5

Actually there are many reasons that make the cars slower in the first lap of a race.

  • Cars accelerate from 0 kph
  • Traffic is at maximum
  • Tyres are not at ideal temperature (still soft tyres can perform at peak)
  • Fuel tanks are full

On the other hand, the first lap is shorter than other laps on most circuits, because the start line is usually ahead of the finish line. In addition, if it starts raining in the 1st or 2nd lap, the fastest lap can be easily set in the first lap.

I'm questioning whether this lap can be officially recorded as the fastest lap. Since the distance is different from other laps and also different for each car, I would expect the first lap to be excluded from fastest lap records.

I checked the 2019 Formula One Sporting Regulations, but couldn't find anything relevant. The following part in Article 6.4 is about the 1-point award for the fastest lap, again nothing relevant.

In addition to the above, one point will be awarded to the driver who achieved the fastest lap of the race and to the constructor whose car he was driving, provided the lap time was achieved without incurring a penalty and he was in the top ten positions of the final race classification (see Article 45). No point will be awarded if the fastest lap is achieved by a driver who was classified outside the top ten positions.

6

Yes, the first lap is valid for setting the fastest lap.

Before anything else, it's worth mentioning that the starting line and the finishing line are not at the same position because the finishing line must be in front of the race control tower. Since the full grid takes quite some space (specially with these ridiculously long cars we currently have), it normally ends up with the pole position car sitting way ahead of the race control tower, hence the starting line ahead of the finishing line. But if the main straight is long enough both lines can be at the same position, as in Interlagos. In some rare occasions the finishing line can be ahead of the starting line, as in the old Silverstone.

Back to the question, the fact that one finds no mention of the first lap in the regulations cannot be viewed as it being invalid: quite the opposite, if the first lap is not mentioned it should be valid. What I mean is if the first lap was not a valid lap for setting the fastest lap, then it should be explicitly mentioned as invalid in the regulations.

However, for avoiding an opinion based answer, let's back up this assumption with an official record: all we need is a FIA official record of a driver setting his/her fastest lap on the first lap. It's not easy to find one, but for instance Martin Brundle set his fastest lap in the first lap of the South African GP in 1992 (columns are: Pos/No/Driver/Car/Lap/Time):

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Source: https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html

This shows us that the first lap is a valid one for setting the fastest lap.

Therefore, when you ask "can the official fastest lap of a race be set in the first lap?" the answer is yes, it can. What's the real chance of this happening some day? Well, except for a downpour starting on the second lap, as you mentioned, the chance is pretty much zero.

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