When Liberty Media, an American-owned media company, took control of Formula One, it kicked off its tenure by immediately adopting the strangest possible start time procedure for Grands Prix. Now, the series is reneging on that idea because it... hasn’t actually done anything.
The supposedly genius plan was pretty simple: if a race starts at exactly the top of the hour, fans are going to miss out on “the tension and emotion that characterize the minutes before the start of each grand prix,” as F1 put it at the time. Basically, you miss the all-important buildup and jump straight into the climax.
Okay. I could see it. Some broadcasters put on a frankly impressive pre-race show to get you pumped up for the race, and I’ll admit that I do enjoy those moments. But you’re not really going to get them by tuning in ten minutes before the green light. All the cool pre-race features are over by that point, and you’re just sitting there watching the swarm of team personnel blocking out the cars.
As it turns out, that start time... never actually signaled a shift in audience behavior, Motorsport reports. In fact, it was mostly just an annoyance for race fans (although, as an American, I did appreciate the extra 10 minutes to blearily make a coffee before the race kicked off).
A big problem popped up in 2020, one that it would have been pretty difficult to foresee: the pre-race anti-racism displays. In order to provide ample time for the drivers to organize, take a moment of silence, and then stand for the national anthem, F1 had to keep the pit lane exits closed for a longer period of time, which was just a logistical headache for actually starting the race.
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Now, F1 has confirmed that it’s just scrapping the whole ten-minute buildup idea. Races will start at the top of the hour, and if you want to catch the pre-race action, you have to tune into a pre-race program—which, I have to say, many fans were doing anyway.
Even better for us Americans: F1 is prioritizing later start times rather than reverting to its previous earlier ones. That means most of us won’t even have to be conscious until a fairly reasonable hour, which is a welcome change for a Sunday morning.