Ad ogni Gran Premio tutti i piloti possono partecipare a due sessioni di prove libere da 90 minuti, che si svolgono il venerdì (il giovedì a Monaco) e ad una sessione di libere di 60 minuti al sabato e, successivamente, alle qualifiche durante lo stesso giorno. Mentre le sessioni del venerdì non sono obbligatorie, un pilota deve partecipare almeno alla sessione di sabato mattina per poter essere ammesso alla gara.
La sessione di qualifiche del sabato ha una durata di un’ora ed è divisa in tre parti distinte, ciascuna con più piloti in pista contemporaneamente, con ogni pilota che può effettuare un numero illimitato di giri.
Q1: Tutte le 22 monoposto possono prendere parte alla qualifica. Questa parte della sessione dura 20 minuti. Al termine, le sei vetture più lente vengono eliminate e andranno ad occupare gli ultimi sei posti della griglia di partenza. Non sarà consentito di prendere parte alla gara ai piloti il cui tempo migliore in Q1 supera il 107% del tempo più veloce della sessione. Tuttavia, in circostanze particolari, i commissari possono permettere comunque al conducente di partecipare alla gara. Nel caso ci fosse più di un pilota ammesso alla gara in questo modo, l’ordine della griglia di partenza viene determinato dai commissari sportivi.
Q2: Dopo una pausa di sette minuti, la classifica viene resettata e le 16 restanti monoposto possono prendere parte ad una sessione di 15 minuti per segnare un giro veloce. Al termine, i sei piloti più lenti abbandonano le qualifiche e vanno a riempire le posizioni dalla 16 alla 11 sulla griglia di partenza.
Q3: Dopo una pausa di otto minuti, i tempi vengono nuovamente azzerati e parte una sessione finale di 10 minuti, caratterizzata dalla lotta tra i migliori 10 per la conquista della pole position.
Se un pilota ostacola un altro collega durante le qualifiche, i suoi tempi possono essere annullati o i commissari potranno dargli una penalità con arretramento sulla griglia di partenza.
Estratto dal regolamento sportivo FIA in merito a Prove Libere e Qualifiche.
31) PRACTICE SESSIONS
31.1 Save where these Sporting Regulations require otherwise, pit lane and track discipline and safety measures will be the same for all practice sessions as for the race.
31.2 No driver may start in the race without taking part in at least one practice session on the second day of practice.
31.3 During all practices there will be a green and a red light at the end of the pit lane. Cars may only leave the pit lane when the green light is on. Additionally, a blue flag and/or a flashing blue light will be shown in the pit exit to warn drivers leaving the pit lane if cars are approaching on the track.
31.4 Unless written permission has been given by the FIA to do otherwise, the circuit may only be used for purposes other than the Event after the last practice session on each day of practice and on the day of the race no less than one hour before the end of the pit lane is opened to allow cars to cover a reconnaissance lap.
31.5 The interval between the first and second free practice sessions, in addition to the interval between the third free practice session and the qualifying practice session, may never be less than two hours.
31.6 In the event of a driving infringement during any practice session the Stewards may drop the driver such number of grid positions as they consider appropriate. Unless it is completely clear that a driver committed a driving infringement any such incident will normally be investigated after the relevant session, any penalty imposed shall not be subject to appeal.
Where appropriate, regard will also be given to the provisions of Article 18.1.
31.7 Any driver taking part in any practice session who, in the opinion of the stewards, stops unnecessarily on the circuit or unnecessarily impedes another driver shall be subject to the penalties referred to in Article 31.6.
31.8 Should it become necessary to stop any practice session because the circuit is blocked by an accident or because weather or other conditions make it dangerous to continue, the clerk of the course will order red flags to be shown at all marshal posts and the abort lights to be shown at the Line.
When the signal is given to stop, all cars shall immediately reduce speed and proceed slowly back to the pit lane, and all cars abandoned on the track will be removed to a safe place.
At the end of each practice session no driver may cross the Line more than once.
31.9 The clerk of the course may interrupt practice as often and for as long as he thinks necessary to clear the track or to allow the recovery of a car. However, only during qualifying practice will the session be extended as a result.
Should one or more sessions be thus interrupted, no protest can be accepted as to the possible effects of the interruption on the qualification of drivers admitted to start.
32) FREE PRACTICE
32.1 Free practice sessions will take place :
a) The day after initial scrutineering from 10.00 to 11.30 (P1) and from 14.00 to 15.30 (P2).
b) The day before the race from 11.00 to 12.00 (P3).
The interval between the scheduled start times of P1 and P3 may never be less than 24 hours.
33) QUALIFYING PRACTICE
33.1 The qualifying practice session will take place on the day before the race from 14.00 to 15.00. The session will be run as follows :
a) From 14.00 to 14.20 (Q1) all cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest eight cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session.
Lap times achieved by the eighteen remaining cars will then be deleted.
b) From 14.27 to 14.42 (Q2) the eighteen remaining cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest eight cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session.
Lap times achieved by the ten remaining cars will then be deleted.
c) From 14.50 to 15.00 (Q3) the ten remaining cars will be permitted on the track.
The above procedure is based upon a Championship entry of 26 cars. If 24 cars are entered seven will be excluded after Q1 and Q2 and if 22 cars are entered only six cars will be excluded after Q1 and Q2.
33.2 Any driver whose car stops on the circuit during the qualifying session will not be permitted to take any further part in the session. Any car which stops on the circuit during the qualifying session, and which is returned to the pits before the end of the session, will be held in parc ferme until the end of the session.
33.3 At the end of qualifying practice the times achieved by each driver will be officially published.
36) THE GRID
36.1 During Q1, any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of the fastest time set during that session, or who fails to set a time, will not be allowed to take part in the race. Under exceptional circumstances however, which may include setting a suitable lap time in a free
practice session, the stewards may permit the car to start the race.
Should there be more than one driver accepted in this manner, the grid order will be determined by the stewards.
a) The grid will be drawn up as follows :
i) The last eight positions will be occupied by the cars eliminated during Q1, the fastest in 19th position.
ii) The next eight positions will be occupied by the cars eliminated during Q2, the fastest in 11th position.
iii) The top ten positions will be occupied by the cars which took part in Q3, the fastest from the position on the grid which was the pole position in the previous
year or, on a new circuit, has been designated as such by the FIA safety delegate.
If two or more drivers set identical times during Q1, Q2 or Q3 priority will be given to the one who set it first.
If less than 26 cars are entered in the Championship appropriate amendments will be made to the above in accordance with Article 33.1.
b) If more than one driver fails to set a time during Q1, Q2 or Q3 they will be arranged in the following order :
i) Any driver who attempted to set a qualifying time by starting a flying lap.
ii) Any driver who failed to start a flying lap.
iii) Any driver who failed to leave the pits during the period.
c) Once the grid has been established in accordance with a) and b) above, grid position penalties will be applied to the drivers in question in the order the offences were
committed. If more than one driver incurs a penalty under Article 28.4(a) or Article 28.6(a) preference will be given to the driver whose team first informed the technical
delegate that an engine or gearbox change will be carried out.
d) Any driver who incurs a penalty under Article 28.4(a) or Article 28.6(a) will take precedence over any driver whose qualifying times have been deleted for any reason.
If more than one driver falls into a single category in b) or d) above they will be arranged on the grid in the order they were classified in the previous period of qualifying or, in the case of Q1, the order they were classified in P3.
36.3 The starting grid will be published no less than four hours before the start of the formation lap.
Any competitor whose car(s) is (are) unable to start for any reason whatsoever (or who has good reason to believe that their car(s) will not be ready to start) must inform the stewards accordingly at the earliest opportunity and, in any event, no later than one hour and fifteen minutes before the start of the formation lap. If one or more cars are withdrawn the grid will be closed up accordingly. The final starting grid will be published one hour before the start of the formation lap.
36.4 The grid will be in a staggered 1 x 1 formation and the rows on the grid will be separated by 16 metres.