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Formula 1 Las Vegas GP

FIA allows F1 drivers extra pit exit practice starts in Las Vegas

FIA Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich has addressed a concern of the teams by allowing practice at the Las Vegas pit exit when drivers are on the way to the grid.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

In his original event notes, Wittich made it clear that starts were not permitted at the pit exit during the weekend.

As has been the case for other races that face such a compromise, they were only allowed on the grid at the end of practice sessions.

However, both FP1 and FP3 were curtailed by red flags, which meant that the only time the teams got to try starts was after the 4am finish of FP2, in very cool conditions and on a track less rubbered in than it is now.

That left teams with only a third of the data that they expected to have, and opened up the possibility of some poor getaways, with potential safety risks.

With that in mind, Wittich issued new notes on Saturday evening that gave drivers permission to conduct practice starts at the pit exit while on their final reconnaissance laps.

If they don’t want to do a start and a car is stopped in front of them, they have also been given permission to cross the pit exit white line (actually pink for this race), which is usually not allowed.

Wittich wrote: “During the time the pit exit is open for the race, practice starts may be carried out after the end of the pit exit road but before the SC2 line. During this time any driver passing a car which has stopped to carry out a practice start may cross the white line.”

Speaking just before the extra practice start opportunity was confirmed, some teams noted that they had concerns.

“I think launching here is going to be interesting,” said Alpine technical director Matt Harman when asked about the lack of practice by Motorsport.com.

“It's going be a bit tricky. I think we're more concerned about the start and the launch and making sure we get a good launch and also survive the first set of corners."

“The general track state I think is a bit of an unknown,” noted Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson. “And exactly how the tyres perform at the race starts difficult to know as well.

"So I think we know much less than we normally do about the race start. We'll see, we know roughly where we need to be.

"It's difficult. Same for everybody. and at least it's a short run to turn one, so I think someone will have to get something pretty spectacularly wrong I think, it would have to be a mechanical problem or a really bad driver error and to see a big difference to Turn 1.”

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella was less concerned about the actual launch.

"The difficulty is not for the start itself in terms of procedure for the drivers, because this procedure it repeats itself independently of the venue,” said the Italian. “You might have to make some small adaptations to how you use the clutch or the throttle, dependent on the level of grip.”

However, Stella expects the first lap challenge to be once the cars get off the line.

“I think the difficulties will have more to do with the low level of grip,” said the Italian. “Like that will be you know when you go breaking for a corner one maybe not so much, because it's a short acceleration.

“But with these long straights then when you go to the braking point, you will be like floating a bit on the ice. And I think that will be stressful for the drivers. And hopefully all will be clean.”

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