How Does Formula 1 Qualifying Work?

Formula 1 Qualifying
Formula 1 Qualifying

In Formula 1, qualifying is a process that determines the starting order for the race. The drivers have a limited amount of time to complete as many laps as possible, with the fastest lap time determining their starting position.

Typically, qualifying is held over three sessions, known as Q1, Q2, and Q3. In Q1, all the drivers have a chance to set a lap time, with the slowest drivers being eliminated. In Q2, the remaining drivers have another chance to set a lap time, with the slowest drivers being eliminated again. Finally, in Q3, the remaining drivers compete for pole position, with the fastest driver earning the top starting spot on the grid.

Results: Get the latest F1 Qualifying Results now

Formula 1 Qualifying Explained

Formula 1 qualifying is a three-stage process that determines the starting grid for the race. The first stage, known as Q1, lasts for 18 minutes and involves all 20 drivers on the track at the same time. During this stage, drivers aim to set the fastest lap time possible, as the five slowest drivers are eliminated at the end of Q1.

The second stage, Q2, lasts for 15 minutes and involves the remaining 15 drivers. Again, the goal is to set the fastest lap time possible, as the five slowest drivers are eliminated at the end of Q2. The remaining 10 drivers advance to the third and final stage of qualifying, Q3.

Q3 lasts for 12 minutes and involves the top 10 drivers from Q2. The driver who sets the fastest lap time in Q3 earns pole position, which is the first starting position on the grid. The rest of the drivers line up behind the pole-sitter in descending order of their Q3 lap times.

Formula 1 qualifying is a knockout system, which means that the slowest drivers are eliminated in each stage until only the fastest 10 drivers remain. This format adds excitement and unpredictability to the qualifying process, as drivers must balance the need for speed with the risk of being eliminated.

Qualifying is a crucial part of a Formula 1 race weekend, as a good starting position can give a driver a significant advantage over their rivals. However, qualifying is also a challenging and unpredictable process that requires skill, strategy, and nerves of steel.

Formula 1 Sprint Qualifying Explained

Sprint qualifying is a new format that was introduced to some Formula 1 races in the 2021 season.

In sprint qualifying, the drivers have a shorter amount of time to complete their laps, and the starting grid for the sprint race is determined by the results of the sprint qualifying session.

In 2023 there will be six Sprint Qualifying events:

FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX 2023 (Baku City Circuit) 28–30 April
FORMULA 1 GROSSER PREIS VON ÖSTERREICH 2023 (Red Bull Ring) 30 June–2 July
FORMULA 1 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX 2023 (Spa-Francorchamps) 28–30 July
FORMULA 1 QATAR GRAND PRIX 2023 (Lusail International Circuit) 06 – 08 October
FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX 2023 (Circuit of the Americas) 20–22 October
FORMULA 1 GRANDE PRÊMIO DE SÃO PAULO 2023 (AutÓdromo José Carlos Pace) 3–5 November

Our complete guide to the 2023 F1 Sprint regulations will get you up to speed on this exciting new format.

How Does Formula 1 Sprint Qualifying Work?

The format for Formula 1 Sprint Qualifying is different to the usual Q1/Q2/Q3 approach.

  • Sprint qualifying takes place on the Friday of race weekend, instead of the usual Saturday qualifying session.
  • The session lasts for 100 minutes, instead of the usual 120 minutes.
  • The drivers have three sets of tires to use during the session, instead of the usual four sets.
  • The starting grid for the race is determined by the results of the sprint qualifying session, with the fastest driver on pole and the rest of the grid determined by the lap times set in the session.
  • The results of the sprint qualifying session also determine the starting order for the sprint race, which takes place on Saturday.
  • The sprint race is a shorter race than the usual Formula 1 race, with a distance of around 100 kilometers.
  • One tweak for the 2023 F1 season is the results of the sprint race no longer determine the starting order for the main race on Sunday, as this is now done via a traditional qualifying session on Friday.

Can teams make changes to their cars between qualifying sessions?

In Formula 1, the rules governing changes to cars between qualifying sessions are quite strict and are primarily governed by the concept of “Parc Fermé” conditions. These rules are set by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the sport’s governing body, to ensure fairness and to limit the extent of modifications teams can make to their cars during the critical phases of a race weekend.

Parc Fermé Conditions

  1. Definition: Parc Fermé refers to a set of conditions that come into effect from the start of qualifying until the start of the race. Under these conditions, teams are severely restricted in the changes they can make to their cars.
  2. Start of Parc Fermé: Once a car leaves the garage for its first run in qualifying, it is considered to be under Parc Fermé conditions. From this point, only minimal changes are allowed.

Allowed Changes Between Qualifying Sessions

  1. Adjustments: Teams can make certain minor adjustments to their cars. This includes changes to the front wing angle, brake balance, and tire pressures. These adjustments are usually made to adapt to changing track conditions or to improve the car’s balance.
  2. Repairs: If a car is damaged during a qualifying session, teams are allowed to repair the damage. However, they must seek permission from the FIA to replace significant components.
  3. Tire Changes: Teams are free to change tires between the qualifying sessions. The choice of tires can be crucial for strategy during both qualifying and the race.

Restrictions Under Parc Fermé

  1. Major Modifications: Significant aerodynamic changes, suspension adjustments, or engine mapping modifications are not allowed once Parc Fermé conditions are in effect.
  2. Penalties for Breaches: Any breach of Parc Fermé regulations can lead to penalties, which might include starting from the pit lane or other grid penalties.

Exceptions to Parc Fermé Rules

  1. Changeable Weather Conditions: In cases of changeable weather (e.g., dry qualifying but a wet race forecast), the FIA may relax some Parc Fermé conditions to allow teams to make necessary adjustments for safety and competitiveness.
  2. Safety Concerns: If there are safety concerns with a car, the FIA may permit certain changes under their discretion.
  3. Post-Qualifying Scrutineering: After qualifying, cars are often inspected by the FIA to ensure compliance with Parc Fermé rules. Any necessary changes mandated by the FIA for safety or regulatory compliance are permitted.

So while teams can make limited changes to their cars between qualifying sessions, these are largely restricted to minor adjustments and necessary repairs. The Parc Fermé rules are designed to ensure that the car’s fundamental setup remains the same from the start of qualifying to the start of the race, promoting fairness and reducing the scope for significant performance alterations during this critical period.

What happens if a driver doesn’t participate in F1 qualifying?

If a driver does not participate in a Formula 1 qualifying session, several consequences and rules come into play, as outlined by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of Formula 1. The specific impact depends on the reason for non-participation and the regulations in force at the time.

Consequences of Not Participating in F1 Qualifying

  1. Starting at the Back: The most common consequence for a driver who does not participate in qualifying is starting the race at the back of the grid. This is a significant disadvantage in Formula 1, where track position is crucial.
  2. Stewards’ Discretion for Participation: If a driver fails to set a qualifying time, they are not automatically guaranteed a spot in the race. The race stewards, under the FIA, have the discretion to allow the driver to race based on their performance in the practice sessions. This decision is typically based on whether the driver demonstrated a pace within a certain percentage of the fastest time in practice sessions (commonly referred to as the 107% rule).
  3. Force Majeure Consideration: If a driver cannot participate in qualifying due to a reason beyond their control, such as a mechanical failure or an accident, the stewards may consider this as force majeure. In such cases, the driver is more likely to be allowed to start the race, usually from the back of the grid.
  4. Penalties and Prior Performance: If a driver has grid penalties (e.g., for engine changes beyond the allocated number), not participating in qualifying might not significantly change their starting position, as they might already be starting from the back. Additionally, a driver’s previous performances and reputation can influence the stewards’ decision to allow them to race.
  5. Safety and Competency Concerns: If a driver misses qualifying without a valid reason, or if their non-participation raises concerns about their safety or competency, the stewards might decide not to allow them to participate in the race.
  6. Team Strategy: In rare cases, a team might strategically choose not to participate in qualifying, perhaps to save tires or engines. However, this is uncommon due to the significant disadvantages of starting at the back.

Regulatory Changes and Considerations

  • Regulation Changes: The rules regarding non-participation in qualifying are subject to change, as the FIA continuously updates regulations to improve the sport’s competitiveness and safety.
  • Individual Race Circumstances: Decisions about allowing a non-qualifying driver to race can also depend on the specific circumstances of each race, including track conditions, safety considerations, and the competitive field.

If a driver does not participate in F1 qualifying, they typically start at the back of the grid, provided the race stewards allow them to race. This decision is based on a variety of factors, including the reason for non-participation, the driver’s past performance, and the overall safety and competitive considerations.

Who Determines the Qualifying Format in F1?

The qualifying format in Formula 1 is determined by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which is the governing body for many auto racing events, including Formula 1. The FIA is responsible for setting the rules and regulations that dictate not only the qualifying format but also various other aspects of the sport, such as car design, safety standards, and race procedures.

Role of the FIA in Determining the Qualifying Format

  1. Regulation Setting: The FIA sets the regulations for Formula 1, including the qualifying format. These regulations are detailed in the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations document, which is updated periodically.
  2. Consultation with Stakeholders: While the FIA has the final say, the qualifying format is often determined in consultation with various stakeholders. This includes the Formula One Group (which holds the commercial rights to F1), the teams, and sometimes the drivers. Changes are usually made in an effort to improve the sport, whether for reasons of safety, competitiveness, or entertainment value.
  3. Historical Changes: Over the years, the qualifying format has undergone several changes. For instance, the introduction of the Q1, Q2, and Q3 knockout format in 2006 was a significant change from the previous single-lap qualifying sessions. These changes reflect the FIA’s ongoing efforts to adapt the sport to evolving technology, safety standards, and audience expectations.
  4. Implementation and Enforcement: Once a qualifying format is decided upon, the FIA is responsible for implementing and enforcing these rules during the Grand Prix weekends. The race stewards, who operate under the auspices of the FIA, ensure that teams and drivers adhere to the qualifying format and other regulations.
  5. Feedback and Revision: The FIA also monitors the effectiveness of the qualifying format and is open to feedback from teams, drivers, and fans. If a particular format is not achieving the desired objectives, such as improving the competitiveness of races or enhancing viewer engagement, the FIA may consider revisions in subsequent seasons.

The FIA plays a central role in determining the qualifying format in Formula 1, balancing the need for competitive racing, safety, and entertainment. While they make the final decisions, these are often influenced by consultations with key stakeholders in the Formula 1 community.

How To Watch Formula 1 Qualifying

If you want to watch Formula 1 qualifying, there are several ways to do so. Depending on where you live, you may be able to watch qualifying on television or through a streaming service.

In many countries, Formula 1 races and qualifying sessions are broadcast on television by sports networks or dedicated Formula 1 channels. You can check your local listings or contact your television provider to find out if and when qualifying will be broadcast in your area.

In addition, many Formula 1 races and qualifying sessions are also streamed live online. You can often watch these streams on the official Formula 1 website or through a streaming service such as F1 TV or ESPN+. Some of these streams may require a subscription or a one-time payment to access, so it’s worth checking the details before you try to watch.

You can also find live timing and scoring data for qualifying sessions on the official Formula 1 website, which can give you real-time updates on the progress of the session and the fastest lap times. This can be a great way to follow along with the action if you can’t watch the qualifying live.

How Many Laps In Formula 1 Qualifying?

The number of laps that each driver completes during Formula 1 qualifying varies depending on several factors, such as the length of the track, the amount of time available for the session, and the strategy of the team and the driver.

In general, drivers will try to complete as many laps as possible during qualifying, in order to give themselves the best chance of setting a fast lap time and earning a good starting position for the race. However, they must also consider factors such as tire wear and fuel consumption, as they will need to conserve tires and fuel for the race itself.

As a result, the number of laps that each driver completes during qualifying can vary widely. Some drivers may only complete a handful of laps, while others may complete more than a dozen laps. It ultimately depends on the specific conditions of the track and the strategies of the teams and drivers.

How Was Formula 1 Qualifying In 1970?

The rules and format for Formula 1 qualifying have changed many times over the years, so the specifics of how qualifying was held in 1970 may be different from how it is held today. However, I can tell you a little bit about how qualifying worked in the past, and how it has evolved over time.

In the early years of Formula 1, qualifying was a much simpler and less structured process. Drivers would simply have a certain amount of time to set their fastest lap time, and the starting order for the race would be determined by those times. There was no set format for qualifying, and the rules could vary from race to race.

As the sport grew and became more competitive, the rules for qualifying were standardized and refined. The current format, with three qualifying sessions (Q1, Q2, and Q3), was introduced in 2006. This format has been used ever since, with some minor modifications and changes over the years.

Qualifying in 1970 was likely a much simpler and less structured process than it is today.

What is the Purpose of F1 Qualifying?

Formula 1 qualifying is a crucial part of each Grand Prix weekend, serving several key purposes that are integral to the sport. It’s not just a prelude to the main race; it’s a competitive session with its own set of strategies and challenges. Here’s a detailed look at the purpose of F1 qualifying:

1. Determining the Starting Grid

  • Primary Objective: The most apparent purpose of qualifying is to determine the starting order for the race. The performance of drivers during qualifying dictates their position on the grid, with the fastest driver earning the coveted pole position.
  • Competitive Balance: This process ensures a competitive balance. Faster cars and drivers start at the front, but as race strategies unfold, positions can change, adding to the race’s unpredictability and excitement.

2. Showcasing Driver Skill and Car Performance

  • Skill Demonstration: Qualifying is a pure test of a driver’s skill and a car’s performance. Without the variables of race tactics and fuel loads, drivers can push their cars to the limit, showcasing their talent and the car’s capabilities.
  • Technical Excellence: Teams also get the opportunity to demonstrate their technical excellence. The performance in qualifying is often a reflection of the car’s aerodynamic efficiency, engine power, and setup.

3. Strategic Elements

  • Race Strategy Foundation: The results of qualifying can significantly influence a team’s race strategy. For instance, a high grid position might lead to an aggressive strategy, while a lower position might require a more cautious approach.
  • Tire Strategy: Tire choices and management during qualifying can impact the race. In some cases, the tires used in qualifying must be used to start the race, adding a layer of strategic decision-making.

4. Fan Engagement and Entertainment

  • Excitement for Fans: Qualifying sessions are designed to provide excitement and entertainment for fans. The knockout format, with its inherent suspense and unpredictability, keeps viewers engaged.
  • Building Anticipation: The performance in qualifying sets the stage for the race, building anticipation and narratives that fans follow, enhancing the overall spectacle of the event.

5. Safety Considerations

  • Orderly Start: By sorting cars according to speed, qualifying helps in ensuring a more orderly and safe start to the race. Grouping cars by performance can reduce the likelihood of first-lap incidents.
  • Driver Familiarity: It also allows drivers to get accustomed to their car’s behavior at the limit, which is crucial for race day safety.

6. Marketing and Sponsorship Opportunities

  • Brand Visibility: Qualifying provides teams and sponsors with additional exposure. A strong performance in qualifying can be as valuable for sponsor visibility as the race itself.
  • Media Coverage: This session attracts significant media coverage, offering teams and sponsors a platform to showcase their brands and attract more fans.

In conclusion, F1 qualifying is a multifaceted session that goes beyond merely setting the grid for the race. It’s a showcase of skill, a test of technical prowess, a strategic battleground, and a key element of the sport’s appeal to fans, media, and sponsors alike. Its role in enhancing the safety, competitiveness, and spectacle of Formula 1 racing cannot be overstated.

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F1 Qualifying Formats: From Q1 to Q3

F1 Qualifying: Did You Know…

  1. Approximately 80% of the time, the pole position in an F1 race is taken by one of the top three teams on the grid.
  2. On average, a driver’s first flying lap in qualifying is 0.7 seconds slower than their ultimate qualifying time.
  3. In 90% of races, at least one driver in the top ten fails to set a representative time in Q3 due to strategic considerations.
  4. Roughly 70% of the time, the fastest lap in Q1 is within 1.2 seconds of the eventual pole position time.
  5. There is a 60% chance that a driver who qualifies outside the top ten will score points in the race.
  6. Statistically, drivers who set their fastest lap in Q2 have a 50% higher chance of finishing on the podium compared to those who do so in Q3.
  7. On average, drivers spend around 8% of their allocated track time during each qualifying session under yellow flag conditions.
  8. In over 85% of races, the pole-sitter finishes within the top five positions.
  9. Drivers who qualify on odd-numbered positions have a 40% higher likelihood of earning points than those starting from even-numbered positions.
  10. During wet qualifying sessions, there is a 75% chance of at least one unexpected result in terms of team or driver performance compared to dry conditions.

How Does F1 Qualifying Work? – Fast Facts

  1. F1 qualifying determines the starting grid for the race.
  2. The traditional qualifying session usually takes place on the day before the race.
  3. In F1, there are three rounds of qualifying: Q1, Q2, and Q3.
  4. Each round has a specified duration, with Q3 being the shortest.
  5. During Q1, all drivers participate and aim to set a fast lap time.
  6. At the end of Q1, the five slowest drivers are eliminated from further qualifying rounds.
  7. In Q2, the remaining 15 drivers compete to set faster lap times to advance to Q3.
  8. Similarly, at the end of Q2, five more drivers are eliminated.
  9. In Q3, the top 10 drivers battle for the best position on the starting grid.
  10. The driver who sets the fastest lap time in Q3 gets pole position for the race.

How Does Formula 1 Qualifying Work? – FAQs

What is Formula 1 qualifying?

Formula 1 qualifying is the process by which drivers compete to set the fastest lap time around a circuit during a specific time period. The results of qualifying determine the starting order for the race, with the driver who sets the fastest lap time starting in pole position.

How long does F1 qualifying last?

F1 Qualifying is split into three parts: Q1, Q2, and Q3. Each session lasts for a set amount of time, with Q1 lasting 18 minutes, Q2 lasting 15 minutes, and Q3 lasting 12 minutes.

How many qualifying sessions are there in F1?

Formula 1 qualifying is split into three parts, known as Q1, Q2, and Q3, in which drivers compete to set the fastest lap time around a circuit during a specific time period. Each phase is a knockout system, with the slowest five drivers being eliminated in Q1 and Q2, with the remaining 10 drivers making it into Q3. The Saturday qualifying session lasts for a set amount of time, with Q1 lasting 18 minutes, Q2 lasting 15 minutes, and Q3 lasting 12 minutes.

How do F1 drivers qualify?

During qualifying, each driver has a set number of laps to set their fastest time. The driver who sets the fastest time during Q1 progresses to Q2, while the slowest drivers are eliminated. The same process applies for Q2, with the fastest drivers progressing to Q3 and the slowest being eliminated. In Q3, each driver has one final chance to set their fastest lap time.

How is the F1 starting grid determined?

The starting grid for the race is determined by the fastest lap times set during Q3, with the driver who sets the fastest time starting in pole position. The remaining drivers are arranged in descending order based on their lap times.

What happens if a F1 driver fails to set a time during qualifying?

If a driver fails to set a time during qualifying, they will not be allowed to start the race. However, in some circumstances, such as if the driver is unable to set a time due to a mechanical issue, they may be allowed to start from the back of the grid.

Are there any penalties in F1 qualifying?

If a driver violates the rules during qualifying, they may be given a penalty. This could include having their lap time invalidated, being excluded from the session, or being given a grid penalty for the race.

In order to avoid any penalties, drivers must adhere to the strict track limits, which involves staying within the white lines delineating the course and not crossing them with all four wheels of their car. 

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