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How the starting lights procedure works in F1

There are few moments more exciting than a Formula 1 start. The current system was adopted in 1996. Previously it was done with red and green lights. First, the red lights came on, and the start was given when the green lights came on.

Pic: Formula 1

Then it was found that a system of five red lights that turn on in sequence and then turn off was safer, the current Formula 1 traffic light even has green and yellow lights, but they are only used when the drivers go out for a warm-up lap and when the start is aborted.

Another point implemented was automation. There was a pre-determined time for the lights to turn off. This lasted until the 1999 European GP, when something very srange happened.

The five lights came on but did not go out, but four cars that were in the top five started: Heinz Frentzen, David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen and Olivier Panis. Ralf Schumacher's car also burned out, but ended up starting later, most likely influenced by seeing the cars around him starting, another car that also burned out at the start was Jean Alesi who started much back.

To this day, it was a system problem or a prank by the race direction, but it was confirmed that the teams were suspicious of using start control, something that was prohibited in that time. There was an electronic synchronization in which, when the first light came on, the system identified and synchronized a timer that made the car start at the exact moment the lights went out.

After this event, the system changed: Charlie Whiting, former race director, began to operate the system manually, commanding when the lights turned on and off, to prevent teams from cheating. After Whiting's death, there is a position of Starter, an FIA employee who performs this service at all races.


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