FIA set to reduce use of black-and-orange flag warnings after 2022 F1 controversies

FIA officials are likely to reduce the use of the black-and-orange flag warning following controversy over its use in several incidents during Formula 1’s 2022 season, Autosport has learned.

FIA set to reduce use of black-and-orange flag warnings after 2022 F1 controversies

Instead, the onus will be on the teams to ensure their cars remain operating in a safe manner even after sustaining damage in incidents and then prove this is the case to in-competition enquiries raised by the governing body.

The black-and-orange flag is used as an instruction to competitors ordering them to pit for repairs if they suffer damage and their continued participation is deemed unsafe, with drivers required to come in at the end of the lap after they receive the warning.

Its use in the 2022 season has made headlines since the 2022 US Grand Prix after the Haas team protested the results of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Alpine driver Fernando Alonso because it believed they had each finished the race while running with damage, contravening safety rules.

This followed Haas driver Kevin Magnussen receiving the black-and-orange flag instruction at three races earlier in 2022 – Canada, Hungary and Singapore – after he sustained damage to his front wing endplate in each of those races that left the part waving loose.

This was deemed unsafe by the FIA officials at those races and he duly came in for repairs.

But Haas was incensed, feeling it is being treated differently to other teams in this matter, when this did not happen for Perez in the race at Austin (his damaged endplate fell off five laps after his opening tour contact with Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas) and Alonso finished the race despite running for several laps with his right-side wing mirror bouncing loose and then falling off.

Haas’s protest against Perez was dismissed because Red Bull had supplied photos to the FIA to show the shorn endplate damage was not moving unsafely, which the FIA accepted and the stewards’ agreed with that call.

But the American squad’s protest against Alonso was initially found to be admissible and he was later handed a 30-second time addition that cost him his seventh-place finish last weekend.

That was later rescinded following a long saga into the decisions around why Haas’s protest was allowed to proceed in the first place.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

In the announcement that Alonso’s Austin penalty had been annulled, it was revealed that FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem had initiated a review into the future use of the black-and-orange flag.

Autosport understands that this has been enacted in unanimous agreement with the F1 teams and follows the Austin stewards declaring that they were “concerned” that Alonso was allowed to continuing circulating with his wing mirror hanging loose.

This is central to the controversy of the use of the black-and-orange flag in 2022, as the incidents involving Magnussen follow the wording of the rule around its usage in the FIA’s sporting code, but confusion and anger has followed after it was not shown to Alonso at the Circuit of the Americas.

The FIA’s International Sporting Code on the flag’s usage states: “This flag should be used to inform the driver concerned that his car has mechanical problems likely to endanger himself or others and means that he must stop at his pit on the next lap.

“When the mechanical problems have been rectified to the satisfaction of the chief scrutineer, the car may rejoin the race.”

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The black-and-orange flag usage was discussed at a meeting of the F1 team managers at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track ahead of opening practice for the 2022 Mexico City GP on Friday.

The ongoing discussion concerns how the flag will be used at coming events, with the understanding that officials will now be less inclined to automatically give the warning as F1 teams have so much data to prove a part, even if damaged, is not going to come suddenly become a safety problem.

This leaves F1 in a different arrangement with other categories covered by the ISC, where the corresponding lack of data means drivers may be running unaware they have damage and so the onus is on race officials to get them to stop for repairs to ensure safety.

It is understood that no rule changes for F1 are planned as a result of the FIA review, with the governing body instead set to leave the onus on the teams to ensure their cars are running in safe manners at all times – although it will step in and make immediate enquiries in cases where damage is clearly visible.

One problem with this approach could be where disagreements arise in how safe damaged cars continue to be following incidents such as Alonso’s with Lance Stroll at Austin, with competitors naturally inclined to push the limit of the rules and other teams likely to object to gain a competitive edge.

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