How Do F1 Drivers Avoid Collisions On The First Lap?
At no point during a Formula 1 race is the risk of collision greater than the first lap. Drivers avoid collisions by exercising situational awareness and observing the FIA’s overtaking rules. Keep reading to learn how F1 drivers avoid collisions on the first lap of a race.
Avoiding First Lap Collisions
The first lap of a Formula 1 race is truly a special type of chaos. All the cars start at once, and they’re packed close together in the starting grid. This means that entering the first corner and throughout the first lap, drivers are closer together than most other points during the race.
After the first lap, the gap between cars begins to grow, and the danger diminishes. During the first lap, drivers must find the balance between their competitive nature and caution.
The Starting Grid
Before the start of a Formula 1 race, all the drivers are required to find their place on the starting grid and wait for the starting lights. The starting grid is determined by a driver’s performance during qualifying the day before and features one spot for each of the field’s 20 drivers.
Part of the danger of the first lap is how close together the starting grid puts drivers, but there’s not much of a choice. The start of the race has to be fair for all drivers.
To mitigate the risk of collision to a small degree, the starting grid is staggered between each row so that no driver starts immediately next to another driver. It’s not much, but it does help. The most dangerous part of the first lap is often the first corner, and that danger is exacerbated when drivers enter the corner side by side.
More than anything, avoiding collisions falls on the shoulders of the drivers. Drivers must have incredible situational awareness to prevent collisions.
Obviously, this is no easy task. Formula 1 cars can reach tremendous speeds even before the first corner. Balancing this speed with 20 other drivers in extremely close quarters is a tall order.
That’s why drivers must be checking their mirrors and paying attention to their peripherals while also shooting for the first corner as fast as possible. Drivers being situationally aware is one of the best ways to prevent collisions during the first lap.
During a Grand Prix, Formula 1 drivers are required to observe certain rules when passing other drivers. This applies even during the chaos of the first lap. For example, drivers aren’t allowed to force other drivers off the track; they’re always required to give enough room for the other driver until they’ve actually passed them.
Of course, there are different rules for different types of corners, and the rules similarly change when a driver is passing on the inside or outside of a corner. Passing another driver is always regulated, which is all in the name of preventing collisions between cars.
During the first lap, the race stewards are especially vigilant of overtaking violations, and the punishments they give out can be surprisingly severe. Similarly, Formula 1 regulators are constantly looking for ways to prevent collisions, which can be disruptive to the sport.