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Formula 1 Explained: How does qualifying work?

Formula 1 Explained: How does qualifying work?

Formula 1 Explained: How does qualifying work?

Formula 1 Explained: How does qualifying work?

Qualifying in Formula 1 determines the starting order for the race, making it a vital piece of the grand prix puzzle.

Qualifying is a high-pressure showdown in which drivers put it all on the line over an hour on Saturday to set the fastest lap and secure the coveted pole position.

Here's a breakdown of everything you need to know about the all-important session, from the knockout format to the 107% rule.

What is Qualifying in F1?

Qualifying is a three-part knockout session held on Saturday afternoon, with each part progressively eliminating drivers until the top ten battle it out for the coveted pole position (P1) - the first place on the starting grid.

These three segments are known as Q1, Q2, and Q3, each lasting a designated period. Teams have free choice over which tyres they use throughout the qualifying, and there's also no specific number of laps a driver must complete, but the objective is to secure the fastest possible lap time within the session's timeframe.

In each session, drivers take to the track for an 'out-lap' to warm their tyres and brakes before attempting their fastest lap, known as the 'hot lap' or the 'flying lap.'

After pushing the limits for a flying lap, they go for a cool-down lap known as 'in-lap' before returning to the pits.

READ MORE: Where do Hamilton and Verstappen place in Forbes' 2024 highest-paid athletes list?

The three stages of qualifying - Q1, Q2 and Q3

Qualifying kicks off with Q1, an 18-minute frenzy where all 20 drivers participate. The five slowest drivers based on their lap times get eliminated and will start the race from 16th to 20th position.

The remaining 15 drivers progress to Q2, another 15-minute session where the stakes are even higher. The bottom five from Q2 are then eliminated and will occupy grid positions 11th to 15th.

Finally, the top 10 drivers enter the all-important Q3, a tense 12-minute shootout. Drivers fight tooth and nail for that elusive pole position, and whoever sets the fastest lap time starts the race from the front of the grid - unless they are hit with a grid penalty - a pre-race punishment that forces drivers to start lower than their qualifying position.

107% rule

The 107% rule was introduced back in 1996 to ensure that each car or driver is fast enough to compete in Sunday's race.

The reason for this is to prevent dangerous situations that could arise from having cars with vastly different speeds on the track, especially in situations when slower cars are lapped by faster ones.

The rule says that a driver must set a lap time within 107% of the fastest time in the first qualifying session (Q1). If they fail to do so, they won't be eligible to participate in the race.

However, this rule doesn't apply when the race director announces a wet track, as the conditions of the track can hugely impact lap times and performance.

Qualifying for sprints

Six grand prix weekends this season have adopted the sprint format, which was introduced back in 2021.

F1 tweaked the format for 2024, with sprint qualifying, which decides the starting grid for the sprint race, moving to Friday following the only free practice session of the weekend.

The sprint itself will follow on Saturday, after which we will see the familiar grand prix qualifying session set the grid for the main event on Sunday.

The sprint qualifying format mirrors the traditional one, with reduced session lengths. SQ1 clocks in at 12 minutes, followed by a 10-minute SQ2. The final showdown, SQ3, lasts just eight minutes.

READ MORE: F1 announce FREE US TV channel for fans

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