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I'm wondering. The 5 red lights, that light up 1 by 1 for the start of the race, and then the race starts when they all shut down. When were they introduced? And are there any advantages to the five lights system over a basic Green light/Red light system?

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The current system was introduced for the start of the 1996 season - prior to that it was some configuration of reds and greens that varied in exact specifications by year and circuit.

The elementary advantage is that one bank of lights is more reliable than two - off the top of my head there was at least one occasion where the reds went out but the greens failed to light, and the drivers went anyway, so the signal was clearly understood!

The current setup also allows unambiguous use of the green lights for formation lap signalling, often in conjunction with the amber abort lights - see the sporting regulations article 36 for that:

When the green lights are illuminated, all cars on the grid should begin the formation lap with the pole position driver leading.

If a car develops a problem that could endanger the start the driver must immediately raise his hands above his head and the marshal responsible for that row must immediately wave a yellow flag. If the race director decides the start should be aborted the green lights will be illuminated two seconds after the abort lights are switched on, a board saying “EXTRA FORMATION LAP” will be displayed and all cars able to do so must complete a further formation lap whilst the car which developed the problem is moved into the pit lane.

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