During the start of a Formula 1 race, the safety car is positioned behind the cars, and it starts together with them. Why is that (why does the safety car not wait outside the track like it does for the rest of the race), and when does it leave the track afterwards?
The car that is behind the grid at the start is not the safety car but the medical car. The actual cars look similar, but there are two separate cars. The safety car pull into the pits before the race cars line up for the start.
The reason the medical car waits there is that there is thought to be a higher chance of crashes immediately at the start. This doesn't seem to happen so much anymore, fortunately, so it's perhaps a bit of a relic, but it doesn't bother anyone, so why change it.
At the first corner there is a greater probability of a crash happening as all the drivers are looking for opportunities to overtake.
Once all the cars have come to a halt on the grid, and the course car and medical cars are also in position further back, the start sequence is initiated by the race controller.
The safety car will actually be positioned further back on the grid or at another pre-defined location on the track or in the pit lane before moving after the first corner.
Safety car driver Bernd Maylander says:
At 1.55 pm, we leave the starting grid and park the car in the agreed parking position for the first lap. As soon as all cars have completed the first curve, Race Control tells us to move the safety car to the parking position for the rest of the race