14th November 2023

Why all the red lights?

Our Focus t-shirt looks at those key moments just before the start of a Grand Prix when all the red lights are lit – and the race will start in the next few seconds…

But red lights haven’t always been used to start grand prix. The world’s first Formula 1 world championship race took place at Silverstone on May 13, 1950, and it was started by a man waving the Union Jack (and won by Nino Farino in an Alfa Romeo). National flags were the traditional way of starting races and it stayed that way until 1975 until Silverstone, once again at the fore, introduced a red light/green light system.

Due to too many false starts the system was changed again in 1996 to its current 5 red lights starting sequence. Once the cars have finished their warm up lap and the stewards are happy with everything, a green flag is waved for the race starter to begin. The red lights illuminate one by one at 1-second intervals – this gives the drivers time to get their cars and starting plans ready to go. Once all 5 lights are lit, there is a random gap of anywhere between 0.2 and 3 seconds (it varies so drivers aren’t tempted to jump the lights) – and then all the lights go off and its time to Go, Go, Go!


Our Focus t-shirts have sold like hot cakes since their launch – and although they weren’t on sale until September they could well go on to be our best-selling t-shirts of 2023. You can see them here.