FC burn out.

Thanks for the great article as always.


I have to admit that I have not seen any cars doing burnouts during formation laps. Only a lot of weaving to try to warm up the tires. Is it because the TV cameras did not show cars doing the burnouts which I imagine is not so easy to do without slamming into the car in front. It would not shield Ferrari from suspicion if what is written is not spot on.


All drivers always do 3 or 4 burnouts generally at the exit of the last corner, the thing is, you don't see smoke because they're very short just to rise the temperature and not to degrade them.


I never knew they did burnouts on the at all until I watched a video from Merc's sight where Nico walks you through the procedures of the warmup/parade lap.

I watched pretty closely and they do spin the tires a few times right before the start of the grid. It's not a burnout that is easily seen as there seems to be very little smoke.


the secret to gain off the start line?

no fancy analysis required.

start behind Mark Webber.


Just get ready to turn!!


Although Alonso's starts are good, in all the 5 races he only gained a position in Melbourne and in China with the start. So off the line to the first corner. So mostly the starts are equal to the others.


With Webber it is the obvious question, how can a fast racer be such a slow starter.

If it really was driver error on Webbers part,you would expect Helmet Marko would be kicking him to death over it, yet all at redbull seem silent on the matter.


Your comment about Marko is the most telling: this guy seems to bring up just about any potential folly of Webber to use against him, but strangely this one has been left off the list.

As Mark himself would say: "dig deeper"...


So does the driver just simply release the second clutch lever like an on/off switch, or does it have to be released slowly like the clutch on a road car? If it's the former, then the driver doesn't really have a lot to do aside from build the revs and react to the lights.


Very interesting article.

However when you say "you can never have enough wheelspin", surely as we see in quali where in the past people have opted to not make extra runs in fear of degradation, this states that every bit of rubber on the tyre counts. Is'nt it possible to take too much life out of the tyre and place yourself even closer to that metaphorical cliff before the race has even started?

Even so interesting stuff.


You can never have enough burnouts, for temperature


James, why are team members not allowed to sit at the pitwall during race starts? Where do the race engineer and control engineer monitor telemetry during starts? Inside the garage?



It's in case of a startline impact, wheel flies over the pitwall etc


Great article, had no idea it was so technical. Shows F1 is very much a team sport. Difficult for the average punter to understand how much work goes into get a good start.


And then they complain that they can't even get their heads around 4 stop strategy. F1 definitely isn't for everyone and it shouldn't try so hard to appeal to the people who couldn't give a damn about getting a bit more informed about it, in order to appreciate it even more.

Articles like these are absolute treat to read as far as I'm concerned!


We are talking purely about the start nothing else and over the last few years both Ferraris have been consistently quick.

James why has someone else's reply been excluded from this because it highlights a very valid point about launches- it's not just the great Fernando Alonso . Let me guess our friend Val from Montreal


Sorry this was intended to reply to post 16. Above


James you forgot to mention reaction times, the average is around 0.25 secs, and no driver in particular seems to stick out for being too fast or too slow to react.


.so it's the same for everyone, more or less!


Last year, David Coulthard said that weaving before the start puts zero heat in the tyres and does absolutely nothing. He claimed it was more of a psychological crutch for the driver.


Interesting article. And speaking of starts, we all know how good Alonso is. There are many good starters and some that never seem to get better.

One that is normally not spoken about much is Vettel. I don't like the personality of this guy and I often find myself hoping he screws up, but he is undeniably a very good starter.

In Spain the attention was on Alonso, but his start was also brilliant.


On the dual clutch issue, as said in J Allen interview to Christian Horner on September 11, 2011 (it can accessed here in this website):

"Another question many fans want to know is how much of this is dictated by the electronic systems on the car and how much is driver operated.

"“Well you have two clutches, so the driver will release one lever and then feed in the other,” explained Horner. “So how they prepare the clutch on the way to the line is important, the engineers give them instructions on the number of burn-outs they need to do. They rehearse religiously to get the clutch clean – the best it can be for the start.

"“Then it’s about matching the torque demand from the engine, through the clutch bite point and synchronising that. The drivers have the throttle position which they manage with the foot, then with the clutch he needs to keep his arm light, dumping one lever, feeding in the other one. At the same time he has to use his mirrors to see what’s around him.

"“It’s very easy to overslip the tyres, creating wheel spin. It’s easy to underslip, where the engine bogs down and you have a bunny-hop start.

"“So it’s a very small window that you are operating in."


You overlooked the use of KERS at the start, which is vital as well. I think most of the drivers use most of their first lap KERS charge at the start. Knowing the exact moment to enable it without inducing wheelspin can also give you that slight advantage in overtaking a racecar ahead of you as you enter the braking zone of the first corner.

I do it all the time playing F1 2012 on my PC! 🙂


Interesting, thanks!

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