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F1 NEWS 

Branson backs call to remove blue flags

Blue flagRichard Branson has backed the call from Lotus boss Tony Fernandes to get rid of blue flags in grand prix racing.

Fernandes, whose team has made its Formula 1 debut this year, said earlier this season that he believed the sport would benefit from not having blue flags.

"Drivers are paid to overtake, whether they are back markers or at the front," said Fernandes back in May. "I think it would be good for the sport to get rid of blue flags. In the days of Ken Tyrrell, he would never let any car pass.

"If it's really hard for a world champion to get past a backmarker then I think it's a sad day for racing. I think racing is all about getting past people and overtaking and adding a little bit of 'je ne sais quoi'.

"You've got a driver saying it's ridiculous that he's lapping someone four times, so why should he be complaining about overtaking a guy that he's lapping four times?"

Branson, the main backer of newcomer Virgin Racing, agreed with Fernandes, as he reckons the sport would be more entertaining without them.

"It would be a lot more fun if they didn't have blue flags," said Branson. "I am sure some of the more established teams would not like it, but it is a racing track and they should not have to be told to pull over.

"If that is what Tony is saying, I definitely agree with him. It doesn't sound like racing - and it makes a bit of a mockery of the sport."

Virgin Racing's CEO Graeme Lowdon reckons blue flags hurt smaller teams too much, as they lose big amounts of time letting the leading drivers through.

"We get a blue flag three seconds before someone approaches us, and at the moment three seconds is almost a lap and you have to let them by within four corners," he said. "So we have situations where our guys are pulling to one side and the car behind cannot catch up.

"It's a massive compromise over the whole of a race. We do this graph of time against distance, and you look at the graph and you immediately see where the blue flags start because up to a point of the race we are there or thereabouts in terms of pace, but then it drops away.

"The issue is that you get the flags so early - and three seconds is quite a long time. And you have to tell your driver to let the guy past but you cannot speed the car up behind. It has ruined a lot of racing for us."

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