If you’re missing getting your racing fix during F1’s off-season, don’t worry because Formula E is back this Friday! Always unpredictable, Season 8 is debuting a brand new battle–style qualifying format, and it looks crazy.
You might think it’s a bit of a chaotic mess, but let’s break down how this World Cup-style qualifying system is going to work.
STAGE 1: GROUPS
The 22 drivers are divided into two groups of 11, determined by alternating their positions in the Drivers’ standings. Those in odd positions will be in Group A, and those in even positions will be in Group B. For the season opener in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, teammates will be split into different groups.
Each group then has 12 minutes to clock in their best time, setting an unlimited number of laps at the maximum 220kW of power. Every driver must set at least one timed lap within the first six minutes. If they don’t, they face a penalty 😬
Additionally, they’ll have the option to pull into their garages for a pit stop during the session, with four mechanics able to change their tyres.
So… how *exactly* will #FormulaE's new qualifying format work in 2022?
This graphic should give you all an idea ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/3jHIiQH3jN
— The Race (@wearetherace) January 24, 2022
STAGE 2: DUELS
The four fastest drivers from each group move forward into head-to-head knockouts, having one shot to set a timed lap with their available power increasing to 250kW.
Therefore, P4 in Group B will go against Group A’s fastest driver in the first duel and so on.
The winners progress into the last eight semi-finals, eliminating each other until only two drivers remain. The driver who sets the fastest time wins, achieving the Julius Baer Pole Position and taking the three points available, while the loser settles for second on the grid.
Depending on who was quickest, the semi-finalists will line up third and fourth, and the quarter-finalists will start from fifth to eighth according to their lap times.
Curiously, the polesitter determines not only their own starting slot but the other 14 drivers’. Those who finished fifth to 12th in the polesitter’s group will line up in the odd grid positions from ninth to 21st, whilst the other group take the even positions from 10th to 22nd.
WHY THE CHANGE?
Last season, 11 drivers achieved a pole position across 15 races. Shocking right? Adopting F1’s qualifying format is impossible due to the extremely tight circuits, so splitting the grid up is crucial. Imagine the disaster’ traffic paradise’ would be on a street track.
Previously, Formula E’s group set-up was decided by a lottery before swapping to championship standings combined with a Super Pole shootout for the top five after the group session. As a result, the top six drivers with the most points were on track in the opening group for the past three seasons.
The problem was this meant doing well in the championship hurt them in qualifying and was heavily criticised. Track evolution meant the frontrunners were frequently sent to the back of the grid, damaging their title chances.
It’s no wonder 18 drivers were still in with a shot at becoming Formula E’s first World Champion at the final race in Berlin last season.
— Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team (@MercedesEQFE) December 20, 2021
Switching up the format won’t suddenly stop the underdogs lower down in the standings from achieving surprise pole position. It just means they’ll have to nail it consistently across four sessions rather than a one-off.
Although with Formula E, always remember to expect the unexpected.
Season 8 gets underway with the Diriyah E-Prix on January 28th and 29th, around the Riyadh Street Circuit.
What do you think of the new qualifying format? Let us know in the comments.