Max Verstappen, George Russell, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, 2024

Is this the second time F1 drivers have tied for pole position? No – it’s the 16th

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen was denied his eighth pole position this year by the smallest margin possible under Formula 1’s rules.

The Red Bull driver matched George Russell’s provisional pole position time – a numerically satisfying 1’12.000 – to within three thousandths of a second.

Under a long-standing F1 rule, Russell was declared the pole winner because he set the lap time first. This rule has only been invoked once before in almost 50 years.

That occasion was the famous three-way tie for pole position at the 1997 European Grand Prix. The circumstances of this tie were so outrageous it provoked outlandish claims it had somehow been rigged. Not only did Jacques Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher produce the same lap time as they fought over the championship at the final race of the year, but so did Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn, Silverstone, 1956
Silverstone produced three pole ties, including one for Moss
However drivers producing equal times for pole position was more common when F1 did not measure lap times as accurately. Over the years before lap times were measured to three decimal places, two or more drivers shared pole position on 14 occasions.

Back then the vagaries of different local racing organisations dictated how accurately lap times were measured. Most tracks timed cars to one decimal place, but this wasn’t done at Spa-Francorchamps in the first year of the world championship, Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio shared fastest times of four minutes and 37 seconds around the 14-kilometre circuit.

Silverstone saw the most pole position ties, two of which occured when lap times were only measured to the second. But even as timing to one decimal place became common, ties continued to happen.

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A record four-way tie for pole position occured at another British Grand Prix venue, Aintree, in 1961. Three of the four Ferrari drivers produced the same time (Giancarlo Baghetti was several seconds off his team mates) along with Porsche’s Jo Bonnier.

Michael Schumacher collides with Jacques Villeneuve
Flashback: 1997 European Grand Prix – Villeneuve takes title as Schumacher’s attack gets him thrown out
This is the second time drivers have tied for pole position at the Canadian Grand Prix, though it has never previously happened at this track. The pole-winners tied at the first of F1’s two visits to Mont Tremblant, a picturesque road circuit just 100 kilometres north-west of Montreal, which was later owned by Lance Stroll’s father Lawrence.

With the advent of computerised timing to three decimal places in the eighties, it seemed the days of pole position ties might be over. That made the well-remembered three-way tie of 1997 all the more remarkable.

Until yesterday that was the only time drivers had tied for pole position in the ‘three decimal place’ era. With the field closing up, and other short tracks such as the Red Bull Ring and Interlagos still to come, it may be time for F1 to consider using four decimal places, as IndyCar has done for over two decades.

Drivers who tied for pole position

Year Circuit Lap time Drivers
1950 Spa-Francorchamps 4’37 Giuseppe Farina
Alfa Romeo
Juan Manuel Fangio
Alfa Romeo
1952 Silverstone 1’50 Giuseppe Farina
Alberto Ascari
1955 Monaco 1’41.1 Juan Manuel Fangio
Alberto Ascari
1956 Silverstone 1’41 Stirling Moss
Juan Manuel Fangio
1958 Porto 2’34.2 Stirling Moss
Mike Hawthorn
1959 Zandvoort 1’36.0 Jo Bonnier
Jack Brabham
1959 Aintree 1’58.0 Jack Brabham
Roy Salvadori
Aston Martin
1961 Zandvoort 1’35.7 Phil Hill
Wolfgang von Trips
1961 Aintree 1’58.8 Phil Hill
Richie Ginther
Jo Bonnier
Wolfgang von Trips
1968 Mont Tremblant 1’33.8 Jochen Rindt
Chris Amon
1970 Kyalami 1’19.3 Jackie Stewart
Chris Amon
1970 Brands Hatch 1’24.8 Jochen Rindt
Jack Brabham
1971 Silverstone 1’18.1 Clay Regazzoni
Jackie Stewart
1974 Brands Hatch 1’19.7 Niki Lauda
Ronnie Peterson
1997 Jerez 1’21.072 Jacques Villeneuve
Michael Schumacher
Heinz-Harald Frentzen
2024 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 1’12.000 George Russell
Max Verstappen
Red Bull

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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15 comments on “Is this the second time F1 drivers have tied for pole position? No – it’s the 16th”

  1. But in those pre-97 ties, how did they actually determine who physically got pole? Toss of a coin?

    1. I did some research.

      On the first occasion (1950 Spa), Farina took pole position due to the fact that his second fastest lap was faster than that of Fangio.

      By the time we reached the second occasion (1952 Silverstone), the pole position went to Farina on the basis of the current tie-breaker.

      1. Thank you @strife07

  2. An Sionnach
    9th June 2024, 11:40

    Great! Enjoyed this, thank you very much! I expect it was easier to get the same time on the older tracks where you were flat out most of the time. Silverstone used to have a very simple layout. Spa was flat out… but incredibly dangerous, so fair play to Fangio for matching Farina there! Of the others… yes, there are straights, but… and Monaco, too! Well…

  3. Kind of blows my mind that they were still using tenths of seconds (only 1 decimal place) in 1974

    I guess they didn’t have the computer controlled timers at this point.

    1. An Sionnach
      9th June 2024, 11:52

      I’d like to see the watch(???) they used to measure the times to tenths of a second in Monaco in 1955!

      1. To An.
        I was in the Vanwall pit in 1957 at Aintree where there was a fellow operating three stop watches fixed across the top of a clip board and writing lap times on the chart below the watches.
        Great photo of Stirling followed by Mike Hawthorn – thank you for that!

  4. Such a fascinating read, thank you Keith!

  5. notagrumpyfan
    9th June 2024, 13:42

    With the advent of computerised timing to three decimal places in the eighties, it seemed the days of pole position ties might be over.

    I understand that the timing technology (loop and transponder) allow to accurately determine times to 1/10,000 of a second.

    But I’m happy to keep the first-come, first-served practice rather than cluttering the timing sheets with more digits.

    1. I mean, they could just reveal the 4th decimal place when it happens, right? No need to show it all the time.

  6. Much less likely in the modern era due to the timing accuracy, surprised it didn’t happen more often when timing to the nearest second.

    1. Cars simply weren’t as close in the past. The excitement came from reliability – you were never quite sure whether the fastest cars could keep running, or stay out of the wall.

      Red Bull’s advantage through 2023 and 2024 would literally have been a rounding error in the early years: not even measurable.

  7. It’s testament to the stunning consistency in speed of modern F1 cars and drivers that this happened. Unless it becomes a persistent issue (doubtful?) I wouldn’t bother with adding another unit of precision onto the timings. Having this happen was a very fun coincidence that got people talking!

  8. Imagine the number of drivers tied for pole every modern GP if they were relying on second or tenth of second precision.

  9. José Lopes da Silva
    12th June 2024, 14:03

    Very nice article, thanks.
    It would be interesting, in the upcoming summer break, to do this exercise for positions other than pole – has there been ties?
    The above mentioned question by Dusty would be also interesting to check.

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