Sergio Perez, Force India, Hockenheimring, 2018

F1 discussed ‘single-lap’ qualifying format proposal

2018 F1 season

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Formula 1 drivers could be given fewer chances to set lap times under a future qualifying format which has been discussed, Williams’s Paddy Lowe has revealed.

Lowe mentioned the possible revision to the qualifying format when discussing the planned banning of tyre warmers in 2021, when 18-inch wheels are due to be introduced.

“If [that] drives us towards tyres that have a much wider window to operate in, that could be a good thing,” he said.

“I know at the same time they are talking about moving qualifying perhaps to formats where there are [fewer] laps, more criticality around doing single laps. And again, if that’s around tyres that aren’t prepared with blankets that would drive us towards tyres with a wider window which I think would be a good thing for the sport.”

Formula 1 previously introduced a single-lap qualifying format in 2003. This was revised over subsequent seasons and eventually replaced, in 2006, by the three-part system which remains in use.

Banning tyre warmers has also “been debated many times”, Lowe added. He believes there are some advantages to keeping them.

“I quite like the spectacle of a grid with all the equipment, including tyre blankets,” he said. “I think that’s part of the impression that Formula One gives of being a very technical sport, the pinnacle of motor racing, so I would miss it from that point of view.”

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Keith Collantine
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54 comments on “F1 discussed ‘single-lap’ qualifying format proposal”

  1. Never again. Reverting to the single-lap format would be unfair to some in case of changeable weather conditions, and or track conditions, etc. There’s nothing wrong with the current format. ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    1. Indeed @jerejj. It was unfair, it messed up ppls weekends by chance and about 40 minutes of it were ignored by viewers because it jut wasn’t exciting (apart from the top 3-6 drivers).
      I really wonder for their sanity and am starting to worry about rhe extent of that “evidence based decision making” if this proposal comes up from that.
      The most exciting part of the weekend is often qualifying. Als with solid viewing numbers. Please don’t change the part that currently really doesn’t need change and change parts that do not work!

      1. Well said @bascb, @jerejj; I too cannot see a solid evidence based process reverting to a single-lap format; it definitely would strongly erode my faith in Brawn,and worse, make me edit half of the qualifying session in my calendar from unmissable to ‘time to get home/cook’

      2. @bascb Current qualifying also is only exciting for the last 3 minutes of Q3.

        1. Maybe you feel that way @patrickl, but I am sure that for many many more fans there are far more than those 3 minutes that are exciting.

    2. @jerejj
      Actually i’ve grown quite fond of single lap qualy in retrospect. You know, the deal about the new format introduced in 06 was “more cars on track, more action, more excitement, yada yada”. Well, yeah, there is now more cars on track. However, this is kind of pointless, as it is not about racing, but about putting in the quickest lap time. Most of the time, the “exciting new qualy format” in the crucial moments comes down to an image of the start finish straight with cars going by and results coming up, barely telling you anything about anyone’s driving. However, during single lap you got to watch every single lap of every driver in detail, you could see who was doing what where, the excitement coming from just watching one driver go all out to the limit. Quite fascinating actually. Also, something you never get otherwise. Its a different kind of entertainment, but i sort of think i’d prefer it. It also made sure that you actually got a chance to see EVERY driver go at it. And for one full, all out lap, too. How often have you actually seen footage of Hartley driving? or Ericsson? Or anyone bar the pole sitter, actually.

      1. José Lopes da Silva
        21st July 2018, 11:22

        You’re quite right, those were the sensible arguments when we had the system. The thing, personally to me, is that it seems sportingly unfair.

        1. Well, i don’t see how it is more unfair than having bad luck with traffic, or lucking into the lap where track evolution is at its best. There are always elements of luck, frankly

  2. I’m still only aware of one reason that they changed the 1 hour, 12 laps format. The cars sometimes stayed in the pits for a while waiting for the track to be at it’s best.
    It was the most spectacular format I’ve seen though.

    I like the 3 part quali, but it’s nothing but a way to force the cars on track throughout the hour.

    1. As far as I remember only a handful of fans were watching qualifying when it was not the turn of the top guys because on track there is little to see from a single car doing warmup, hot lap and inlap, especially when it is a Ericsson or say Hartley doing a run

    2. the 1-hour session produced the most exciting sessions – i think it’s hard to argue with that – and there was greater opportunity for variation in tactics. but it was ‘bad optics’ to have an empty track for large parts of the session (i recall one race where no one came out for 30 minutes!).

      the current format is the best we’ve had since and it has the advantage of pretty much guaranteeing ontrack action for the whole hour. why they want to go back to the single-lap format is completely beyond me. it sort of works for skiing and DH mountain biking but those sports are much more about the competitor than the spectator – also the inherent spectacle kind of makes up for the occasionally hum drum sporting format.

      1. The trick with the 1-hour qualifying sessions is that they produced the most excitement… …but typically only for 10 minutes of that hour (almost invariably the last 5 minutes, and then a different 5 minutes that would vary according to prevailing conditions). Every format since then has been an attempt to extend that 10 minutes of excitement further out.

        A free-running 15-minute qualifying session would probably solve everything for excitement, provided attempts to game the system were appropriately and consistently penalised.

  3. I cannot understand why it has to be one way or the other. I think they should retain the current format for the first two sessions and make the last one a single-lap shootout to add some degree of unpredictability to the final order.

  4. Qualifying format is the one thing that definitely shouldn’t change, its a real success. Only thing that I think could be a positive inclusion is replace Q3 with a 10 lap random grid or reverse grid for the top ten grid positions on Sunday.

  5. Yet again I see the incompetency of the new cash grab owners of F1.
    Commercial greed they have by the bucket load.
    F1 Savvy? Zero comprehension at all.

    Single lap Qualy?
    Up there with chocolate fireguards & tits on bulls!!

  6. I actually don’t see a problem with turning Q3 into a top 10 shootout?

    Am I missing something?

    Sure, track conditions could change, but so what?

    If the drivers got a single lap, there would be NO more excuses about impeding drivers, NO more excuses about being distracted by cars on slowdown laps, NO more excuses about not having a tow/slipstream, and NO more excuses about dirty air.

    The only excuses drivers would have is car setups, tyre window and track condition (or themselves). Car setups is the problem of the team and is related to their performance, as is tyre window, because the team is the maker of the chassis that works the tyres after all. Specifically, all the teams will be using identical Pirelli spec tyres.

    So track condition would be the only legitimate excuse, and if it rains that’s just luck in the same way that it’s just luck if you were the last or first to cross the finishing line when it rains in Q3 anyway.

    I don’t see the problem. Top 10 shootouts work well in Supercars Australia and it’s a popular format.

    1. @crunch – Sure, but will result in many awkward on-air moments for Coultard. ;-)

    2. 4 minute gaps between hot laps though. Roughly 2 minutes for the cool down and 2 minutes for the warm up. Not very exciting for me.

    3. This is the only way I think this could work (ie: Q3 only). I’d still rather not change it at all tbh.
      Essentially they only do 2 laps in Q3 now as it is unless they mess up horrendously and even then, only if the tyres will let them.

      The only risky variable to single laps would be changing track conditions. We’ve seen recently times when no-one bettered their time with their 2nd Q3 run. Is that track conditions or too much pressure?

    4. @crunch Yes that’s a good one. I always loved the top 10 shoot out of DTM.

      Give them a Q1 with all the cars and let the fastest 10 do the shootout in the second part. Let them go out in order of fastest laps in Q1 so it’s all fair too. Could be funny if it’s expected to dry up at the end of the session (all trying to go slowest)

      I personally find the current format incredibly boring. Only the last flying lap is exciting, but everything before that is just filler. I have it playing in the background from Q1, but I rarely actually watch it until the last 3 minutes or so.

  7. Some fans liked single-lap qualifying a lot. So I will grant that Liberty is proposing something which has been acknowledged to work for some people here.

    However, I found the format tedious to watch, and with a propensity of locking in advantage (so often, qualifying would be decided according to some pre-determined equation). This is because the sweet spot was worth quite a lot of track time, often too much to be overcome by optimising driving or set-up. It became a game of avoiding errors and trying to catch the sweet spot (usually, but not always, trying to be the last car to run). This often (though by no means always) carried through into the race.

    Formula E’s 6-minute qualifier is a bit more satisfying, but I still prefer the “all you can eat in 10 minutes” format of F1’s Q3.

  8. I don’t see track conditions changing being a bad thing. It creates little bit of unpredictability for the race and it would also swing both ways. Sometimes the person going out last has to drive on a track that is worse situation. Extreme examples of this are incredibly rare though. You get barely race in couple of seasons where the weather changes so massively that it for example starts raining during qualifying. Most of the time there is little bit of benefit which would in turn make Q2 more interesting because being fastest would also matter there too. But you get those tiny problems with any qualifying format. Too close to other car and lose downforce due to dirty air, yellow flags, bad outlap causing tires to not be at optimal temps. And if there is an accident it is easier and less disruptive to clean the track because nobody will lose their lap. Single lap shootout might in fact be fairer than the current system.

    I don’t remember why the single lap shootout format was dropped. What were the reasons to change it? I can imagine it being dull to watch the laps of the people outside the top 10. I’m not sure having the top10 do a shootout would necessarily help with it. How exciting would it be to watch the 10th person to qualify? They can’t really improve and they can’t lose anything either so they’d probably drive as slowly as they could. Top6 shootout would make a lot more sense because in single lap format any one of them could be on the pole on certain tracks.

    So here’s one version. Q1 is like it is now. Q2 cutoff is top6. Then the top6 does one lap shootout with the fastest q2 time last.

    1. ColdFly (@)
      21st July 2018, 9:26

      I like your version @socksolid.
      But leave q2 cut-off at 10, and drivers can choose when they do their single lap, and do extra ones if they want to.

      1. @coldfly
        I don’t understand what you mean. What do you mean by: “drivers can choose when they do their single lap, and do extra ones if they want to”. Do you mean in Q2? I’d just keep Q1 and Q2 completely as they are now. All cars together on the track, essentially limitless number of laps. Same tire rules probably. Do you mean you’d do Q1 and Q2 in single lap shootout style as well?

        Also after thinking it more I’d probably let the Q2 winnerchoose whether he wants to go first or last in Q3. Essentially ask him if he wants normal or reversed order. Without that option in some qualifyings you’d end up with situations where sand bagging might happen if the driver and their team thinks they’d be better of going out first in Q3. So they’d try not get the fastest time in Q2. If the conditions are deteriorating then you don’t want to be the last car out.

        1. ColdFly (@)
          21st July 2018, 12:09

          It was a tongue-in-cheek reply, @socksolid.
          I like it the way it is.

  9. If it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it

    1. @anunaki But it is broken.

      1. I don’t consider qualy to be broken. It works fine the way it does now imho.

        We have an hour filled with drivers on track.

        1. the point of being ‘over filled’ @anunaki, thus problems arising with blocking and aerodynamic wake issues etc..

  10. I liked the single lap qualifying. Everyone has one chance, excitement builds up throughout qualifying, every mistake is penalised. I would be happy to see that format again. Reminds me of alpine skiing, for example, where everyone runs on their own against the clock.

    I do like the current format, I think it’s good. But I’d be happy to see single laps back. And let drivers decide the order for themselves – fastest in final practice gets first choice of when to run in qualifying, and so on. And if rain affects qualifying, so be it – let’s have a mixed grid because of the weather. Maybe we’d even see a McLaren or a Williams on pole position! (I realise how that sentence sounds).

  11. Single lap format has been tried before and didn’t work because it was boring to watch, except for the top teams. Hence the current format, to force all the top teams to be on track in Q1, Q2 and Q3.

    Only way single lap format is going to work imho is a super pole shootout format for Q3.

  12. Current format is great to watch. But I believe their intention is to improve the race day, not the qualifying. So a few cars that starting out-of-position could add some drama and tention to the race day, instead of seeing the fastest cars locking the front row of the grid each race and dissappear into the distance after the start.

    Maybe they could keep Q1-Q2-Q3 format, but give each driver only one run at each one.

    1. ColdFly (@)
      21st July 2018, 12:14

      cars that starting out-of-position could add some drama and tention

      FP3 gave us cars out-of-position.
      If only a genius could think of how to create a wet track on a sunny day. I’m sure fans will love it :-S

    2. @serkank

      Maybe they could keep Q1-Q2-Q3 format, but give each driver only one run at each one.

      A1GP used to run a format like that (4 15 minute sessions, with drivers only allowed 1 lap in each) & it didn’t really work & wasn’t especially exciting to watch.

  13. Current format is great. Keeps qualifying exciting. But it does increase the predictability of races as the fastest guys line up first resulting in reduced overtaking. I will repeat my suggestion of bidding points based qualifying once again.

    I realized one fundamental difference between racing (F1 and others) and other sports. No other sport – cricket, tennis, football, basketball – give an advantage to the better player / team. Nadal doesn’t get to play with a larger racket nor do India get an additional 2 overs during any ODI. However, in racing, we have a concept of qualifying which is designed to give a large (if not decisive) advantage to the competitor with the best car-driver combination. If all car-driver combinations are going to arrange themselves in descending order of pace, they are bound to pull away from each other. Which will obviously result in lack of passing. So, here is my radical solution:

    Split the F1 calendar into 2 types of circuits: 1) not wide enough for 5 cars to be alongside each other on SF straight 2) wide enough for 5 cars to be alongside each other on SF straight.
    For type 1 circuits, continue with the current qualifying + race format.
    For type 2 circuits, conduct a bidding between teams on every circuit for slots on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th row. (4 rows of 5 cars each). This bidding won’t be with real money but with hypothetical points (e.g.: 2000 points given to each team equally). Teams will have to use this allocation wisely through the season and also between their 2 drivers. Bidding will be done after practice and before the race. Like regular bidding, the highest bidder will get choice of row and lowest bidders will have to settle for the back rows.
    For the race start, each row will start 3 seconds after the previous row. That is, row 2 will start after 3 seconds after row 1, row 3 will start 3 seconds after that and row 4 will start 3 seconds after that.

    This will add randomness to the starting grid which could lead to some overtaking. Also, the randomness won’t be truly random. There will be a strategy element to it which teams will have to play out across the entire season. There will be no difference between the well-financed teams and the poorly financed teams as they will all get the same number of hypothetical bidding points. Also, 3 seconds gap between the rows won’t necessarily spread out the grid too far.


    1. James Coulee
      21st July 2018, 13:57

      That’s really out of the box but intriguing! It would add a new strategic element to the season.

      Would these points be subtracted from the championship points “bank”?
      What would the reasoning be behind the 3 second interval and why not having them start all at the same time?
      (I guess to increase the value of the bidding, though as a spectator having all those cars close together would be quite exciting.)

      1. Bidding points are separate from championship points with no connection. It’s an allocation of 2000 points to be used throughout the season. You don’t win these points in the races. Neither can you use this at the end of the season to further your championship points.
        The gap of 3 seconds is so that in case of a slow starting car, there is no carnage and lot of 1st lap eliminations

  14. If, and I stress IF, a change is NEEDED, I would vote for a 2 hour session, unrestricted tire use, Unrestricted laps, and the average of the car’s 3 best lap times sets the grid.

  15. I don’t see any need to change the qualifying format, What we have now is the best i’ve seen used in F1 not just in terms of giving everyone the same opportunities to set a good lap but also at creating good action & excitement throughout.

    The 1 hour/12 lap format was good at the end but with the 12 lap limit there tended to be sections of not much happening. The pre 1993 format of 1 hour with no lap restrictions was a little better as you had more track action throughout but it still suffered from the problem of only the last few minutes really been worth watching as the previous 50+ minutes were just drivers getting a feel for things & tweaking car setups for the final run.

    The single lap formats used from 2003-2005 were the worst (Yes worse than the silly elimination thing they tried a few years ago) as not only did it create unfair situations when the weather changed mid-session but it also wasn’t especially exciting to watch. With most the cars you were watching not in the hunt for top places there wasn’t much point watching the first half of it unless you were the most diehard of fans (Which I was) but also I recall many complaints from fans at the tracks that only seeing 1 hot lap every 2 minutes or so wasn’t that exciting.

    The current format works, No reason or need to change it.

  16. Watching just one car on circuit for three laps, only one of which was a fast lap, was one of the most boring sights in all of motor racing. And you the spectator are expected to do it 20 times over, for every car on the grid. Noooooooo!!! I couldn’t bear it.

    The current qualifying format is a good compromise. I can’t think of anything better, TBH.


    Let’s bring back the classic Le Mans start. Drivers dashing across the track to their lined-up cars, jumping into their cars, getting strapped in, and pulling away with smoking tyres into the melee.

  17. Neil (@neilosjames)
    21st July 2018, 12:54

    I really do think that qualifying is the part of the weekend that least requires change.

  18. Too stupideven for them. Maybe should finish with f1 if they want to kill it anywhere.

  19. On balance I think it’s best left as is. Single Lap / Single Car is great on paper (and in a spec series) but it’s not ideal for F1 where it’s likely pole is coming from only 4 or 5 drivers at best.

    If a change must be made, then I’d suggest a Q4. Q1-Q2-Q3 left as is, then Q4 would be the Top 5, each given one final lap & a fresh set of the softest available tyre. As for the viewing side of things, the drivers can be set off at defined times with VSC-style deltas to keep so they can’t get in each others way.

    My personal favourite was the 1 hour / 12 lap format… but I agree it could get boring on some occasions when drivers didn’t go out. One thing I never understood though, it was a maximum of 12 laps, surely just a simple rule change to make them have to complete 12 laps (with allowances for crashes / breakdowns / extreme weather) would’ve solved the problem?

    1. @tayoma

      surely just a simple rule change to make them have to complete 12 laps

      They always did complete 12 laps.

      The reason drivers often waited to go out was because with only 12 laps they didn’t want to waste laps going out early when the track is only going to get faster as the session goes on so there wasn’t much benefit for the top teams to go out early & basically waste a lap.

      Before 1993 there never used to be a lap limit & you used to see far more running with the first half of the session basically been an extension of practice with drivers just doing laps to better get themselves & the car suited to the conditions.

      They changed it to give them only 12 laps in 1993 in order to try & spice things up a bit (That goal sound familiar?) but the downside of that as we saw was less running through the session.

  20. I would watch a Q3 Super Pole where the top 5 from Q2 have a 1-lap chance to get pole position. 5th in Q2 goes first, 1st place in Q2 earns the right to go last. The flying lap of the following driver must start no more than 30s after the fast lap of the current driver is completed (leave the pits as the other car is starting his fast lap)

    If the weather changed to the worse, it’s rare but it can happen, tough luck, but at least the worst that can happen is the fastest car in Q2 starting 5th. (not as bad as last, of course)

  21. Looks like I am the only opponent of the current qualifying format. I see no fun watching cars driving around the circuit 5 seconds off the true pace in Q1 and Q2. I am not very interested in the dedicated seasons for those who start 11th and onwards. With all the action happening during the last minutes of Q3, I can safely miss Q1 and Q2 in most cases.

    Bring back the 12-lap format from 2000.

    1. @serg33 I don’t like the current format either. It feels like it’s only goal is to make sure cars are on track throughout the whole hour. Yet there is no excitement at all until the last flying laps.

      To be honest it was the same with the 12-lap format though.

      I like the top 10 shootout idea proposed above. Although qualifying will always be most exciting at the end of the session.

  22. Dear F1 Powers That Be,

    Please do not attempt to “fix” the current qualifying format, it is not broken. In fact, it is very, very good. Maybe the best in F1 history.

    Do you recall the last time there was a “genius” revamp of the qualy format? How did that turn out? It was an extremely embarrassing moment in F1 history. Do not repeat this debacle!

    There are so many other things in F1 that truly could merit your attention before attempting to mess with the one thing that literally nobody is complaining about.

    F1 Fans Around the World (Except for that one little guy crying out for attention who still complains about everything.)

    1. Hows about when they had to burn off a fuel load (for no apparent reason … ) = Zzzzzzz

  23. One thing that I do not understand about the current qualifying format is this ‘Driver at Risk’ thing.

    For example, In Q1 they highlight the bloke in 15th and call him the ‘Driver at Risk’. In Q2 position 10 is called the driver at risk. What the eff is that all about ?? .. surely its the blokes who are at that time slower than the presently highlighted driver who are the ones ‘at risk’ (i.e. positions 16-20 in Q1 and positions 11-15 in Q2) of being excluded from the next section of qualifing. Please Mr F1 management guru guy get rid of this stupid driver at risk notation that ruins my qualifying enjoyment. Rather than a photo of the face of this supposed driver at risk, actually showing their present lap time would be great. If you can also get rid of Crofty that would be good too…

  24. ..oh but on the actual topic of best qualifying format, I used to enjoy the one where you’d get to see like the 2nd half of the blokes lap, one at a time, and generally they would be a tiny bit quicker than the guy who went just before them. The crescendo at the end was better, and you did actually get to see a bit of everyone’s lap (I think .. it was so long ago I may be slightly wrong on that)

  25. Erica L Ward
    22nd July 2018, 23:24

    My vote would be to drop qualifying entirely, and start in inverse order of their position on the drivers championship list. Of course that would lose the money from all the people who watch qualys.

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