An F1 weekend would not be complete without qualifying on a Saturday as drivers compete to be as a high on the grid as possible for Sunday’s race.


Ultimately, for an F1 driver to become a world champion with races wins on Sundays, they have to perform strongly in qualifying on Saturdays.

What is the best way to ensure they succeed? Qualify as far up the grid as possible so they have little to no traffic to navigate.

Qualifying is just as important and just as thrilling as race day in F1 and is often a good indicator of how a car is likely to perform when the lights go out.

Legendary Argentine racer Juan Manuel Fangio took the first-ever pole position in F1 with his Alfa Romeo 158 at the 1950 British Grand Prix and in the following 72 years, qualifying sessions have provided almost as much drama as the races themselves.

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Over the years, the format of qualifying has altered and for around a decade, it has operated a “knock-out” style format. brings you all the details you need to know about F1 qualifying.

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How does the F1 weekend work?

Drivers usually arrive on Thursday to undertake a day of media ahead of the race weekend. Then, Friday is when the on-track action commences.

There are two free practice sessions on Friday afternoon with teams getting some valuable lap times under their belts ahead of qualifying and race day.

Engineers and data analysts can observe the performance of the cars in these sessions and relay to the drivers what is good and bad. The car can be adjusted accordingly while strategies for qualifying the race can also be decided.

Tyre degradation and aerodynamic performance are just two of the factors considered while drivers will look to learn the circuits once more – usually 12 months after they have last raced there.

A third free practice takes place on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon to decide the starting grid order.

Sunday morning will see a short warm-up session before the Grand Prix, set over a pre-determined number of laps, commences in the early afternoon.

How does F1 qualifying work?

Qualifying is split into three stages with five drivers knocked out in each of the first two sessions before the top ten drivers battle for pole.

This format was introduced in 2006 and has been in place ever since with a few minor tweaks here and there.

All drivers on the grid will have 18 minutes to set their lap times in the first qualifying session, with the five slowest drivers eliminated – they will start 16th to 20th on the grid.

Lap times are then reset before qualifying two gets under way a few minutes later. This is a slightly shortened session at 15 minutes with the next five slowest drivers eliminated. They start between 11th and 15th.

Finally, the third session will determine who starts on pole. Once again, all lap times are reset ahead of a 12-minute shootout with the top ten on the grid determined thereafter.

What is F1 Sprint qualifying?

The Sprint qualifying/race format was introduced for selected races back in 2021 and has added a new dimension to the F1 weekend.

Qualifying which usually takes place on Saturday is shifted back to Friday evening. Then, Sprint qualifying, which is a shortened version of an F1 race, takes its place on Saturday afternoons.

The race is usually a third of the length of a standard F1 race and pit stops are not mandatory – it is as the name suggests, a sprint for the finish line and the finishing order will be used to determine the starting grid for Sunday’s full race. Points are also awarded to the top eight drivers from eight points down to one.


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