What do F1 flags mean? All 10 flags explained – from red to blue
We all know what the chequered flag means in Formula 1, but what are the other nine colours all about?
Even in the high-tech modern era of Formula One, the humble flag still plays a very important and necessary role in the running of a Grand Prix.
Used by marshals at every corner of the circuit, different coloured flags are waved to convey various pieces of information to drivers, ensuring the race is undertaken as smoothly and safely as possible.
The first recorded use of any flag was way back in 1906 when a chequered flag was used to indicate the end of the Glidden Tours (a very early form of motor racing) and a universal system has been in place ever since.
There are a multitude of different coloured flag, each with different meanings, and they are quickly identifiable so drivers and fans can understand what is happening.
RadioTimes.com brings you all you need to know about the ten flags currently used in F1.
The one synonymous with motor racing and the one every driver wants to see. The chequered flag is waved to indicate the end of a motor race and is first waved to the winning driver.
Normally an FIA (the sport’s governing body) official waves the flag but occasionally a celebrity will be given the honour – the likes of David Beckham and Serena Williams have done so before.
This is to indicate an upcoming hazard, such as a crash or a car that has pulled up due to a mechanical fault. Drivers must slow down and no overtaking is permitted until they have encountered a green flag.
Additionally, if there are double-waved yellow flags then drivers should be expected to slow down significantly or potentially stop. This is for more serious incidents.
The green flag is waved to drivers who have bypassed the yellow flag zone. It is also used to indicate an incident has been cleared. Drivers will then return to normal on-track conditions.
This is used for when an incident is serious enough for the session to be halted. Generally, it is waved when there is a crash so serious that a driver needs to be extracted from the car or when multiple cars are involved and the clear-up operation will visibly take time. Drivers are instructed to slow down for the rest of the lap and head to the pit lane.
More like this
Inclement weather conditions can also lead to the red flag being deployed. Officials may take the decision to suspend the session if torrential rain means the action cannot proceed safely.
The blue flag is used when a fast car approaches a slower car to “lap” them – meaning their pace advantage has seen them complete an extra lap in the same session. The slower car must yield after the flag has been waved or face a penalty.
Red and yellow striped flag
Otherwise known as the oil flag, this is used to warn drivers of an upcoming slippery surface, usually due to an oil leak from another car. It can also be used to warn of any standing water on the track so drivers can prepare to slow down more than they usually would.
Black and orange circle flag
When a car has a mechanical problem which could potentially endanger them or anyone else, the black and orange flag (sometimes called the “meatball flag”) is waved to the driver in question, along with the number of their car, so they know to return to the pit lane.
This is often for any loose bits of trim (front wing, rear wing, etc) that could fly off the car.
If the mechanics can fix the car to a satisfactory level, then the driver will be allowed to rejoin the circuit.
Black and white diagonal flag
This is a “warning” flag to drivers for unsportsmanlike conduct, such as dangerous driving, overtaking under yellow flag conditions, or exceeding track limits.
Again, it will also be accompanied by the driver’s car number.
A rare sight these days but a black flag is waved to drivers who seriously breach the sporting regulations or ignore previous warnings and flags. The driver in question must come into the pits and end their participation in the session, akin to a red card in football.
The last recorded use of this was in the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix when Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella were both shown black flags for leaving the pit lane under red light conditions.
Amazingly, in 1969, Al Pease was disqualified from the Canadian Grand Prix for driving too slowly!
This is to warn drivers that a slow moving vehicle is on the circuit such as a tow truck or an ambulance. It is also used at the end of practice sessions where drivers will commonly pull up on the grid and practice their launches ahead of a race.