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FIA's Charlie Whiting clarifies chequered flag error

NEWS STORY
11/06/2018

The FIA's race director, Charlie Whiting, has explained the cause of the chequered flag being inadvertently waved before the end of the Canadian Grand Prix.

As Sebastian Vettel was approaching Turn 4 on the final lap of yesterday's Canadian Grand Prix, back at the finish line the chequered flag was already being enthusiastically waved by 'celebrity guest', the model Winnie Harlow.

While Vettel continued on his way, some drivers appeared to slow as they crossed the line, believing that the race was over, while others carried on, most notably the four drivers behind Vettel who were still battling for position.

In the aftermath, which saw a delay in the official results being issued, and no data shown on TV screens, under the regulations, the result of the race had to be backdated to the lap before the flag was waved so that instead of lasting 70 laps the result was declared at 68. If nothing else this meant that Daniel Ricciardo's last lap, which was the fastest of the race, was null and void, and that honour went to teammate Max Verstappen.

While initially the blame was laid at the feet of Ms Harlow, the FIA was keen to clarify that she herself was the victim of a miscommunication.

"The chequered flag was shown a lap early because there was a miscommunication between the start platform and the guy that they call the starter, the guy that starts and finishes the races," FIA race director Charlie Whiting told reporters. "He thought it was the last lap, he asked race control to confirm it and they confirmed it.

"They thought he was making a statement when in fact he was asking a question and he just showed it a lap early, it's as simple as that. In fact, he told the flag waver to wave it a lap early, so it wasn't anything to do with the fact it was a celebrity flag waver.

"It's gone back to Lap 68 because that's what the regulations require," he added. "The reason for doing that really is to make sure if there was some confusion over it then if you go back to the previous lap you will get a true race classification.

"It's like when a race is stopped and can't be restarted, you take it back prior to the lap where the red flag was given.

"We always do our best," he said, "but there's a lot of human beings, different countries, different languages, so it's not always absolutely perfect. We always strive for perfection but there was no real harm done insofar as it didn't impact the outcome of the race.

"People who don't work in F1 are sometimes a little confused by the little graphic they see on the television, where it says 69 out of 70. We all know we're on lap 69, but to someone who is a slightly more casual observer, they might think 'Oh, this must mean it's the last lap.' That's where the doubt originates and we need to do a better job briefing these people."

When it was explained that the starter should have actually known how to read the lap counter, Whiting admitted: "He read the timing screen correctly, that's why he asked the question. He wanted to have it confirmed. He thought he had had it confirmed, but it wasn't. He thought the guy saying OK from race control said, 'Yes, correct.' He asked a question, but the guy in race control just thought he was telling him that.

"I need to go deeper and deeper into this of course, but it seems no one really knew. This is what we need to get to the bottom of. It's not satisfactory. Luckily it didn't affect the result but it may need us to review procedures and make sure we have a very simple procedure for every circuit.

"They all have different communication systems, different communication networks. Sometimes it's the clerk of the course who waves the flag, they're all different. We need to make sure at every time we have a countdown. This is what some circuits will do, they'll say 'Leader's on his third last lap. Second last lap. This is the last lap.' Then they'll give the guy waving the flag points at where the leader is. They'll say, 'Next car,' that sort of thing. It wasn't done that thoroughly here."

Race winner Vettel subsequently explained that when he saw the flag being waved on the giant screens around the circuit, his first thought was those fans intending to run on to the track thinking the race was over.

"I was just worried," said the German, "I told them on the last lap, so people don't jump on the track, waving flags and celebrating, because we are still going at full pace.

"I even watched on TV and after I saw the chequered flag it said 'Final Lap', so then I was a bit confused. I told them that I think the race isn't over yet, and they said; 'no no no, keep pushing'. Some of the marshals were already celebrating - they peaked a bit early."

Check out our Sunday gallery from Montreal, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Mark, 12/06/2018 15:52

"Many years ago, the idea of having some local dignitary start the race with a flag wave was dropped in favor of the light system currently used. I see no reason to expect a less professional approach at the end of the race. At least the track announcers in Canada were able to maintain a correct lap count."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Agrajag, 12/06/2018 8:51

"So the qualifications to be acting race director at the sport’s highest level are:
Being a twice failed reality TV contestant
Being an acquaintance of one of the drivers, in all likelihood attending your very first Motorsports event
Being able to correctly identify a red car and wave a flag in its general direction - albeit the wrong red car and at the wrong time.
The FIA and Liberty are now locked into a death spiral seeing which organisation can bring the sport into the most disrepute."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by C5, 11/06/2018 21:55

"So, what Charlie is saying is "the person, who was in charge of waving the flag, had no idea about neither the rules nor the systems determining when it should be waved".

In other words, he's as competent as the rest of the FIA and FOM. So at least there's consistency...
"

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4. Posted by Editor, 11/06/2018 18:27

"@ Speedbump

If you think the flag was a massive joke... stick around a day or so... there is much worse to come"

Rating: Positive (2)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

5. Posted by Yeyox02, 11/06/2018 17:22

"FIA should punish itself and disappear from the map for the rest of the season but not, they are always right and the rest are wrong. Celebrities? What is a celebrity??? Someone who does nothing???"

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6. Posted by Speedbump, 11/06/2018 17:19

"Formula One Management,

You've become a massive joke. You're ruining the series, and are making it look like an amateur class of racing.
If you think the way to raise the stature of the series is to invite celebrities who don't give a rats ass about the racing, then apparently you're the problem. Nobody but the race director should be waving the chequered flag at any and all events. If celebrities are truly a fan of Formula One, they should stay in the stands with the rest of the fans, or watch on TV like the rest of us."

Rating: Positive (3)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

7. Posted by Bob Mikels, 11/06/2018 14:32

"None of this explains why the Chequered was not waved at Vettel first."

Rating: Positive (3)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

8. Posted by TedS, 11/06/2018 14:30

"Wait, I thought to be a celebrity you had to be famous. We had this chick up there that I'd never heard of before.. just knowing Hammie doesn't make one a celeb

"

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

9. Posted by ryanhellyer, 11/06/2018 14:12

"This is a bit ridiculous. I had falsely assumed this was all electronic, and the flag waver just got a light or something when it was time to wave it."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

10. Posted by Burton, 11/06/2018 13:02

"Another who overstayed his welcome..."

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11. Posted by Toffeecup0, 11/06/2018 10:33

"Why did they let a celebrity guest wave the flag just typical they get to meet the drivers look round garages etc where joe public the true fans are not allowed always get preferential treatment pass me the sick bucket"

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