Formula 1 Wiki


Formula 1 Wiki

Qualifying is the event where the starting grid for the Grand Prix (or the sprint race) is decided. Each qualifying is composed of three separate sessions called Qualifying 1 (Q1 for short), Qualifying 2 (Q2 for short), and Qualifying 3 (Q3 for short), where the position is based on lap times. The quicker the flying lap, the higher the position. The slowest drivers which are below a threshold position are eliminated in Q1 and Q2, after which the top 10 participate in the pole shootout in Q3. The event sets the presumptive grid for the race that follows, as penalties can demote a driver to a lower position and promote the others below him by a place.

Proceedings and History[]

In the current "Knock-Out Qualifying" system, all three sessions, Q1, Q2, and Q3 take place on the same day, usually Saturday. However, on weekends when the F1 Sprint races take place, the event takes place on Friday. Another exception is made for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, where the qualifying will take place on a Friday, as the Grand Prix itself will be held on Saturday.

Currently, with 20 cars, Q1 runs for 18 minutes, where the slowest 5 drivers are eliminated. Should a driver set a lap time slower than the 107% rule, the driver is not allowed to start the Grand Prix without the permission of the stewards. The remaining drivers then compete for a top ten place in Q2, which runs for 15 minutes. The slowest 5 drivers are then eliminated. The top ten then compete in a final Q3 shootout where the fastest driver is awarded the pole position.

In 2016, the FIA introduced the "Elimination" Qualifying format wherein the slowest driver would be eliminated every 90 seconds. This was done with the motive of shaking up the grids. However, many drivers were quickly eliminated unjustly, owing to the fact that they just could not get their flying laps in before the 90 seconds expired. As this system did not sit well with the fans, the FIA reverted back to the Knock-Out system starting from the third race of the season in Shanghai.

From 1996-2002, all of the grid would participate in a single, one-hour qualifying session at once. This system was discontinued as most of the teams would not run their cars in the early parts of the session to take advantage of the better track conditions later on.

In the mid-nineties, there were so many cars that some of them would have to enter a special event called pre-qualifying, where only the fastest were allowed to partake in the main qualifying session, and if they qualify, the Grand Prix.


  • Drag Reduction System: On a flying lap, the drivers are allowed to use DRS in all the DRS zones, irrespective of the fact that the gap to the driver ahead is less than a second or not. As such Qualifying sessions are often the fastest of the weekend. The times of Q3 are usually 6-8 seconds faster than the lap times set during the Grand Prix.
  • Tires: Each driver must use the tires allocated to him/her by Pirelli for the weekend. There are no restrictions on tire use in Q1 and Q2 and so one can qualify for the next session (in the case of Q1 and Q2) or for the shootout in Q3 on tires of choice. However, the top ten entering the pole position shootout are given a fresh and extra set of the red-banded soft tire, which they must return to Pirelli after qualifying. Up until 2021, it was made mandatory by the FIA for the Q3 entrants to start the Grand Prix on the tires they qualified on (i.e, the tire they set their quickest lap in Q2 on). No such compulsion was made for sprint race weekends. This rule was also applicable to those who made it to Q3 but did not start the race from the top 10 due to grid penalties. This system was discontinued from 2022 onwards.
  • Penalties: The penalties are issued on the said driver after they have been knocked out of qualifying or when they have finished it. Engine change, Gearbox Change penalties almost guarantee the driver will start from the back of the grid. Changes to the Internal Combustion Engine require a 5-10 place grid penalty. Going off the track limits or cutting corners results in the lap being invalidated and the lap time deleted. Other penalties include infringement of technical regulations where the driver is disqualified from the qualifying sessions and must start the following race from the back, Obstructing other drivers on a flying lap, which can result in grid penalties of up to 5 places, and other penalties carried over from the previous race.
  • Red Flags: Qualifying sessions can be red-flagged when seen fit by the Race Director due to Unfit track conditions. on-track incidents and debris on the track. If there is sufficient time for the driver to go around on an out-lap and then register a flying lap, the session is resumed. However, if there is not enough time, the session is ended then and there.
  • Yellow Flags: Mostly yellow flags fly when there is an incident on the track. During yellow flags, the drivers must reduce speed while going through the affected area. Failure in doing so will incur an FIA investigation and possibly a grid penalty.

After Qualifying Ceremonies[]

After Qualifying, the top three qualifies are interviewed in parc ferme immediately following the weigh-in procedures. The top qualifier, the driver who has set the fastest lap of the session, is awarded the pole position award. It is an engraved wind tunnel tire, commemorating the occasion with the name of the Grand Prix, the name of the driver on pole position , their lap time, and etched upon the tire compound with which they did it.

After qualifying, the starting grid and qualifying results are released via F1 social media accounts. The starting grid maybe different from the qualifying results owing to the fact that drivers are penalized by grid penalties after the session is over. If the driver on pole is penalised, the driver with the second fastest time will be awarded the official pole.

An example of this was at the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix, when Max Verstappen qualified on pole, but had a 5 place grid penalty and therefore started 6th. Charles Leclerc, who set the second fastest time in Q3, was therefore awarded the pole position. Despite this, Formula One uploaded Max Verstappen’s pole lap to their YouTube channel even though that lap wasn’t actually counted as the pole lap in the end.