F1 Could Change Its Qualifying Format Next Year to Make Things Less Predictable

The Formula One field on the grid at the Russian Grand Prix.
The Formula One field on the grid at the Russian Grand Prix.
Photo: Will Taylor-Medhurst (Getty Images)

Formula One wants more uncertainty, and, theoretically, there are a few simple ways to do that: becoming a spec series, gagging the people giving team orders, slashing Ferrari and Mercedes’ tires, or, perhaps less effectively, changing the qualifying system. F1 seems to be leaning toward the latter.


Motorsport.com reports that F1’s governing body, the FIA, may change how F1 qualifying works next year, with the consensus that it could make things less predictable in a series where the top three rows are usually anything but. But instead of reengineering the tracks to form and refill potholes at random times while cars are on track or letting competitors go full Mario Kart on each other to counter that predictability, F1 wants to add a fourth round to qualifying.

F1 qualifying currently has three rounds, with all 20 drivers competing in the first. The five slowest get cut after Q1, meaning 15 move onto Q2, and then five more are done after Q2. The fastest 10 cars move onto Q3 to decide the starting lineup for the front half of the field. The sporting regulations say elimination numbers change if, for some reason, more cars are entered in the event.

Here’s how F1 could add a fourth session in and what the series’ goals are in doing so, from Motorsport.com:

A revised format discussed at the recent Strategy Group meeting would see four cars eliminated in Q1, Q2 and Q3, leaving just eight for a final shoot-out in a new Q4 session.

It could [...] make it potentially harder for even the faster drivers to gamble on getting into the final session on a harder tyre, because only eight rather than 10 slots would be available. [...]

The plan, first floated by the F1 organisation, will now be discussed further.

The uncertainty F1 hopes to get by qualifying in four sessions instead of three, Motorsport.com reports, is that a driver and team “would have to get everything right three times just to get into the final session.” There are also fewer spots open for the final session, compared to a three-round qualifying system.

F1 race director Charlie Whiting said while rules on exact tire requirements for the potential 2019 qualifying system haven’t been decided yet, tire rules are “something that needs to be looked at carefully.” He also said he thinks the proposed time for Q4 was 10 minutes and that this idea came from F1 rather than from the FIA, according to his quotes on Motorsport.com:

“They’ve been doing a lot of research among fans, and they feel this is one of the things that the fans would like.

“Slightly shorter [sessions], slightly shorter time between them, four go out in Q1, four, four, leaving eight. I personally think it’s quite a nice idea, but that’s not my decision.”


It’s no Mario Kart or engineered potholes, but, sure, a fourth qualifying session could help make things a little more exciting. Plus, it’s hard to argue an idea that would put cars on track, for our entertainment, for even longer.

Staff writer, Jalopnik


Margin Of Error

As long as the 6 best cars (possibly only four next year) can overtake the whole field in a matter of 7-8 laps, I doubt this will change anything.

I would love to try something - DRS not available to lap other cars, so things would get hairier for race leaders when they get in traffic.