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MotoGP Qualifying Explained

The MotoGP returns this weekend with the season opener in Qatar, and as always with a new season, there are big changes within the sport.

In the rider market, Marc Marquez choosing to quit Honda for Gresini Ducati, following 11 seasons and six Moto GP world titles with the Japanese team, was as big a shock as the grid has seen in years.

There has also been a very notable change in the structure of qualifying ahead of the 2024 season, with one of the practice sessions offering riders the chance to skip qualifying one (Q1) head straight in to qualifying 2 (Q2).

On the back of this change, we take a look into how riders qualify for the MotoGP Grands Prix.

Firstly, to avoid any confusion, it is important to note that the grid remains the same for both a sprint race and Grand Prix, the qualifying structure settles it for both race formats.

Read more about MotoGP on site including the schedule, times and odds.

Practice

There are three practice sessions ahead of a race:

-          Free Practice One (Friday)

-          Practice (Friday)

-          Free Practice Two (Saturday)

Free practice one, the first on track session of a race weekend, on the Friday morning, is an untimed, no pressure 45 minute session. Allowing the drivers to get valuable laps in, familiarising themselves with the circuit and key racing lines.

The second practice session, just known as ‘practice’ and hosted on the Friday afternoon, is a 60 minute timed session, in which the top 10 times qualify straight into Q2. This guarantees these 10 drivers a position of 12th or better on the starting grid.

Following on from this is free practice two, another untimed session on the Saturday morning. Although this is only 30 minutes long, it is a crucial period, as it allows the riders to freshen up on a new day ahead of qualifying.

Qualifying

Qualifying consists of two sessions.

-          Qualifying One (Saturday)

-          Qualifying Two (Saturday)

Saturday afternoon plays host to Q1, where every driver except the 10 fastest from practice battle it out for a place in Q2. This 15 minute session is always incredibly tense as only the two fastest make it into Q2 to complete the line-up. Anybody who goes out in Q1 will occupy positions 13th and below.

The remaining 12 riders then compete in the all-important Q2, a straight 15 minute shootout to determine positions 1-12 on the grid.

Why the change?

The new qualifying method was brought in after a unanimous decision from riders and teams that the format brought in for 2023 was far too intense.

The teams felt there was nowhere near enough time to turn their bikes around and set them up for a specific track before the first session on a Friday, and with so many practice and qualifying sessions it was too hard to tune the bike in time for the race, or repair any damage.

The changes should bring excitement to all three days of a MotoGP weekend, with the practice session on a Friday now offering a better qualifying position, the riders will take part in sessions of flat out racing on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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