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Fastest laps are classified as the fastest time set around a particular race track during a Grand Prix, however, due to the new fuel rules in F1 that banned mid-race refueling, some of the fastest laps are hard to break, even though the cars set qualifying times that are faster than these set times.

Take the Japanese GP at Suzuka for example, the recorded fastest lap around the circuit was a 1'31.540 by Kimi Raikkonen in 2005, but a faster 1'30.915 lap was done during qualifying by Mark Webber in 2013.

A more recent qualifying vs race time comparison was during this year's Monaco GP. Daniel Ricciardo got pole on a 1'13.622 while the recognized fastest lap was a 1'17.939 by Lewis Hamilton.

Why are Fastest Laps taken from the fastest race lap and not from the significantly quicker qualifying times?

  • The fact that only ten cars can possibly be on the track during Q3 is probably a big factor. Fewer opponents means fewer slower opponents and more space to open throttle in, and the remaining opponents are also faster than the average, all of which contributes to faster lap time overall. – Nij Aug 10 '16 at 8:39
  • True, but that doesn't apply to pre-2006 regulations, where the qualifying is done in a single timed session, or a one-shot qualifying. Although it's not just about having a Q3 to yourselves, but about the fastest times being clocked almost every time in qualifying. – Noir Antares Aug 10 '16 at 9:17
  • Were all lap record times made in qualifying prior to 2006, then? You quote Suzuka qualifying only from 2013, for example. – Nij Aug 10 '16 at 9:21
  • If you read the linked entry and the question again, fastest laps are always recorded from the race and not from qualifying. The question was why are fastest laps taken from the race and not from the often faster qualifying times. – Noir Antares Aug 10 '16 at 9:24
  • I phrased poorly. Are qualifying times consistently better than comparable race times? Getting better times in qualifying than the race itself, in recent years is eaiser, for reasons mentioned earlier. Are the qualifying times pre-2006 better than the corresponding race times (as these were consistent conditions and the factors above don't account for the difference)? – Nij Aug 10 '16 at 9:26
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By comparing a qualifying lap time to a race lap time, you are not comparing like for like.

In qualifying, the teams turn up their engines to give maximum performance. It is not possible to do this during a race as you would likely break the engine due to the excessive revs/power being produced for the full race distance of around 200 miles.

Also during qualifying the cars have fresh tyres (and the quickest tyres ie softest) as well as very low fuel loads. This makes them as quick as possible for the lap or two that is required to set a qualifying time.

Fuel load is crucial, a fully laden car carries up to 100 KG of fuel at the start of the race, meaning an average lap penalty of about 3-4 seconds - every 3kg of fuel carried adds about a tenth of a second per lap, depending on the circuit.

So at the start of a race, when the tyres are in good condition, the cars are heavy and so cannot get near their times from qualifying. As the fuel load comes down, the tyres are wearing out so once again lap times cannot compete with those in qualifying.

Most cars will change tyres once or twice per race, so the cars are usually fastest after their final pit-stops when the fuel load is relatively light and they have fresh tyres. But even then, they will be carrying 20 Kg or so of fuel so times are still off what they were in qualifying. Added to that the fact the engines are "turned down" to reduce the chance of a failure, you can see why qualifying lap times are not usually beaten during a race.

Finally, with the 2016 regulations, drivers can use their DRS (Drag Reduction System) whenever they like, but in the race they can only use this on the designated straight(s) when they are within 1 second of the car in front. This can account for around 1 second per lap.

  • +1. It really does cone down to "apples and oranges" - through with much more subtlety than some would expect! – Nij Aug 10 '16 at 13:40
  • I guess it's just to put a distinction between fastest lap time over one lap vs fastest lap time over an entire race distance. Thinking about it, there are cars like the Toyota F1's of the mid 2000's that perform better in qualifying than in the actual race. – Noir Antares Aug 11 '16 at 5:52
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Official lap records have to be set during competition i.e. during the race. Laps set during qualifying sessions, practice sessions, private test days etc. don't count towards being the official lap record, but may often be referred to as the "Overall lap record", "Unofficial lap record", "Course record" and so on...

Take the Nurburgring Nordschleife as an example. The official lap record was set during the 1983 1000 km of Nürburgring, but in 2018, a modified Porsche 919 beat this time by over 1 minute. However, because this was not during competition, this is not the official lap record.

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