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Random grid order for online play is the fairest way of doing things. 

When you first go into a lobby it takes a few races to build up points.. when I start at the back it can sometimes feel like I'm trying to pick my way through a warzone and I spend more time avoiding idiots than I do racing.  Then eventually I make it to the front... great... Except I now spend the rest of the night getting ploughed into at the first corner by the idiots that are now starting behind me.

Please CM, just make the grid order random !!

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Global hot lap rankings, ala Forza4, for each car class and track layout, would be my preferred grid order, regardless of time spent in lobby. These times are generated any time a player runs a car class/ course... SP, racing, hot-lapping, etc. After each race or hot-lap session you can immediately see your time, the global top 10 or so, and a message "You are in the top X%". I think this might also establish a bit of respect among the grid, as players would know immediately that all those in front have run a better time. 

 Setting a minimum qualifying time for various lobbies, ie. Driver Levels A, B and C, would be another welcome addition. This would allow C-levelers (open/entry level) a place to learn, and A-levelers would have a place to battle away from the "noobs" (me). Rewards would be greater for higher level races. By establishing a minimum "qualifying time", players would have a goal to aim for if they so choose.  Maybe next gen?...  Even two levels, Open and Elite would be nice. 

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