How does qualifying work in F1? The Sportsrush explains the concept behind qualifying and how it plays a major role ahead of the race day.
Usually, there is more drama and aggression during the qualifying day in comparison to the race day with drivers constantly being on their toes, as qualifying requires them to be at their best to guarantee a spot ahead in the starting lane.
Therefore, it compels everyone on track to try their best as any mistake can cost them the race on Sunday with any shake-ups or blunders can increase their lap timing bringing them below in the pecking order.
Whereas one would witness the most amount of whining and controversies, as drivers frequently complain of being blocked by other drivers (hells break if it is your own teammate), which further leads to arguments and spicy media interactions or press conferences.
Earlier, Formula 1’s qualifying was redundant and dreary when all the drivers were ought to participate in a one-hour session with all the cars running simultaneously and the fastest driver taking pole position.
Therefore, mega teams like Ferraris always used to take pole position and continued to dominate on the race day too, which made qualifying less of a spectacle.
In 2002 the FIA, the sport’s rule-making body, made qualifying system a two-hour single-lap shootout, where each driver ran a single timed lap alone.
It was eventually reduced to one hour but still failed to generate excitement, except when the strongest drivers made a mistake and caused a mixed-up grid.
Things changed in 2006 when the authorities brought in a much complicated yet efficient and interesting form of rules for qualifying, which shaped the way of the contemporary Grand Prix’s qualifying.
How does qualifying work
Q1: For the first 20 minutes (Q1), all 20 cars on the track try to set the fastest time. The slowest five cars are eliminated, earning the bottom grid positions. Drivers are allowed to complete as many laps as they want during this short space of time.
Q2: During the next 15 minutes of action, the 15 remaining cars do another round, their previous lap times having been cancelled. The slowest five cars are eliminated and take the grid positions 11 to 15. The remaining drivers progress through to the top 10, where pole position is decided.
Q3: Then in the last ten minutes, the 10 last cars fight for the pole position, or No. 1 spot on the grid, and qualify no lower than 10th. The cars complete several laps of the tracks, usually completing two runs during the 10 minutes before the final grid is decided.
Attempt to reform but backtracked
FIA planned to tweak the existing law back in 2016 by hitting away from the elaborated knockout round stated above to an elimination-style format, where every 90 seconds a driver drops out.
There were still three sessions, but the timings were changed and only eight drivers made it through to Q3. However, this new reform had no fame among drivers and fans, who all demanded the previous method to be restored.
The authorities were compelled to bring back the current qualifying round just after two races, with the elimination format being scrapped.