How long is an F1 race?

There are many factors which determine the length of an F1 race

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Every Formula 1 circuit is unique, but when the FIA is pursuing a uniform event structure that prevents a challenge for rule-makers to ensure grand prix all run to similar lengths.

That means fans at different circuits will get better or worse value for money depending on how long the circuit is and how many laps the drivers will spend going past your grandstand.

This also has an effect on how long races take – some fly by in just over an hour while others go right up to the time limit.

There’s one race that took less time than it takes to microwave a ready meal, one lasted over half a working day.

How many laps are in an F1 race?

Grand prix lengths are set by distance, rather than time or a specific lap count. All grand prix must take the smallest number of complete laps that exceeds 305 kilometres.

Spa is the longest circuit on the calendar at 7km, so the Belgian Grand Prix only lasts 44 laps. At the other end of the spectrum is the Sakhir GP – held on the outer layout of the Bahrain International Circuit in 2020.

The track was just 3.543km long, so that meant Sergio Perez completed 87 laps on his way to victory.

There is one caveat though – Monaco. The most iconic race on the F1 calendar, it’s not technically legal and definitely wouldn’t be allowed to be added to the season if it were new today, but tradition’s a funny thing.

Because the average speed at Monaco is so much slower than at other circuits – less than 170kph for the 2022 pole lap – there’s a lower minimum distance of 260km and the race runs to 78 laps.

GP MONACO F1/2022 – SABATO 28/05/2022 credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

What is the longest F1 race?

This record is literally unbeatable until the F1 regulations change. Currently there’s a two-hour time limit from the moment the race starts, but the longest F1 race lasted for 4 hours, 4 minutes and 39.537 seconds.

That was the 2011 Canadian GP, which Jenson Button waited until about minute 143 to take a decisive lead when Sebastian Vettel went off.

A crazy race that was red-flagged for over two hours, Vettel led for about four hours and 68 laps but crucially not the 70th one.

It holds multiple records including the lowest average winning speed (74.864km/h, or less than 50 mph), the most safety car deployments (six), and Button‘s five pit stops are the most by a grand prix winner.

What is the shortest F1 race?

This is an absolute fraud. Officially, the shortest race in F1 history was the 2021 Belgian GP at a distance of one lap (6.880km) and a time of 3:27.071. That’s minutes and seconds, though it took three and a half hours to reach that point.

Torrential rain fell on both days at the Ardennes as Max Verstappen took a sodden pole position, ahead of George Russell (in a Williams no less) and Lewis Hamilton.

It was another downpour on race day as the start time passed with no sign of any racing action, the only movement on track coming from two formation laps before the start was aborted and the safety car periodically lapping to check surface conditions.

Eventually, the stewards decided to run a few laps behind the safety car, took the results as the order after the first full lap was complete and then called it a day.

It was purely run to get a result in the books (under half points) and a completed grand prix, although with no chance to overtake then many criticised the decision to award points entirely based on qualifying position and gift a win to Max Verstappen.

There was one driver still managed to lose positions though – Lance Stroll was given a ten-second penalty for a parc ferme infringement.

The shortest race that included actual racing was the 1991 Australian GP at Adelaide which was cut short after 14 laps, 52.92 kilometres and less than 25 minutes, and was won by Ayrton Senna.

Max Verstappen wades his way to victory in the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix | Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

What is the fastest F1 race

Another great won the shortest race that completed its allotted distance. Because F1 race lap totals are calculated from a distance rather than to an expected run time, Monza is typically the quickest race on the calendar and that’s reflected in the record.

The 2003 Italian Gp is the fastest F1 race in history. Michael Schumacher sped to victory of the 53-lap for Ferrari in less than 75 minutes, clocking a record average race speed of 247.585km/h.

It’s not known whether he had an early flight or just never got the chance to use the bathroom before the race started.

The last Italian GP without a safety car was in 2018, where despite 15 years of technological advancement to aid him, Lewis Hamilton crawled to victory at a frankly tardy average speed of 240.424km/h.

Michael Schumacher celebrates winning the fastest F1 race in history, the 2003 Italian GP. He’s joined on the podium by Juan Pablo Montoya, Rubens Barrichello and Ross Brawn | Ferrari F1 team
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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