One of the most common questions people ask when they start following the sport is how the drivers get their start positions. The Formula One weekend is divided into three parts – three rounds of final practice, qualifying, and the main race. The final practice occurs on Friday and helps the teams get used to the track for the weekend.
Qualifying is one of the most complicated yet crucial parts of F1. It determines the starting grid position of a driver; a good qualifying position can more or less determine your race outcome. On some tracks such as the Monte Carlo circuit in Monaco, the track is tight and not suitable for overtakes. In such races, it often happens that one of the drivers from the front row gets the win.
What is qualifying?
In Formula One racing, qualifying is essential since it sets the starting positions of drivers on the grid for the following race. We shall provide an in-depth understanding of F1 qualifying in this piece, covering its format, rules, and significance of this process in the race.
In order to increase their chances of recording a fast lap time and securing a strong starting position for the race, drivers will try to complete as many laps as they can during qualifying. But they must also be mindful of elements like fuel consumption and tire wear, as they must save tires and fuel for the actual race.
The number of laps that each driver completes during qualifying can therefore differ greatly. Some drivers might finish just a few laps, while others would finish more than a dozen. In the end, it is determined by the particulars of the track as well as the tactics used by the teams and drivers.
What are Q1, Q2 and Q3?
Three sessions referred to as Q1, Q2, and Q3, makeup qualifying, which is typically held on the day before the race. Drivers compete to record the quickest lap time throughout each session, which has a specified time constraint.
In Q1, each driver in the first session has 18 minutes to set a time. The race begins with the five slowest drivers starting at the back of the grid after they have been eliminated.
In the second session, the remaining drivers will have 15 minutes to set a time. Once more, the top five slowest drivers are disqualified, and the remaining 11–15 racers start the race.
The top 10 drivers from Q2 move on to Q3, where they have 12 minutes to set a time. The pole position is the first position on the starting grid. Depending on the particular track, it could be on the inside or outside, but it is intended to be a solid starting spot in relation to the racing line. The driver that qualifies the fastest wins the pole and the Pirelli Pole Position Award. The winner of this session gains the opportunity to start the race from the pole position, with the remaining competitors starting in descending order of their lap timings.
A number of rules and regulations are used to govern the F1 qualifying in addition to the format. The most significant ones are listed below:
Updated 2023 #F1 regulations show still only three Sprint events permitted as it stands.— Phillip Horton (@PHortonF1) June 29, 2022
FIA has approved qualifying format where only Hard tyres permitted for Q1, only Mediums for Q2, only Softs for Q3 – this is set to be trialled at two GPs to assess for 2024 & beyond.
Tire Regulations during qualifying, each driver must use a minimum of two distinct sets of tires, which is not relevant in Q3, when they may use only one pair. However, F1 will be experimenting with tires during the qualifying round in their new season. All drivers will be required to use only hard tires in Q1, mediums in Q2, and soft tires in Q3 throughout the two events.
Mario Isola, the CEO of Pirelli, thinks this will help the tire company further in the long run.
Isola said, “We have the proposal for next year. It is my favorite scenario. We are talking about durability. Currently, with the current regulations, you have to be careful with the soft tire for qualifying and you can’t use it for the race”.
You had questions. We have answers! 🎙️— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) February 27, 2023
Watch Mario Isola’s #F1 fan Q&A 📹👇#Fit4F1 pic.twitter.com/PKfdHsCebd
Fuel Load: The cars begin with a full tank of fuel on the day of the race while during qualifying they are only allowed a reduced level of fuel. This is due to the fact that a lighter car can travel faster, creating a more thrilling and competitive session.
Significance of qualifying
An important component of the race weekend is qualifying because it can greatly affect a driver’s chances of winning. A driver clearly benefits from starting from the pole position since they have a higher chance of getting off to a strong start, avoiding early race incidents, and avoiding traffic.
Monaco often provides the most important, exciting qualifying session of the year… DON’T MISS IT! ⏰#MonacoGP 🇲🇨 #F1 pic.twitter.com/j8VvoFE6qc— Formula 1 (@F1) May 21, 2021
The disadvantage of starting from the back of the grid, however, is that a driver must pass other drivers in order to position themselves in a position to score points. A driver’s chances of winning the championship may suffer terribly if they are unable to make up enough ground to finish in the points under particular circumstances.
The 2023 season began with the Bahrain GP where Max Verstappen secured the pole position to begin the race the following day with a timing of 1 minute, 29.897 seconds on his first Q3 run and a time of 1 minute, 29.708 seconds on his second, he overtook teammate Sergio Perez by 0.138 seconds and won the 21st pole position of his career.
Despite the Monegasque reserving a set of tires for race day and skipping a second run in the pole position shootout, Ferrari secured the second row of the grid, with Charles Leclerc ahead of Carlos Sainz.
QUALI REPORT: Max and Checo secure @redbullracing front-row lockout for Sunday’s #BahrainGP https://t.co/h9WNJUeG9W— Formula 1 (@F1) March 4, 2023
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton lost ground to Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin after Mercedes was unable to join the battle for the pole position. Alonso and his team made a solid move to fifth place, moving ahead of Russell and Hamilton.
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