This is obviously important as passing cars in front on some circuits is very difficult. The driver into the first corner has a huge advantage. F1 cars perform to their maximum potential when the have “clean air” in front of them. This enables the complex aerodynamics to work efficiently and apply the correct levels of down force to the car. Down force is the effect the air has on the car. It does what it says. It forces the car to grip the track so the driver can apply maximum traction to the wheels and apply the power of the car though the wheels. A car following behind has “dirty air” this is when it’s travelling in the disturbed air that the car in front creates. This means the cars traction and handling is badly affected. To combat this cars have a couple of gadgets that can be used. KERS – This is an energy recovery system that captures the energy created by the braking system and then releases it as a power boost at a time the driver chooses (such as overtaking or defending a position to stop being overtaken). The other is “DRS”. DRS is basically a flap that is within the huge rear spoiler on the rear of the car. When this is opened it enables a higher straight line speed as it reduces drag. DRS cannot be used during the first 2 laps of a race. It can only be used within a designated area of the track and is controlled remotely. DRS can only be activated if the driver is within 1 second of the car in front when it passes the DRS activation zone.
This is designed to aid overtaking.
Another consideration of grid position is tactical. If both a team’s cars (each team has 2 cars) or on the front row of the grid. It is possible for the weaker of the team’s drivers to intentionally go slower and hold up the cars behind. On some tracks it’s is not possible to overtake on any point on a circuit except in 1 or 2 places. This means the team leader can build up a big advantage. This comes under team strategy / tyre wear.
Another factor is the track itself where the grid is situated. When a tyre degrades it deposits small balls of rubber onto the surface. These are known as “marbles”. These make the track very slippy, cars are unable to put down maximum power. You may notice that nearly every single driver takes the same route around the track. This is known as “The racing line”. It is the fastest and most efficient way around. If you deviate away from the racing line, you run the risk of running into marbles. This is what can happen if you are on the “wrong” side of the grid. In an area where cars do not normally go.
Something to look out for if the pole position is on the “wrong side”. This can happen occasionally. It will hamper the start for the cars on this side if there is a pronounced “dirty” side.