Black and white flag becomes F1's official 'yellow card' warning

FIA race director Michael Masi says the return of a black and white flag warning for unsportsmanlike driver conduct should be considered Formula 1's equivalent of football's yellow card

Black and white flag becomes F1's official 'yellow card' warning

The black and white flag is available for use at all levels of motorsport, and the FIA International Sporting Code specifies that it "should be shown once only and is a warning to the driver concerned that he has been reported for unsportsmanlike behaviour".

Prior to last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix the signal was last used in F1 at the 2010 Malaysian GP, when Lewis Hamilton was warned for weaving in front of Vitaly Petrov.

Subsequently it fell out of favour, and former race director Charlie Whiting generally preferred to use radio messages to teams to convey warnings that an offence had been spotted by race control.

But Masi sees the flag as a useful tool, and specifically as a transparent public warning that will be seen by all.

After some discussions with teams it was formally reintroduced at Spa.

Drivers were told that it would be used if the timing loop in the runoff at Raidillon was triggered by them running wide three times, while also being available to address conduct such as moving under braking.

In the event drivers respected the runoff in that section throughout the weekend, and it was never deployed for that reason.

But the flag - actually displayed on a light panel at the start/finish line - was used to warn Pierre Gasly for moving in the braking area during the race.

"The black and white flag, bad sportsmanship flag, is something that hasn't been used prior to this since about 2010 apparently," said Masi when asked by the change in policy by Autosport.

"But one of the discussions that has been ongoing with the sporting directors is using it.

"So one of the reasons I haven't used it to date is trying to find out from as many of them and others as to why it stopped being used, and no one could come up with a valid reason.

"It is one of the flags that exists in the code, and every single sporting director and every single driver is supportive of the use of it.

"It is effectively the motorsport version of the yellow card."

Masi made it clear to the drivers at Spa that a repeated offence after a warning flag would go to the stewards, potentially triggering a penalty.

"That was highlighted at the drivers' meeting on Friday night, that it is your yellow card," he said.

"If we use the example of this weekend, if a black and white had been issued for exceeding track limits at Turn 4 [Radillon], for setting the loop off three times, and then you got another one for another incident, you wouldn't get a second black and white, you would be referred to the stewards as a breach."

The Raidillon run-off at Spa was considered a special case because of the high speeds at that point and the potential for an advantage to be gained down the following Kemmel straight.

Masi said the flag will remain in use for track limits at some venues, as well for as other offences such as that committed by Gasly.

Red Bull Racing driver Alex Albon welcomed the change of approach.

"I don't mind it too much, I think it's a lot better to do that than give penalties," he said.

"Even like the Vettel/Hamilton case in Canada, it would have been resolved a lot better if it was just a warning first.

"I think it's a good idea. We used it a lot in karting and it worked well, so I don't see why it wouldn't work in F1."

No action yet on slow qualifying laps

Masi does not share concerns from F1 drivers that the slow speeds they are doing before qualifying laps are unsafe, but said the FIA is monitoring the situation to make sure things do not get worse.

Last weekend world champion Lewis Hamilton said a "dangerous" situation was developing with drivers running slowly to try to get a tow and prepare their tyres.

Sebastian Vettel added that he thought matters had not been helped by the current generation of F1 tyres having a very narrow operating window.

"Obviously you are fighting for a tow and so on, but you are also fighting to get into the optimum window, which years ago was not that critical whereas now it is," said the Ferrari driver.

"You are fighting for the best spot on the track, which will hit the peak in Monza for finding the right tow because it does make the difference, but that has always been part of those type of tracks.

"But I feel if we had better tyres, we could play with probably a bit more speed and so on."

While Masi is aware of the practice taking place, and the concerns that drivers and their teams have, he thinks at the moment that there is no need to step in and take extra action.

"It is something that we have certainly discussed together with the sporting directors and at the current point, I think it is manageable," he said.

"Once it gets beyond that [we may look into it], but at the current point it is something we are continuously monitoring during the season and we will continue to look at it."

- Jonathan Noble

shares
comments
Mercedes and Ferrari both have F1 engine worries heading to Monza

Previous article

Mercedes and Ferrari both have F1 engine worries heading to Monza

Next article

Ricciardo hopes "easy" Hulkenberg gets F1 seat after Renault exit

Ricciardo hopes "easy" Hulkenberg gets F1 seat after Renault exit
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Author Adam Cooper
What the Spain result tells F1 about the next phase of the Mercedes/Red Bull title fight Plus

What the Spain result tells F1 about the next phase of the Mercedes/Red Bull title fight

OPINION: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have recovered from their pre-season woes to take three wins from the opening four races of 2021. But each time Red Bull and Max Verstappen have pushed them hard. So, what clues did the latest round of that battle – the Spanish Grand Prix – tease about the next stage of the season?

How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner Plus

How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner

The Brabham BT46B raced once, won once, then vanished – or did it? STUART CODLING reveals the story of the car which was never actually banned…

Formula 1
May 11, 2021
The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle Plus

The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle

Formula 1’s visits to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over recent years have been met with familiar criticisms despite tweaks here and there to the track to improve racing. With the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix largely going the same way, proper solutions need to be followed to achieve F1’s wider targets

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Often described as Formula 1's laboratory, the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona gave the clearest demonstration yet of the pecking order in 2021. And it's the key discrepancies from that order which illuminate who is excelling, and who needs to hit the reset button

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
How Red Bull’s deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain Plus

How Red Bull’s deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain

An aggressive first corner move from Max Verstappen appeared to have set the Red Bull driver on course for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. But canny strategy from Mercedes - combined with the absence of Red Bull's number two from the lead group - allowed Lewis Hamilton to pull off a demoralising reversal

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
The toe-in-water origins of Lotus’s groundbreaking F1 journey Plus

The toe-in-water origins of Lotus’s groundbreaking F1 journey

In the first part of our history of Lotus, DAMIEN SMITH recalls how Formula 1 wasn’t an immediate priority for team founder Colin Chapman – but once he got a taste for it he just couldn’t stop…

Formula 1
May 9, 2021
How Hamilton’s qualifying record compares to Senna and Schumacher Plus

How Hamilton’s qualifying record compares to Senna and Schumacher

Lewis Hamilton has just become the first driver to record 100 world championship Formula 1 pole positions. Time to revisit a debate we discussed when he reached 150 front row starts in 2020.

Formula 1
May 8, 2021
Why sustainability is being mandated by F1 Plus

Why sustainability is being mandated by F1

Continuing to be socially acceptable as public views shift globally is vitally important to the future of motor racing, says PAT SYMONDS - especially in Formula 1, the championship that represents the technological peak

Formula 1
May 8, 2021