Formula 1 is an extremely competitive sport where drivers push their cars to the limit to become the fastest on the circuit. However, in some cases, a driver, or car simply is not fast enough to be on track with the rest of the competitors, which is why there is a 107% rule in F1.
The 107% rule in F1 states that a car must lap within 107% of the fastest lap time set in Q1. This is to ensure that the slower cars are fast enough to compete in the race and will not pose a danger to the other cars on track. Cars that fail to do this will not be allowed to race in the Grand Prix.
However, there are some exceptions to the 107% rule. Below, we discuss the 107% rule in more detail, and go through all of the possible exceptions to the rule and why they are important. But first, let’s consider what F1’s 107% rule actually is.
What Is The 107% Rule In F1?
The 107% rule in F1 is a rule put in place to ensure that a car or driver is not too slow to compete in the Grand Prix. If a driver is too slow during the race they will pose a danger to the other cars on the track, as well as to themselves, and the 107% rule minimizes this risk.
A driver who is too slow will be lapped too often, meaning that they will be getting in the way of the faster cars, potentially causing incidents along the way. The rule was mainly implemented for safety reasons.
The rule is based on qualifying, specifically Q1. The slowest car needs to set a lap time that is within 107% of the fastest time of the session. If they fail to do so, they will not be allowed to race in the Grand Prix the following day. Below is a simple calculation to show you how the 107% rule works in a practical sense.
107% Rule Example
Let’s say the fastest time of the Q1 session is 1 minute and 40 seconds (100 seconds). All other cars need to set a faster lap time than 1 minute and 47 seconds (107 seconds) if they want to start the race, as this is 107% of the fastest lap time that was set (100 seconds).
Exceptions To The 107% Rule
There are some exceptions to the 107% rule and it’s not always black and white in terms of a car or driver not starting the race for being too slow. If the team can prove that their car and driver are fast enough to race, an exception may be made for them by the FIA.
The team has to provide evidence in order to prove that they will not be too slow during the race. They can do this by showing the stewards their pace during the three free practice sessions held on Friday and Saturday, of course if their driver was fast enough.
The team can also use evidence of a faulty car causing a slower pace (or indeed a crash in Q1). This can be a mechanical failure or something simpler such as a slow puncture on the tires. If it’s not the driver’s fault, and the car was suffering a loss in performance in that session alone, the driver will usually be allowed to start the race.
History Of The 107% Rule In F1
The 107% rule was first introduced in the 1996 season. During this time there was a huge gap in terms of the performance of the cars, and the front runners were often well clear of the rest of the pack, leading to many cars being lapped and getting in the way of the leaders.
The rule was then taken away in 2002. However, it was reintroduced in 2011 as the cars at the back of the pack struggled significantly with their pace. Most notably the HRT cars could not build a fuel tank that would last to the end of the Grand Prix, meaning they had to save fuel for most of the race, and therefore go slower.
The rule has not been used very often since its reintroduction into the sport. However, it still serves as a safety element to prevent cars that are too slow from competing in the race and causing a danger on the circuit during the Grand Prix.
Is The 107% Rule Still Used In F1?
The 107% rule is still used in F1, and has been ever since being reintroduced into Formula 1 in 2011. It was brought back as the gap between the lead cars and the slower cars at the back of the grid was getting larger, and the slower cars were often close to falling behind the 107% rule.
The 107% rule is still used today even though we don’t see it very often. Nowadays the grid is fast enough to not have to worry about the 107% rule, and in the majority of cases, the slowest car on the grid is still quick enough to compete.
When Was The 107% Rule Last Used In F1?
The 107% rule was last used in F1 in 2021. Lance Stroll lapped slower than 107% of the fastest Q1 time at the 2021 French Grand Prix, as incidents prevented him from completing a full timed lap. However, he was allowed to start the race due to his times set during free practice sessions.
The 107% rule was also used in 2018 during the Azerbaijan GP when Brendon Hartley failed to set a fast enough time during Q1 in his Toro Rosso. However, the team argued that he had suffered a puncture during his fastest run, which was the cause of his slow lap time. He was allowed to race due to proof of the puncture as well as being fast enough during the practice sessions and previous races.
The Last Time The 107% Rule Prevented A Driver From Starting A Race
The 107% was last used in full effect during the 2012 season. The 2012 Australian Grand Prix was the season opener, and the HRT team pulled up to the race with arguably the worst Formula 1 car in recent history that was not capable of putting in a lap fast enough to be within 107% of the fastest time set in Q1.
Both drivers, Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro De La Rosa, were not allowed to compete in the race. The same thing happened to Karthikeyanand then-teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi a year prior at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix.
Should The 107% Rule Remain In Formula 1?
Ultimately this rule serves a simple purpose, which is to ensure that the track is safe enough based on having cars and competitors who are fast enough and won’t get in the way of the leading cars throughout the course of the race.
This is an important element of the sport, especially considering the fact that there is a massive focus on the safety of the drivers in Formula 1. Based on this alone, the 107% rule should remain in Formula 1 in the future.
Rarely Employed To Full Effect
In addition, the 107% rule has never forced any driver to stop racing due to technicalities. If a driver fails to qualify within the 107% time, there will always be a review where the stewards will effectively do everything they can to make sure the driver can race. In the majority of cases, drivers who have fallen foul of the 107% rule are still allowed to race.
During qualifying at the 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix, a total of 11 drivers failed to qualify within 107% of the fastest time set in Q1. This was due to a chaotic session filled with incidents, delays, and rain. The final minutes of Q1 were red flagged, which meant that several drivers could not set a faster lap time. An exception was made for all of these drivers.
The 107% Rule In Other Motorsports
The 107% rule has been implemented in other branches of motorsport as well. This rule proved to be popular as a way to ensure that all competitors are fast enough on track, which can lead to a safer race during the main event.
Formula 2 and Formula 3, the junior series to Formula 1, both use the 107% rule, and it has been used quite frequently in both. This is because the drivers have much less experience and, because all of the cars are equal in terms of performance, if a driver fails to set a lap time faster than 107% of the best time, it’s simply because they are too slow (excluding the usual exceptions).
Formula E has implemented an alternative version of the same rule where drivers need to be within 110% of the fastest time. IndyCar and NASCAR both have alternative versions of the rule as well, as they implement 105% and 115% respectively.
The 107% rule in F1 is a rule designed to ensure that only cars that set a lap time within 107% of the fastest time in Q1 in qualifying can start the race. This is to ensure that slow cars/drivers that could possibly pose a danger to others are not allowed to start the race.