F1 qualifying explained: How does qualifying work in Formula 1?

F1 qualifying determines pole position. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
F1 qualifying determines pole position. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images) /

How does F1 qualifying work? Here’s everything you need to know about the knockout format, pole position, new rules for 2022 and more.

Formula 1 races may be on Sundays but all racing fans know that half the drama happens on Saturdays thanks to the exhilaration of qualifying.

The system isn’t exactly simple though. It’s totally understandable if you’re not sure how it all works.

That’s what we’re here for! Here’s what you need to understand F1 qualifying or just brush up on the new rules for 2022 before you get back to watching Drive to Survive.

F1 qualifying structure

  • Q1
    • 18 minutes
    • 5 slowest drivers eliminated
  • Q2
    • 15 minutes
    • 5 slowest drivers eliminated
  • Q3
    • 12 minutes
    • Fastest driver gets pole position
    • Starting grid set

How does F1 qualifying work?

Formula 1 uses a knockout qualifying system.

All 20 F1 drivers participate in the first period, called Q1, with each trying to set the fastest time possible. Those in the top 15 move on to the next period of qualifying, called Q2. The five slowest drivers are eliminated and will start the race in the last five positions on the grid.

Q2 is slightly shorter but follows the same format. Drivers try to put down their best times to move on to Q1 as one of the 10 fastest cars. The five outside of the top 10 are eliminated and start the race from 11th to 15th based on their best lap time.

Q1 lap times determine pole position and the order of the front 10 positions on the grid. The slowest driver in Q1 starts 10th, the next starts ninth and so on.

Penalties for infractions or changing components in the car are applied at the end of qualifying.

What does pole position mean?

Pole position refers to the first spot on the starting grid. It may be on the inside or the outside depending on the particular track but it is meant to be an advantageous starting position relative to the racing line.

The fastest driver in qualifying takes pole position and receives the Pirelli Pole Position Award.

Are there new rules for F1 qualifying in 2022?

Yes. Things are actually much more simple this year because F1 has done away with rules around tire compounds during qualifying.

Beginning in 2014, drivers had to start the race on the exact tires they used in Q2. The rule was supposed to create more competition. Instead, it often locked midfield runners into starting on soft compounds while the big boys like Mercedes and Red Bull could advance to Q3 on harder compounds and enjoy an advantage in the race.

Those considerations are now gone. Teams can start the race on whatever compound they desire regardless of what tire they used in qualifying.

Next. Key dates on the F1 calendar in 2022. dark