Race Flags - Formula One
Nowadays, flags in motor sports are not only used by race marshals to signal the start or end of a race, but also to warn drivers about potential danger ahead or even to hand drastic penalties. A driver cannot possibly know if the car behind him is driven by someone who's looking to lap him or his rival for a better position in a race.
At the same time, if a driver does something wrong – from the sporting points of view – during the race, he is now able to find out about it immediately and undergo a real-time penalty, rather than wait for it until the chequered flag.
As different racing series have different flags, or the same color can mean something different depending on the championship, we will today start a series of articles, aimed at providing you with the necessary knowhow to interpret it.
This week, we'll take you to Formula One, where the drivers are handed with an extra help to spot the marshals' flags. As they may have a hard time seeing the flags at such high speeds, or are at the time focused on their track position, the drivers all benefit from a special display on their cockpit, which will light up with the relevant color when the marshals are waving a certain flag.
When the race marshals are waving a single yellow flag, that means the drivers should keep an eye on the track as a dangerous situation is expected ahead. One yellow flag means that there has been an accident/crash resulting in debris all over the track – therefore they are expected to slow down due to slight lack of grip – while two yellow flags, either waved by the same marshal or two marshals standing one next to each other waving one flag each, means a severe accident has happened ahead.
In the first situation (one flag), the drivers should decelerate throughout the section insisted upon by the stewards, while in the second (two flags) they should also be prepared for stopping the car on the track. Either way, on the track section where the yellow flags are waved, overtaking is strictly prohibited.
The green flag is usually waved by the race marshals after the yellow ones. Green stands for “no more danger on track”, therefore racing actions may resume immediately. It also gives the drivers the possibility to overtake one another.
When the white flag is waved by the race marshals, it means the drivers should immediately slow down, as it indicates the presence of a safety car, ambulance or towing truck ahead, on the track. In this situation, overtaking is strictly prohibited.
The red flag signals the temporary stopping of the race, due to a number of reasons. Most commonly, torrential rain that makes it impossible for the drivers to maintain control over their cars – therefore causing high danger in terms of the drivers' safety – will trigger the red flag. Also, a massive on-track accident resulting in loss of human lives might also cause the stewards to wave the red flag.
If the red flag is waved before the half of the race, all drivers will be awarded half points for their current positions in the race. Otherwise, they will receive all points.
Most commonly, the light blue flag is waved to a driver during a race in order to notify him that he will soon be lapped by another driver. Under the circumstances, the former will immediately have to slow down and let the latter pass him. The same goes in the qualifying session, if one driver is obviously in his in-lap and the one behind him is trying to score a quick lap. The former will be notified via the blue flag and will be forced not to interfere with the other one's quick lap, or else risk a 5-place grid penalty.
Also, when a drivers will try to rejoin the field after previously refueling & changing tires at the pits, he will be waved the blue flag to warn him that other cars are approaching on the track, at the end of the start/finish line.
If you're a racing driver, black is the last color you want to see on a race flag. Once a race marshal waves the black flag and it attaches the race number of your car to it, that means you're disqualified for the ongoing race. After seeing the black flag, a driver must enter the pits within the next lap and report immediately to the Clerk of the Course.
Black & White Flag
We're not talking about the black & white chequered flag at the end of the race, but the half black half white flag during the race. Just as the aforementioned black flag, this one should come attached with a car number. The driver in question is warned by the race stewards that he has been spotted breaking a sporting rule and, if he doesn't go back to his fair-play ways, he will face disqualification from the race. Also, the black and white flag should come with a drive-through penalty (during the race) or a 10-second penalty (at the end of the race) for the driver in question.
Black & Orange Flag
This is a black flag which has a 40-cm in diameter orange circle in the center. This is also something that one would prefer to see as fewer times as possible during his racing career, as the flag signals a telemetry problem with his car. Consequently, the team asks for the driver to head immediately to the pits and solve the problem.
Red & Yellow Flag
This flag – red and yellow vertical stripes – is waved to the drivers when there are slippery conditions ahead. They are advised to slow down in order to prevent a potential visit to the run-offs. Overtaking is also prohibited in the sector of the track where this flag is being waved.
The black & white chequered flag signals the end of the race. He who takes it first can already start thinking of the champagne fight.