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At the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, Pastor Maldonado got pole position in qualifying, and started at P1 on the grid before the race. I noticed that P1, at this track, was on the outside, from the perspective of the first corner. So, in this case, the driver in P2 would have the inside line at the first corner, and in my opinion, the inside line is better than the outside line.

My question is, why is P1 located on the outside of the first corner? Is this only at certain tracks, or do all tracks have this kind of layout? I think that the driver on pole position should have the inside line for the first corner, so if the first corner is a right-hand turn, then pole position should be on the right-hand side of the grid.

For reference, you can see in this image that Pastor Maldonado is on the left-hand side of the grid, whereas the first turn is a right-hand turn.

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PS: My question is not related to the cars' paces, so I don't want to take the perspective where "the car is faster".

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This isn't defined in the technical regulations. But in most cases you can think of which side is closer to the racing line, then pole will be on that side.

The grand prix usually isn't the only race run on the weekend. There are often other races, plus practices and qualifying. After all that driving, the racing line should be swept pretty clear, while the less-driven areas nearby will have bits of tire wear. You will almost always want to start on the clear line. Any "marbles" are likely to reduce your ability to start and that can be worth more than being on the inside or the outside.

But if that's not a big consideration, you'll probably want to be on the outside. In most cases you'll be able to keep more speed if it's a simple turn.

It's not always clear-cut. In Singapore, the racing line moved from the right to the left along the starting straight as it positioned for the right-hand turn 1. So P1 was set on the left. But in 2011, several drivers requested that the left was more likely to be contaminated and preferred pole be set up on the right. The director agreed and it was changed: Autosport article.

From the race you showed, Alonso gets a better start. I have no idea why (better reaction, better car, better grip, ...), but that lets him pull a lead well prior to the first turn. At that point it doesn't matter which direction the turn is in, he seems to be in control of the start. Inside or outside wouldn't have mattered.

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  • This is exactly it. Famously, pole position at Suzuka used to be situated off the racing line, so that the driver who qualified 2nd actually had the advantage at the start. Alain Prost got that advantage over Ayrton Senna three years in a row, and the third time, Senna asked the FIA to move pole position over to the other side because he knew Prost would just overtake him at the start again. The FIA refused, so Senna did this.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 20:44

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