Understanding F1 Qualifying: The Process, History, and Impact

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Formula One races are exciting, but before drivers can hit the track, they must qualify to secure their spot on the starting grid. This article aims to completely understand F1 qualifying, including the process, history, and impact.

When Does Qualifying Happen?

Qualifying usually takes place the day before a Grand Prix, giving teams time to test their car before the race. However, qualifying happens on the same day if a Grand Prix weekend has an additional sprint race.

A Brief History

Qualifying has undergone several rule changes since it was first adopted in the 1950s. Today’s format is a single one-hour event broken into three sessions.

How Does the Qualifying Process Work in Formula 1?

The qualifying process begins with Q1, a 20-minute session where all 20 cars on the grid set their fastest time. After Q1, the slowest five cars are eliminated, and the remaining 15 cars continue onto Q2. Q2 is a 15-minute session, and in the end, the slowest cars are once again eliminated. The qualifying session ends with Q3, a ten-minute shootout that allows the last ten cars to battle for their final grid placement.

What is Parc Ferme?

After qualifying, F1 cars are locked in their current state by a condition called “parc ferme.” This lets stewards review the vehicles before the race to ensure they can legally take to the track.

Unique Strategies During Qualifying

Qualifying allows fans to watch how teams strategize at each race venue. For example, long straight-away tracks like Monza and Baku provide an advantage for drivers driving in the slipstream of a car ahead of them. The 2019 Italian Grand Prix at Monza showed many F1 drivers waiting for an opportunity to get a tow, with only one setting a time in Q3.

Does Qualifying Impact World Championship Standings?

Qualifying on pole position during a qualifying session does not benefit drivers in the Formula One points system. However, during sprint qualifying, the fastest ten drivers earn points that can help them in the quest to become world champions.


F1 qualifying is an elimination-style process that helps fans stay on the edge of their seat. It may seem confusing at first, with several rules and unique strategies, but after watching a few rounds, you’ll anxiously wait for Q3 to see the fastest cars on the track competing for a chance to win on Sunday.

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