Confirmed: F1 to consider standing starts in wet after safety car pulls in

The safety car leads the field around the Silverstone Circuit at the 2016 British GP.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

F1 teams will this week debate the idea of having standing starts in wet conditions in order to avoid the sort of situation seen at the British GP, when fans were denied the opportunity to see a proper start.

The plan is that – in wet conditions – after several laps of safety car running, instead of the field simply being released, as was the case at Silverstone, everyone will stop on the grid and conduct a normal start. In effect, therefore, they will be running several formation laps on extreme wet tires.

A similar idea to cover all safety car starts has previously been adopted, but it was dropped without being used because after further debate it was felt that it was too complicated to have multiple starts in one event. However, the FIA believes that the wet race scenario could work.

The likelihood is that new rule would ensure that drivers cannot change tires before the standing start. In other words, they would all have to go to the grid and not dash into the pits for a change to intermediates when the safety car period ends.

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The idea will be debated by team managers at the Sporting Regulations Meeting on Wednesday, and will then go to the Strategy Group meeting the following day.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who is a member of the Strategy Group, is fully behind the plan.

“As far as Silverstone is concerned, we should have let them off the leash a lap or two earlier,” he said. “In my opinion, if I could define the rules, and I can’t clearly, let them follow the safety car for a lap or two to see what’s happening out there, and then the safety car comes in and they do a standing start, which is clearly one of the most exciting things. Or if we stick with the current rules, just pit.

“I think due to the circumstances around Jules [Bianchi’s] accident and the aftermath there is an ‘uber caution’ which is being deployed at the moment. You can somehow understand that, but we I think we have to come back to what motor racing is all about, which is having the best drivers out there in the most powerful machines in tricky conditions. They can manage that.”

“It could be quite good,” said Lewis Hamilton. “In Silverstone 2008 we started in the wet, and it was heavy. I think we were on intermediates, but it was still pretty wet. A wet start is exciting, just as exciting as a dry start, if not more. I’m all for that.”

However, Jenson Button cautioned that sometimes conditions can be too difficult for a standing start.

“Silverstone was right to start behind the safety car because we all would have ended up in the gravel trap, half of us probably upside down, so it was right at Silverstone,” said Button. “I think the issue at Silverstone was the safety car was out way too long, but the drainage was very bad at Turn 1 – it was like a lake. You arrived there and you didn’t know what you were going to get.

“I think in certain situations you can have a standing start in the wet, we’ve had many before but it seems at the moment, to start the race when it’s wet, if it is an absolute downpour then that is too wet. It is not just visibility, it is the tire cannot take that amount of water on the circuit. It is not a skill level issue because you are totally out of control at that point.”