Should blue flags be banned? (Poll)

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Do the world's best racers really need the slower cars to wave them past?

I mentioned the other day that I thought one way to improve racing in F1 would be to get rid of blue flags during races, which force cars that are about to be lapped to get out of the leaders’ way.

There were some strong opinions for and against the idea, so I thought it deserved an article of its own. Do you think blue flags should go? Read the arguments for and against below and cast your vote.

Should blue flags be banned in F1?

  • No, not at all (38%)
  • Not entirely - the rules should be relaxed (30%)
  • Yes (31%)

Total Voters: 3,805

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The rule

The FIA International Sporting Code gives an innocent enough explanation for the use of the blue flags:

The flag should normally be shown to a car about to be lapped and, when shown, the driver concerned must allow the following car to pass at the earliest opportunity.
Appendix H to the International Sporting Code, article (d)

The interpretation of the rules applied in F1 makes life very easy for the leaders. Once the driver to be lapped has been shown a blue flag for the first time they must yield before passing two further blue flags. As marshal’s posts are quite close together, in practice this means pulling over almost immediately.

A better version of the rule

This is the toughest rule for lapped cars in any racing series I can think of. Watch an IndyCar race and you can see how well not having blue flags works. It keeps the leaders’ progress in check.

In F1 a leader passing a backmarker is mundane and uninteresting – in IndyCar the ability to work through traffic quickly is a vital skill the leader must possess. It also provokes strategy changes – a driver catching a bunch of three or four cars may opt to make an early pit stop.

Remember we’ve seen some of F1’s best ever passes when a leader hesitated behind a backmarker, allowing his pursuer to sweep past them both – think Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna at the Hungaroring in 1989.

There’s much discussion at the moment about why F1 often fails to produce exciting races and I think the blue flag rule plays a significant, but subtle, role.


At Bahrain we saw once again how F1 cars are incapable of following another one closely because of their sensitivity to the aerodynamic wake and hot exhaust gases of the leading car.

Designers optimise their cars to work best in clean air. But would that be the case if the front runners knew lapped cars weren’t going to scurry out of their path as soon as they catch them, and they might have to spend a lap or two finding a way past?

I suspect we would see them going to the grid with larger radiators and other changes to allow them to follow other cars more closely.

As far as encouraging closer and more entertaining racing goes, that’s the Holy Grail.


The Fontana problem

We all remember how Ferrari leant on Norberto Fontana, in his Ferrari-engined Sauber, to hold up Jacques Villeneuve during the 1997 title decider, and no-one wants to see such egregiously unsportsmanlike conduct.

Getting rid of the blue flag rule could allow that sort of thing to happen again.

I say

Get rid of blue flags or keep them? It’s a ‘lesser of two evils’ call – and I’m broadly in favour of getting rid of them.

I can only think of a few similar incidents of the Fontana types. Repeats can be prevented with stern words in the drivers’ briefing and vigorous stewarding.

And if we’re going to talk about abuses arising from not having blue flags, we must acknowledge that having them isn’t foolproof either. On some occasions over-zealous marshals have forced drivers to yield positions when they shouldn’t have to.

The way I see it, F1 currently has an extreme interpretation of the blue flag rule which should be revised but not pushed to the opposite extreme. We do not want to see backmarkers aggressively defending their position from the race leaders.

I think there’s a lot to be gained from relaxing the blue flags rule. It would cause some complaints if it were changed tomorrow, but if it focuses people’s minds on how to make F1 cars follow each other more closely then that’s a good thing.

You say

Made your mind up on blue flags? Cast your vote above and have your say in the comments below.

Read more: The Blue Flag Debate

Image (C) Lotus F1

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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186 comments on “Should blue flags be banned? (Poll)”

  1. I’ve raced karts in endurance races for quite a while, and we never get blue flags. Occasionally we get the problem of aggressive backmarkers ruining our races by defending, but it’s the same for everyone. If we can put up with it, then surely 24 of the best drivers in the world can.

    1. BarneyDaGumble
      23rd March 2010, 0:40

      Oh come on, it’s silly to compare karting to F1, there is virtually no comparison. It’s not a question of the drivers not being good enough to pass, it’s a matter of the modern cars design which makes passing in normal conditions almost impossible.

      I’m not belittling you or any other karters, but to suggest that F1 drivers should be able to cope without blue flags because karters can is crazy

      1. “It´s a matter of the moden cars design which makes passing … almost impossible”.
        That´s what Keith is hinting at: get rid of the blue flags and the cars will be design differently to be able to pass…

        1. LehonardEuler
          23rd March 2010, 14:43

          No, front cars won’t be redisigned to be able to pass lapped cars. If a car is fast enough, having blue flags or not, they won’t bother to have it easier to lap a car.
          Think, in terms of design, is not a matter of modifing something to be fast in clean air and in turbulent air. Is one thing or the other, with a huge lap time gap in between. That redesign won’t happen.

          Ok, now assume we’ve got blue flags banned. Move on to Monaco GP. What would happen if there’s a 3 to 4 sec slower car in the back, holding the leaders? The best technology sport being defined by the worst car in the field… I don’t think so.

          1. good point well put… which makes me want to bring up the track design argument again…

            F1 has grown beyond the tracks of old, but really a little bit of all of these ideas need to be implemented for it to re-establlish itself not only as the top sport, but the most entertaining. Which it isn’t at the moment (GT1, Touring cars, MOTOGP, all produce more exciting races).

          2. Lehonard, you make the mistake of assuming that car designers are responsible for such changes. They are not. FIA has been making design rules for years and they could easily make another one. Like changing the rule for the underbody and instead of a flat bottom, to allow the same tunnel design used on GP2 cars. The GP2 have no problem with grip loss when close behind another car.

            That would allow faster cars to pass lower cars a lot more easily, and do away with this sissy ass rule.

            lapped cars are part of racing, and if a driver cannot pass a slower car on the track, then he deserves to be stuck behind him

      2. Kart racing is as close as you get to F1 racing. It’s one of the things that F1 drivers do to keep their race craft honed when they can’t get into an F1 car. I can’t believe you have an active interest in this sport and can say what you’ve just said!

        Don’t get me wrong. I am not offended by your disparaging comments about Karting. I am just amazed at your lack of knowledge on the subject.

        1. I’m amazed by your lack of knowledge of F1 and the difference to karting. ;-)

        2. Karting may be close to F1 because of it being very physical etc but the vehicles are worlds apart in my opinion.

      3. My point was not that karting and F1 are the same, but that F1 SHOULD be as exciting as karting. At the moment it isn’t, and one way to make it more exciting would be to remove blue flags. I agree that at the moment the cars are hard to pass. But it’s not impossible. The point being that the best drivers are the ones who can do the passing, and these would be the drivers who win the races,

      4. i think getting rid of blue flags would be great to get rid of for 3 reasons it would create more overtaking and would make more entenment, so exsample if they get it wrong and crash in to the backmarker. and my thinrd and final reason is tht it might mess up there startergy making onother person win and all these things would wreck the racing it would create more racing, well thts my veiw… p.s im 12 with is why some of the spelling might be wrong, lol

      5. Actually Barney blue flags are FIA answer to their silly technical regulations, and a wasy of giving in to car designers who insist on designing car that aren’t woth crap when they get behind another car

        The were no sissy free passes until this rule was introduced on 2001. Formula One was a hell of a lot better for 50 years before that when the blue flag was only an informational and safety tool

        Take away this stupid rule and re-instate the blue flag as an informational flag only

    2. “but it’s the same for everyone.”
      – No, it’s not. In F1 at least.

      A Ferrari powered backmarker would hinder Ferrari’s opposition and help the Ferrai drivers. If the backmarker is a friend of Hamilton, he would help him, but hinder Button. If one driver has more friends among other drivers, he will have it easier than the guy who has fewer.

      “Should blue flags be banned?” seems to me as just another desperate attempt at ‘improving’ F1 without tackling the direct problem, and is not less ridiculous than ideas like mandatory pit-stops, option tyres, weight handicaps, reversing qualifying grid etc.

      1. Au contraire, unlike the other ideas that are, yes, superficial, as Keith explained banning blue flags (or restricting their use) would actually force designers to make their cars able to follow other cars (so they can actually pass backmarkers more easily).

        Or would you rather radiator size, front wing size, etc. be regulated as now, and designers trying to evade the rules as much as possible?

        1. You forget that, when the field is as close as it has been for the last couple years, designers can’t sacrifice 0.1s/lap to allow for a car to more easily follow other cars because all that will happen is that they can’t catch the field because they don’t have the speed and they don’t have the qualifying position. All it will help with is working their way through the backmarkers after an early pitstop, who are so slow that almost anyone can pass them at will.

          The easiest and quickest fix to the overtaking problem will occur through one of three mechanisms:
          1) Banning of front and/or rear wings (lol)
          2) Relaxation of the technical rules
          3) Radical change to the regulations, al la the “proposed” 2011 regulations with movable aero and turbo charged engines

          All of these ideas result in either:
          1) Races so slow that F1 will stop being the top openwheel sport (1)
          2) Races that are so fast that there could be large safety issues arrising (2/3)

          Take your pick.

          1. LOL – Easiest? Quickest?

            What on earth are you on? None of those are easy or quick, as you’d create mobile death traps or need to wait 12+ months for the results.

            Easiest/Quickest, is a new hard tyre so there are no marbles.
            Mandatory 2x pitstops so the drivers are free to attack as they know they don’t need to nurse the new hard tyres.
            Smaller/limited brake cooling to lengthen braking zones, without ruining banzai atack braking ability.
            Plug the holes that allow the double deck diffusers.
            Ban openings on wing elements (Stalling/vented elements banned)

            They are things that could be done now and quickly….new engines, removing all aero panels and technical blue sky’s are neither cheap nor quick!

          2. Mandatory 2x pitstops so the drivers are free to attack as they know they don’t need to nurse the new hard tyres.

            Didn’t work in DTM. Didn’t work in A1 Grand Prix. Won’t work in F1.

            It would just make it even less likely that drivers would try different strategies. We need to go in the opposite direction – get rid of the “top ten qualifiers start on the qualifying tyres” rule and get rid of the requirement to use both types of tyre during the race. That will encourage variety in strategies.

            Plus you have to suspect the reason Red Bull are pushing so hard for this is they expect it will give them an advantage.

          3. When I see people talk about “Relaxation of the technical rules” I start to yawn and drift off. You just know they didn’t think things trough properly suggesting something like that.

      2. I think there’s quite a clear difference between a backmarker defending and just taking their normal line. I’m sure that the driver will know that the driver behind is not fighting for position, and therefore it wouldn’t be too difficult to enforce a rule to say they’re not allowed to defend.

      3. Airborne Williams Cap
        23rd March 2010, 18:05

        I agree. If F1 becomes reliant on backmarkers to provide entertainment, then something is very wrong

        1. Crid [CridComment at gmail]
          23rd March 2010, 23:25

          What on Earth makes you think so? If they’re not part of the entertainment, why are they there?

        2. Backmarkers were the ONLY entertainment at Bahrain.

  2. Poor Norberto. Wront place at the wrong time.

    I really belive his views about it: Sauber told by Ferrari to block the Williams.

    And it wouldn’t surprise me. That race, Williams arranged something with Mclaren too.

    1. So what do you think about blue flags?

      1. Well, Keith. I shall tell you about blue flags. As someone that has done marshalling and timing and scoring for ALMS, Toronto-Indy and CGP (Montreal) as well as many local and national motorycle races and Formula Atlantic races (including a few JV and David Epringham races) I do not have the right to express an opinion.

        But, as a race fan, I feel I do have the right to express an opinion.

        If the driver/rider in question is impeding the flow of the natural recourse of the race, then they MUST be asked to step aside.

        Very seldom are blue flags required in bike racing, but when they are, it is a God send.

        A race is a sprint. Even if it is over twelve hours. No-one cares who came in twentieth.


        1. Of course you have the right to express your opinion. Where do you live? North Korea?

        2. As someone that has done marshalling and timing and scoring for ALMS, Toronto-Indy and CGP (Montreal)

          Cool! I’d love to hear more about that. Email heading your way…

          1. I previously threatened to write an article for you.

            As you may have noticed, I am not much of a wordsmith and do have a need to be edited. (I do go off on a rant, and do get miffed with minor details re: the Queen’s and anthropology!)

            But, if you are up to the task, I may just spew a life of Canadian marshalling, T&S and general race meeting support.

            Gosh help the person that may be entrusted with cleaning it up! LOL

          2. Editing holds no fear for me. I’ve worked on a student newspaper.

      2. I see the need for the blue flags BUT I see the problem with blue flags as well. I think they could be removed but that a driver deliberately blocking should risk being black flagged. When looking at any F1 race there is always movement at the back. Even in the last race that many called dull there was overtaking going on. Overtaking move of the race was probably Glock on Truli (why isn’t’s live timing lapchart working?).
        Kubica and Sutil ended up almost dead last after the incident they had they picked their way up the field unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of their race and there where no blue flags for them to help them forward. If a leader is 2-3 seconds a lap faster they to should be able to overtake the slower cars. I would think most drivers wouldn’t want to get in the way of a front runner unnecessarily in most cases but say if Ferrari would lean on STR to block Mercedes as example and they would do then there need to be something to prohibit obvious blocking. How long is to long? A lap? half a lap? 3 corners? 2 laps? But the current that forces a driver to jump out of their way when blue flagged I do not see anything in the regs requiring “at earliest opportunity” don’t mean right away or completely move over in the corner.

      3. It’s a “No, not at all” for me.

        Everyone is concerned about team orders, about how one driver is forced to let their teammate through and hold up other drivers at the same time. Banning blue flags will definitely take this problem to a higher level. Inter-team order will be introduced. Let’s see, STR will be forced to move aside and let Red Bull through, Force India, to please their engine supplier, will probably let Mercedes through as well. And before we know it, F1 will be all about who please the backmarkers more since they will definitely play a huge role in all these nonsense. I mean you can’t just introduce a ban and not expect the teams to make full use of it.

        Besides that, banning blue flags will make the flow of the race unnatural since the cars being lapped aren’t suppose to be there in the first place. They’re suppose to be right at the back where the leaders can’t see, not in front of them slowing them down!

        I say to leave the blue flags rule as it is. Banning blue flags to improve racing is just looking at the small picture of things and will only cause more problems then it solve. Not that it solves any in the first place.

        I don’t usually leave comment because my English is not that great and I mostly agree with what Keith says anyway. But this I have to. It’s time I voice out my opinion anyway. I followed this blog since ’07 and the number of comments I left can be counted with my fingers. I am ashamed.

      4. i think the blue flags are okay.

        Slow cars must not have part deciding the race. The leaders’ cars must.

        I would be very ****** off if a HRT gets in the way of a Red Bull or a Ferrari changing the outcome of the race.

      5. I think only the the blue flag rule should stay, but the LEADER should be the only car not allowed to be blue-flagged past a slower car.
        this would allow 2nd,3rd.. placed cars to catch up to the leader!

  3. I think that it should be banned unless a backmarker is blatantly blocking a car one of the leading cars. Race stewards should decide whether or not they should be waved.

    1. Maybe give a warning and a black flag for excessive blocking, but otherwise no blue flag?

      1. RandomChimp
        23rd March 2010, 7:43

        What’s excessive blocking though? Weaving in breaking zones etc.? And isn’t that already frowned upon by stewards?

        1. Anything more than one blocking move by a driver out of the running is “excessive”. They should not be asked to move aside but should be less aggressive than if they were battling for position.

  4. I think this can cut both ways. On the one hand it would make things more exciting with leaders having to work hard to pass backmarkers, which would improve the ‘show’ ..albeit artificially.

    The real issue is track design not allowing drivers to pass eachother easily. Removing the blue flags might work at Spa or Monza where passing is relatively straightforward. But what happens at Monaco or Albert Park? I think back to Bernoldi holding up Coulthard for most of the Monaco GP in 2001..

    1. Why would removing the blue flag be improving it artificially!?!? Racing is about passing people be it for position or not. I think its more artificial making them move over.

      For me I cant see any positives for the blue flag rule. Never liked it, but sadly I cant see it going.

    2. There are chances at Melbourne for overtaking, and given the difference in pace (some 20kph) between the fastest and slowest, this shouldnt be a problem for the front runners.

      I do agree about Monaco though, and to a degree Hungary and Valencia. These tracks are pretty tight.

    3. Bernoldi and Coulthard were fighting for position, after Coulthard stalled on the grid from pole.

      1. That must be one of F1’s most frequently forgotten facts.

        1. Ahh yes, I stand corrected!

          But the point still stands – the car that was good enough to get onto pole, couldnt get past someone significantly slower, thereby impeding their progress!

        2. Not least by Coulthard himself, who complained about it after the race.

    4. Interesting that you use the word ‘artificial’. To my mind it seems artificial that the rules force backmarkers to dive out of the way of the leaders, which obviously isn’t how they’d behave normally and isn’t what we see in other forms of racing. I’d say the present rule is artificial.

      1. Agreed. And even in Monaco it will still be possible to overtake, if one car is that much faster that he is lapping someone else.

        This also does not change the fact that it would still be wise for the backmarker to give way as both cars will be losing time relative to everyone else on track. Remember, backmarkers can be fighting for positions too (imagine how stoked Bruno and Karun would be to finish the Aussie GP ahead of the Lotus and Virgin drivers with their HRT!).

      2. Keith? I appreciate your opinions but feel you may have fallen short on this topic.

        During a marathon the last few kilometres are normally held in an enclosed area (laps) then one or two circuits are held within the Stadia.

        If a lad was far behind during the running of the course but impeded a potential winner, should one feel this was a fair and decent result?

        Second is first of the losers. Sorry about ones circumstance.

        Many have discussed the paucity of overtaking in F1. There are many theories.

        Aero’s are obvious. Why do the teams not wish to change? Advertising!

        Yet, during the ‘ground-effects’ era, many teams ran without front wings of substance.

        I say that the FIA mandates aeros from the axles front and the axles rear.

        The bespoke wings shall allow customer signage and FIA tuning for greater on track activity.

        Then, the FIA may address the tyre provider as to the mechanical grip of such tyres (as you have said previously).

        The tyres would obviously last a race distance, but why not a race meeting?

        Easier aeros and less mechanical grip provides greater passing.

        We can not go back to manual shifting as that genie was long ago let go from the F1 bottle. Heck, even my septuagenarian maw has paddle shift on her latest motor.

        1. Actually, *mechanical* grip promotes closer racing. Otherwise I’m with you!

          1. ….except when you’re forced onto the marbles….

      3. Getting the back marker to move aside because the leader is coming up to them artificial.

        But then, why should the front runner be penalised because the slowest drivers cant stay on the lead lap – hence the artificial aspect!

        I say its better to ruin the fight for 23rd and 24th than the fight for points.

    5. I think overtaking backmarkers is part of the sport, when you race on a closed loop (they have this in all sports with a closed circuit).

      I saw nice battles for the lead in the past, where one of the leading drivers had more trouble getting past backmarkers, and the guys chasing him could get make a go at him for the lead after being cleverer (or more lucky).
      Also the front drivers might react in their pit-stop strategy if they catch say a HRT after 10-15 laps of albert partk.
      When you look at the lap times of Kovi for Bahrain, there are enormous jumps in laptime for him having to let the leaders by, not to mention the Hülk getting past him after a blue flag for a front runner. This means, that by coming to the back of the pack early, a driver loses a lot of time and cannot fight his way back to the front any more.

      So i would like to get rid of the blue flags in normal circumstanses, using it only to warn in blatantly obvious situations or maybe at critical points of certain tracks (Monaco, …) – this could be discussed with the drivers before the race.

  5. I feel that blue flags should be relaxed but not entirely dismissed.

    The main problem with not having blue flags in my books is that it could ruin a leaders race and make artifical racing. How many times have we seen a gap that a leader built up be ruined by an over zealous backmarker? In my books, allowing a backmarker to battle a leader is the same articial racing as forcing teams to use both types of tyres in a race.

    That being said, I do feel that the backmarkers shouldn’t basically park themselves off line to allow the leaders through. It should be a battle, but not one that could comprimse a race

    My solution? Why not settle for a comprimse that says that the backmarkers need not go off the racing line when a leader comes up behind them, but should they go for a passing move, they should go by unimpeeded. That way, it provides the potential for excitement, allows for a strategic move to be called upon, and it means we won’t have an otherwise flawless performance from a driver ruined by sheer luck.

    However, seeing a backmarker overtake a leader, ala Eddie Irvine on Senna, would be an instant classic.

    1. Why not settle for a compromise that says that the backmarkers need not go off the racing line when a leader comes up behind them, but should they go for a passing move, they should go by unimpeded.

      Sounds good to me.

      1. Or, what if instead of 3 blue flags, allow the drivers one lap to let the leader by from the corner they are shown the blue flag.

        Perhaps too difficult to police? I am against dropping the blue flag entirely tho, but do remember the days it was a skill to cut thru the backmarkers – even as recently as the Shumi/Hakkinen battles.

      2. That’s the only feasable answer, Keith.

        Keep the blue flags for blatant obstruction of faster ( lapping ) cars but definitely allow a ( brief ) proper fight to take place every time.

        Winners should should have to fight all the way for their wins. And as you said earlier, allowing some opposition to take place would give the teams’ high-tech boys, obsessed with fabulous aero packages, something serious to think about.

        So, keep the blue flags but relax the rigid rules.

    2. I agree with sojcarter.

      The faster car should attempt to overtake on the dirty side. This challenges their ability to overtake too.

      I imagine a backmarker on the racing line with the leader diving down the inside. Then yes, the backmarker should not attempt to block but the leader will still have to work hard to pass this backmarker.

      So the waved blue flags should just warn the backmarker there’s a fast car behind and be aware that he might make a move, and its purely up to the fast car to decide when to make the passing move.

    3. LehonardEuler
      23rd March 2010, 17:14

      Something like “racing the ghost” in the Gran Turismo series? I think that is the spirit of the rule, but we have to understand that when it gets complicated, it’s natural to “force” the last cars to let past the leaders.

  6. William Wilgus
    22nd March 2010, 22:52

    IMHO, the Blue Flags aren’t used enough: they should also be shown to a clearly slower car even if it isn’t about to be lapped.

    Aside from larger radiators which would only address the problem of over-heating, how would one design a car to have aero down-force in the dirty wake of a car? There’s no way. The only answer is to eliminate the wings.

    Finally, you can’t compare over-taking on an oval course with over-taking on a road course: apples and oranges!

    1. Indy car last race was Sao Paulo street circuit exactly like F1 circuits meaning a like for like comparison.

      1. In fact ovals account for less than half of the circuits on the IndyCar calendar now and have for the last couple of seasons.

        This year they have eight ovals and nine non-ovals, five of which are road courses, the other four street tracks.

        1. Theres hope for the series yet…

          1. I think it’s a good mix. Wish they’d race on a greater variety of ovals though – too many short ones, would like to see some superspeedways back on there like Michigan. And they need to get Laguna Seca, Portland and Road America in there.

  7. Mike "the bike" Schumacher
    22nd March 2010, 22:52

    They should definitely NOT be banned. They are needed now more than ever which such a large gap between the field.
    Generally a blue flag won’t effect a drivers race anyway because he isn’t going to score any points.

    1. But I seen driver moving over for front runner that been in battle with another driver and and the driver he was in fight with manage to slip by in the wake of the front runner. Most of the time these drivers are not driving for points. Last year last lapped driver was Lewis Hamilton whom finished 9th today that would been a points paying position. Glock 10th and Kubica 11th. Imagine how upsetting it would be for one of these three drivers if two of them where in battle ending up getting passed by the other driver during a blue flag period (front 4 drivers finished 19sec apart last non lapped was 65sec behind on a 1min 37sec lap so by guessing Hamilton,Glock, Kubica might been lapped by 4 drivers so 4 chances for someone they might battled behind to slip passed grabbing 10th or 9th.
      Fair? No.

  8. Imagine blue flags are done away with tomorrow, I can already here some of the front runners saying, no complaining that they can’t get close while following in the slower car’s dirty air.

    Maybe just relax the rules a bit in case a backmarker is blatently holding up the faster car.

    Otherwise let them race…. they are supposed to be the best after all!

  9. Jarred Walmsley
    22nd March 2010, 23:06

    I think the best way to go about it is to allow racing to happen between the grid and only show the blue flag if the car is dangerously slow. E.g. a blue flag wouldn’t be shown to a Red Bull if it spun and had to go into the pits for damage to be repaired and as such went a lap down, as it has the ability to be much faster than that and can move up the grid. On a side not did either of the Lotuses get lapped at bahrain and if so by whoo and how many laps in?

    1. Kovalainen was lapped twice, Trulli three times:

      2010 Bahrain Grand Prix result

  10. surely a race leader can pass back markers if they have passed everyone else? get rid of blue flags and let racers race like they are paid to do!

  11. I think they should do away with the blue flags as they are being used at the moment: a free pass for the leaders to pass slower cars. I mean, the hint is in the reference, they are supposed to be slower cars and if you can’t pass them then surely there is a more serious issue with the design of the cars.

    Instead, I think they should be used in cases like the one highlighted in the article where unsportsmanlike behaviour is set to ruin the results of a fair race. Then waving a blue flag to force the obstacle racer to let the car behind pass would actually help improve the spectacle. It would be a judgement call and we all know how they can go both ways, but it’s much better than what we have at the moment. No racing and indeed drivers saying they’re not driving all-out because they are too concerned with saving the tires.

    1. The hint is in the reference, they are supposed to be slower cars and if you can’t pass them then surely there is a more serious issue with the design of the cars.

      Well said.

      1. Nathan Bradley
        23rd March 2010, 14:57

        Definately agree with that, let’s hope the ban on double diffusers from next year helps. Also like the comprimise suggested above by sojcarter.


      2. Nathan Bradley
        23rd March 2010, 16:00

        Keith, how do you quote somebody so the text comes up different, I’ve just quoted Ranilom below and it hasn’t come up any different, or is that something only you can do?



      3. LehonardEuler
        23rd March 2010, 16:25

        For teams nowadays, design is a bet to be on top, or (almost) nothing. If a car fails to be the first one, then it will be slower than any others before it, even if it’s considerably fast in clean air. It’s the prisoner’s dilemma…
        That’s the situation that we see in every race, and it could be intensified if cars that are further on the back can present some trouble to the leaders.
        I think blue flags should stay for the same reason refueling is banned this year: To avoid uninteresting situations from defining the race result.
        With refueling, most races were defined in the pits, whereas without blue flags it could be forced to be defined in the pits again, or in a overtake maneuver that makes a driver gain no points at all… when the new points system is supposed to encourage a pass-for-points philosophy.
        I think it could be suitable under other (and very different) sporting regulations, but I don’t think of it as a rule for F1, because of its implications: Slower cars legitimately defining race results.

    2. Agree !First we need to solve the issue HOW to Overtake with modern F1.
      Than we can talk to review the rules of the blue flag.
      Ban the blue flag now and we could be watching a colorful train made of 30+ wagons….Right??

      1. I suppose there would be at least one of them bound to take that great opportunity of making up say 3-5 places in 1 go!

        The field would be together like behind a safety car, but with no rules limiting the overtaking. I would actually like to see that for once.

      2. Nathan Bradley
        23rd March 2010, 15:57

        Ban the blue flag now and we could be watching a colorful train made of 30+ wagons….Right??

        We could be, but as has been mentioned before, if the ‘faster’ cars really are that much faster than the ‘slower’ cars then the skilled drivers in those faster cars should be able to effect a good (and more exciting than blue flags) passing move within a maximum of a couple of laps, shouldn’t they?


        P.S. I’m not suggessting drivers in slower cars aren’t skilled, everyone has to have skill to get into F1 in the first place!

  12. i’m inclined to agree with keith. no blue flags will emphasize driver ability while hampering the leaders’ ability to simply check out, victory in hand. i’ll take this opportunity to continue beating the anti-aero drum. as for overheating, that is a choice made by the teams in the construction and prep of the cars, and no further rules to regulate it should be imposed (as if another rule would work as intended :( )

  13. I like the idea of getting rid, purely so that cars would have to be designed to run better in dirty air. As someone on another blog pointed out, making the air from the car infront laminar is a bit of the tail wagging the dog.

  14. I think getting rid of the blue flags is not a bad idea at all, especially in a season where the discrepancies between cars seem more substantial than we’ve seen in a little while.

    Backmarkers should be able to choose whether to yield as quickly as possible or defend (which will cost time to both cars). It would add that extra variable to some races, and would encourage leading drivers to keep aggressive or switch strategies. Keith’s example from the Senna x Mansell battle is perfect, because Mansell had the ‘good fortune’ to catch Senna and the backmarker (was it Stefan Johannson?) at the right time and place on the track, and had the balls to pull one of the most exciting manouvres I can remember. Hakkinen’s move in Spa 2000 was similarly breathtaking, but blue flags were already in use then.

    But I believe the problem runs deeper. Banning blue flags would be absolutely no problem if it wasn’t so difficult for drivers to follow other cars closely. I think the diffuser ban for next year is a wise move, but it should be followed by other rule changes that specifically prevent devices that disturb the air excessively. Then we can just leave the best drivers to do what they do best.

  15. theRoswellite
    22nd March 2010, 23:43

    It is certainly tempting to do anything to the rules that would improve the car-to-car “racing”, however I’m afraid it might have some untoward effects.

    When a leader comes up behind a slower car, but the track is nearly impossible to pass on…Monaco, in the rain? If the leader becomes desperate, and takes himself and perhaps the slower car out…is that the result we want? Or what if the slower car simply holds up the entire race…? If you think people are complaining now about a lack of passing, wait till we all watch the leading cars unable to get around a midfield car…that is not required to move over…lap after lap after lap!

    And what if a leader comes up behind his teammate, who moves over…certainly you can’t legislate that a driver can’t give way if he wants to…then the teammate refuses to give way for the cars which are following. I believe that would be a fairly blatant case of rigging the race outcome, but with no standard blue flag rule how are you going to say that something illegal has been done.

    Now if you say, well common sense needs to prevail…if a car is holding up the entire race he should be given the blue flag; then exactly when should he be shown that blue flag..after one lap…after 10 laps, or perhaps after most of the leading cars have been bunched up?

    And, will the interpretation of the blue flag be up to the stewards of the race or the FIA, which is to say will we have massive interpretive variations in the rules application from race to race?

    It is presently very difficult for the cars, on many of the tracks, to pass, I’m not sure I would want to create any conditions which promote unsafe attempts to pass…out of frustration.

    But, who knows? This no passing thing has been going on for so long it is making me crazy. Maybe we need large bumpers on the cars and toss out the rule book…..?

    But, perhaps I’m being

    1. Amen, Roswell (Seemingly my response was too short for a post, so I am blithering on now to please the post bot).

  16. John Stevens
    22nd March 2010, 23:51

    They should not wave blue-flags move have lapped cars move over totally like they do now. They should however relax the rule, so that the lapping cars must pass, but the lapped cars may not defend.

    This will allow the lapped cars to remain a little bit longer in their race-lines, and not loose too much time while being lapped, and at the same time, it will require some skills from the driver lapping, to cut through the traffic, without loosing too much time.

  17. Ban this, ban that… maybe we should ban qualification and start using some crazy roulette?

  18. Mouse_Nightshirt
    23rd March 2010, 0:20

    I think it would be a sad, sad day for F1 if we have so little overtaking between drivers racing for position, that we have to rely on watching the leaders battle past lapped cars for entertainment. Would anyone really get a thrill watching a Ferrari, Red Bull or McLaren “scythe their way through” a HRT?

    This is a thoroughly inane, pointless and laughable idea for F1 to consider. F1 and IndyCar are completely different animals and I see no reason to “dumb down” races so heavily.

    1. I think they dumbed down races when they started telling backmarkers to dive out of the way of the leaders.

      Thinking back to 1988, when the McLaren were so much quicker than everyone else it was a joke, Senna’s ability to cut through the backmarkers quicker than Prost played a big part in him winning the championship.

      Getting through traffic quickly is as valuable a part of a racing drivers’ ability as doing a quick lap on low fuel or looking after the tyres early in a stint.

      1. “Thinking back to 1988, when the McLaren were so much quicker than everyone else it was a joke, Senna’s ability to cut through the backmarkers quicker than Prost played a big part in him winning the championship.”

        Isn’t that ability of cutting through traffic one of the things that got him so many poles as well?
        He was just able to go out there in those frantic last minutes of quali and lay down a lap while cutting through traffic?

        1. Occasionally, but Senna’s ability to get the timing of his pole lap just right (so he didn’t encounter traffic) should probably take more of the credit.

          1. Cool, thanks.
            I was only 7 when Senna died, and probably only saw him race 2 or 3 times as the only GP to be shown at a decent time for me as a youngan was the Aus GP…

      2. Guilherme Teixeira
        23rd March 2010, 13:22

        If I recall correctly, Senna only won that championship because Porst was badly damaged by the “best results count” rule. His raw results were much better than Senna’s.

        1. They both knew how the championship points system worked heading into the season. Prost knew he had to stop Senna from winning so many races, he just couldn’t do it.

    2. I 100% agree with you.

      1. that was a reply to Mouse_Nightshirt no idea why it appeared here.

        1. Because there was already one reply, which itself had further replies, so this one appeared beneath them.

  19. Vincent1972
    23rd March 2010, 0:21

    I voted no for now…
    But if it will be complemented with other rule changes (like aero, stewarding, etc.) maybe I’ll reconsider. :)

  20. Vincent1972
    23rd March 2010, 0:23

    Great poll! Yes and No are tied at 164 and not entirely is just behind with 143. No Majority. :)

    1. True, but taking options one and two together we have almost two-thirds in favour of changing the rule.

      1. Just to ask a daft question….If all the
        current aero was removed from F1 cars allowing
        drivers to follow the car(s)in front, nose
        to tail, in virtually any situation on track

        …what would modern F1 cars look like… ?

        1. Do a Google image search on “formula ford” and find out.

  21. They should try relaxing the rules. The current signalling seems to work well, just change the consequences of driving past a blue flag.

    9 times out of 10, the guy being lapped will be sensible, but any blocking and the stewards can be on the case straight away. The leader and his boss will probably be squealing on the radio anyway.

    Stewards are much better equipped these days to judge individual cases – more camera angles, clearer pictures, defined penalties etc – and, of course, they have an ex-driver among them. Prost said the Bahrain was a “quiet” race as a steward…this would give him something to do!

  22. BarneyDaGumble
    23rd March 2010, 1:05

    I’m afraid I think this is a daft idea. In an ideal F1 world, it would of course be great. Leading cars would have to prove they deserved to get past backmarkers, drivers would have to learn how to overtake on a regular basis, we’d see excellent defensive driving from drivers in weaker cars.

    But this ideal F1 world does not exist- F1 is seriously flawed, and until those problems are resolved banning blue flags would be suicidal. Overtaking is so difficult these days, and the cars so evenly matched (new teams aside) that races would inevitably descend to farce, with cars touring round in trains stuck behind a slower car in front.

    It would also be really difficult to regulate. Imagine some of the driver incidents that have gone to the stewards in recent seasons. Then imagine if one of these incidents occurred between drivers on different laps- are the stewards expected to treat both cars equally, even if one is leading the race? The stewards are useless enough as it is, through a few lapping incidents into the mix and they’d probably just self destruct

    1. Overtaking is so difficult these days, and the cars so evenly matched (new teams aside) that races would inevitably descend to farce, with cars touring round in trains stuck behind a slower car in front.

      But the cars that are the closest match on performance for the leaders aren’t going to get lapped much anyway. In fact at Bahrain the only driver outside of the new teams to get lapped with Nico Hülkenberg, and that was only because he spun early on and had an extra pit stop.

      Admittedly that was on an unusually long and slow circuit, but the next driver was still another 15 or so seconds up the road.

      1. BarneyDaGumble
        23rd March 2010, 13:21

        I see what you mean, but I don’t think the Bahrain GP was particularly representative of what will happen in other races this season. Like you say it was a very long circuit, most other lap times will be about 30 seconds or more shorter.

        Also, there were virtually no incidents of note, other than Hulkenberg, Sutil and Kubica spinning. If a few drivers ended up with terrible tyre graining or a pit stop to change a front wing or something as usual, there were would be lots more backmarkers

  23. One important point (and that´s why I´m in favour of the blue flags): how do you control that all backmarkers behave exactly the same towards all the leaders? For example, a STR might be less aggressive in defending his position if lapped by a RB than a Mercedes…

    1. That’s simply a part of racing. You come across a stubborn car, you deal with it. And the car behind you has to deal with it eventually as well.

      1. What is a part of racing? That a driver is more stubborn in defending against some driver than against others? My point was: it should be guaranteed that all backmarkers defend against all other cars equally strong, which can´t be guaranteed. Look at the example: a lapped Toro Rosso won´t let a Merc or Ferrary through easily, but won´t fight that much if it´s a Red Bull…

  24. Without wanting to sound arrogant, I don’t think the case for keeping the blue flags have much of a leg to stand on, not when you consider that it doesn’t have to be an either/or choice.

    Blue flags aren’t needed. If you’re fast enough top catch up to someone who was only a few hundred metres behind you at the start, you’re fast enough to pass them as if it were for position. It would also be another skill for a driver to need in his arsenal, something which in a car-oriented sport can only be a good thing.

    However, a ban would go too far. Instead, the rule needs to be relaxed in ways like sojcarter suggests; if a driver goes to lap another, the other driver should not try to defend the pass with any vigour, or he will be penalised. Similarly, in places like Monaco where overtaking is near-impossible, we could have blue flags waived at drivers under the guise of a safety rule, just as if a car was shedding bits onto the tracks the driver would be called in to have those bits removed before they ended up in someone else’s sidepod.

    I’d worry about abuses, but given how the stewards have given daft penalties for the lightest of transgressions, I don’t think there’s too much to worry about there (although they’ve also let blatant transgressions go unpunished, so who knows?).

  25. I think blue flag is ok.

  26. Had not thought of this idea. I think Keith makes a good case.
    If Indie can do it…. F1 could and should.

    I vote for ditching blue flags.

  27. Prisoner Monkeys
    23rd March 2010, 3:25

    I have no issue with the blue flags being abandoned. Sure, the front-runners might argue that they have the right to race for position, and they do, but they also happen to be in Formula 1, one of the most competitive forms of motorsport in the world. No-one ever said it was going to be easy. If they think they’ll have trouble lapping a backmarker in a straight fight, they probably shouldn’t be in the sport full stop.

  28. Perhaps relax the rule and have blue flags shown only if the car in front is not racing for position with another lapped car and has been impeding progress for more than a lap? Because honestly, it seems more fair to allow two lapped cars to duke it out in front of a leader than to tell them to suddenly “hit pause” on their own race.

    And for those worried that drivers will unfairly block the leaders, keep in mind that those who have in the past are NOT very popular. I grew up on Indy cars and though sometimes lapped cars slowed the leaders down, those who appreciated good sportsmanship did their best to not get in the way. Those who did not tended to not be very well liked to put it nicely…

    Lapping backmarkers is indeed a skill and shouldn’t be nullified by preferential treatment.

  29. Thinking back to my karting days – which were about 320 years ago – the blue flag was only shown to indicate that a leading kart was approaching and about to lap you, that was it … not that I was ever shown a blue flag myself, of course … cough, cough, ahem.

    Backmarkers should be shown a blue flag to let them know that a FASTER, leading car is approaching and that’s it. Implement rules to stop backmarkers vehemently defending the position, but not to the extreme that we have now with cars almost stopping at the side of the track to let the leaders through.

    And it’s not artificial at all. It’s been a part of racing for as long as I can remember. I have fond memories of races (not just F1) when the leader lost time in traffic allowing the pursuing pack to catch-up a bit of time. If the pursuers were better at dealing with traffic, they gained an advantage, if not, the leader was home free.

  30. wong chin kong
    23rd March 2010, 5:17

    Ban on Blue flag? No, no way. Ban on refuelling already produced a long train of cars, drivers and spectators complaining boring race. A lap car without being force to make way for the leading car will make the procession even longer.

    1. Jarred Walmsley
      23rd March 2010, 6:18

      But it will make the race more exciting as the leader will be forced to overtake in order to extend the lead

  31. Well, maybe putting a lap limit could help. a leading driver can opt to pass back-marker or could wait; lets say a lap or more before the blue flag is waved. the blue flag lap would start were ever the two cars met (but a certain time split). I think that thanks to the advancements in telemetry data race control could accurately tell a steward when to wave the flag.

    that way the leader could risk staying on track, changing strategy or battling it out for those laps. This would also enable those behind to catch up or reduce the distance if the leader becomes stuck.

    surely strategy would play a big role once again, as teams could begin factoring at what point in the race they would begin catching up with those at the back and could (since the re-fulling ban) decide to start on the quicker tire compound to delay the process, risk managing the situation as it arise, or play it safe by waiting for the blue flag but allowing others to catch up.

  32. anakincarlos
    23rd March 2010, 6:49

    Keith I think you are on to something here. Its a great idea. Let the front runner fight for their dinner, and show us some skillfull overtaking.

  33. My only question about this plan is it for immediate effect, or for next year?

    If for this year the leaders should be able to slice through HRT/Virgin/Lotus and then get stuck on the back of an STR or whatever as the midfielders wouldn’t be slow enough to normally pass.

    That being said it would be interesting to watch Massa or Vettel claw through traffic as they seem to be only able too win runaway races from pole…

    And even if it is for next year will it really change anything in car design to make it worthwhile.

  34. As a driver I know that blue flags are great when you’re stuck behind someone slower that either doesn’t know you’re there or doesn’t care.

    The fan in me says the blue flags are just wrong, especially when they are inconsistently applied as they have often been in the past although they seem to be much better now.

    Time was when a blue flag was just to let a driver know someone was behind him. Now it means he’s behind and let him past.

    I think now we’re moving towards ex-drivers being with the stewards we could move to a more common sense approach. Deliberate blocking is not allowed but there is no requirement to jump out of the way and disadvantage yourself for the leader.

    Lets face it, Bahrain would have been much more exciting had Olivier Groulliard been out there as a mobile chicane for the leaders!

    1. Your right, let the stewards take an uncompromising stand towards drivers unneccisarily blocking leading cars when they could have let them pass their cars on a straight.

      With the drivers involved, i certainly hope to have more consistent and usefull ruling of those kind of moves.

      No need for slower cars fighting for on track positions and even trying to get into the points giving up an interesting fight to “park their cars” somewhere in a tight corner.

  35. Accidental Mick
    23rd March 2010, 8:03

    We do need the blue flags. If you are ever lucky enough to sit in a modern F1 car (even only a mock up) you will be amazed at how little the driver can see especially in the rear view mirrors. It is a safety issue.

    I do agree though that making the tail-ender move over immediately should be changed. (See the post from Pecker96, above.)

    1. Can’t we just make the mirrors bigger?

      I don’t think it’s an issue anyway – the drivers are constantly being told about this kind of thing on the pit-to-car radio.

    2. Well, the drivers were upset with these mirrors when first introduced. They already had a lot of effect with the crashes of Coulthard in his last year.
      I say ban the outboard mirrors and give them larger ones fixed to the cockpit sides for safety reasons.

      With the lights in the car, a backmarker could be shown, that the car behind him is not somebody taking his position, but a faster car a mile away from competing with him to lessen any inappropriate blocking moves.
      But please do not make them swerve to the side of the track.

  36. I think that all the ol’geezers will agree with me that the blue flags are essential. If you watched F1 in the 80’s, when there were blue flags but nobody would be punished for ignoring it, you must remember drivers like Rene Arnoult, Andrea de Cesaris, Satoru Nakagima and an array of others causing havoc on the leader’s races — occasionally, after holding them for several laps, they would ice the cake by colliding with them. And this was all before manners and sportmanship were thrown out of F1 following the entrance of Shumi the Cheat into the sport. Without blue flags, imagine what the likes of Eddie Invine (that spineless doormat) would have done to help their man! Ferrari would have orchestrated all sort of “strategies” to make use of that loophole.

    1. I think that all the ol’geezers will agree with me that the blue flags are essential. If you watched F1 in the 80’s, when there were blue flags but nobody would be punished for ignoring it, you must remember drivers like Rene Arnoult, Andrea de Cesaris, Satoru Nakagima and an array of others causing havoc on the leader’s races…

      I did, and I still think it’s a good idea.

      The performance difference between cars today, even with the new teams, is closer than it was then.

      An if a particular driver is behaving in an unsportsmanlike manner then give them the black-and-white or black flags, that’s what they’re their for.

      Plus, pit-to-car radio has improved a lot in the last two decades, and backmarkers can expect to be kept informed by their teams of when they have a car behind them.

      1. Keith, I understand where you are coming from with this idea — In an honest world that would indeed add to the show. But in the real world I think it would introduce more troubles than benefits. Driver A doesn’t like driver B so he holds him just enough to make him lose his position in the pits. The officials punish this guy for an unsportsmanlike conduct but let another go unpunished in the next race for a similar offence…imagine the endless discussions. And then, there is the problem about judging what caracterizes unsportmanlike conduct. Without the blue flags rule, you can hold the guys trying to lap you and you are not breaking any rule. I remember Irvine lapping close to 3 secs off the pace in Canada while holding Hakkinen just to let his hero get in front of him during the pitstops. He would go slow in the twisted sections but would run perfectly well in the straights. Granted, he was not being lapped, but my point here is that he was acting in a very dirty fashion and there was no way to frame him because he was not breaking any rules.

  37. Removing the blue flag rule would be a bad idea. The last thing F1 needs is a controversy over a HRT car (for example) holding up a championship contender at a critical moment. The rule as it stands works very well.

    The point of “working through traffic” as a skill still applies in F1. Recall Damon Hill vs. Micheal Schumacher. Hill from pole would often just run away until he encountered backmarkers, at which point Schumi would usually just swallow up that lead as his approach was much better than Hill’s.

    Blue flag rule works and should remain. There is no need for constant changes to the rules.

    1. The point of “working through traffic” as a skill still applies in F1. Recall Damon Hill vs. Micheal Schumacher. Hill from pole would often just run away until he encountered backmarkers, at which point Schumi would usually just swallow up that lead as his approach was much better than Hill’s.

      But since then the blue flag rule has been toughened up force backmarkers to get out of the way. Hill would not face the same problem today. In fact this is an excellent argument in favour of relaxing the rule…

    2. totally agreed. Nothing worse to see a contender’s race screwed up by a lapped car.

      1. Think you have it the wrong way round. Its not the contender getting his race screwed but them screwing it for themselves. All the leaders have the same cars to lap so if they get stuck behind a lapped car then they havent done a good enough job. Perfect argument for loosing the blue flag.

        1. Take that argument a step further. If Vettel is approaching a Sauber to lap while in a battle with Alonso, Ferrari would be able to call on the Sauber driver to hold up Vettel then let Alonso past very easily.

          My point re Hill and Schumacher is that it still takes some skill to manage backmarkers, rarely did I ever see Schumi having to wait for the third blue flag, he usually blasted his way past immediately. Button last year was very good at this, putting some aggressive passes in on backmarkers.

          Keep the blue flags.

          1. Ferrari would be able to call on the Sauber driver to hold up Vettel then let Alonso past very easily.

            The FIA have access to the teams’ radios, that sort of thing could be policed very easily.

  38. I absolutely agree with Keith.

    Banning blue flags will mean that drivers will have to overtake backmarkers as in really overtaking. This leads to difficult situations which means drivers cannot just run away with it as we saw Alonso do last week.

    Hungary 1989 (Mansell on Senna) and Suzuka 1988 (Senna on Prost) come to my mind when I think about leaders cutting through traffic.

    As for the aero problem, Keith is right once again. The designers will have to find a solution so their cars can be more efficient in dirty air. Now they don’t because they don’t need to, so the result is a car that flies in clean air and a car which has to maintain a 2 second gap anytime it approaches someone else in front of it.

    Further more refuelling should stay banned in this case because with better aero in dirty air, overtaking for position should be more possible. So boring fuel strategy will not be seen anymore and overtaking will really take place on track rather than a position swap through the pitlane which isn’t really overtaking as far as I’m concerned.

    The tyre rule needs to go back to the early nineties, have 4 compounds and free choice which one you want to use during qualifying and race day. This way you can actually have a situation in which a driver opts to start on hard and make them last the distance and a driver who chooses softs or medium and decides to stop once or twice and having to overtake in between. The rule to have to use both compounds make a stop compulsory. This is pointless as everyone comes in round about the same time.

    Tyre choice should be free in a race without blue flags and without refuelling.

  39. can’t forget Brazilian 2008 when Kubica’s trying to unlap himself that almost cost Hamilton the title. It’s an absolute gut. Losers should give way!

    1. Kubica was faster, he had every right to overtake. It’s called racing.

  40. This is now my favourite F1 site, keep up the good work.

    The comments are normally well thought-out and an interesting read, even if you personally hold a different view point, however this is first thread I’ve read where I’ve thought people are having a bit of a laugh.

    I’ve not read one compelling argument for getting rid of blue flags. A front runner over taking a back marked holds no entertainment to me even if its made near impossible by having no blue flags, sorry still not exciting. It just makes the race more of a lottery for the front runners.

    Fix the general over taking problem for position and then the blue flag issue wouldn’t even raise its head. Oh and IMO your can’t really compare with other formulas or series as its genuinely much easier to overtake.

    1. This is now my favourite F1 site, keep up the good work.

      The comments are normally well thought-out and an interesting read, even if you personally hold a different view point, however this is first thread I’ve read where I’ve thought people are having a bit of a laugh.

      Glad to hear it!

  41. Please don’t ban blue flags or it’ll give me nothing to shout at the TV about.
    “For **** sake! Blue Flag! Blue Flag!” :D

  42. My initial reaction is not to ban them but to probably relax the rules, although I almost voted no, not at all.

    Even though the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull should have no trouble passing the HRT, Virgins and Lotus cars this season, I think this is a case where if it was easier for F1 cars to overtake in general I would be more in favour of relaxing the rule or getting rid of blue flags completely.

  43. Andrew White
    23rd March 2010, 9:36

    I fail to see how removing the blue flags would produce more entertaining and satisfying races. Most people weren’t interested in the overtaking going on behind the top 8 in Bahrain, and that was for position. So why would you be interested in the leader overtaking an HRT when they’re lapping them for the third time?

    If they can’t get past, yes this could introduce a strategical element and could create a battle at the front, but you would end up with someone’s race being ruined because they couldn’t pass a backmarker, which to me is about as entertaining as Vettel’s race being ruined by a faulty spark plug. And that’s before we get onto teams holding up some cars and letting others by.

    If you want to improve the racing, get to the root of the problem rather than trying little gimmicks like this and mandatory pit stops.

  44. Why not keep the blue flags in place just to warn lapped cars that a faster car is catching them, but then get rid of the ‘3 blue flags and you must move over rule’, this way the lapped driver will know that there’s a leader approaching but it’s up to him whether he lets them through or not. With regards to leading teams putting a word in with smaller teams to move over, the FIA could just treat it the same as race fixing??? which is what ultimately it would be.

  45. I hate backmarkers that kill the suspense at the end of the race.
    So keep the blue flags and 5-10 laps before the end of the race every one who has been lapped enters the pit so the real fight is not obscured by lapping backmarkers.

    1. And what happens to those who are racing for a points position but are a lap down? Their race is over early? This idea just won’t fly.

  46. Banning blue flags will ruin races.

    Think Alonso vs Hamilton Monaco 2007. Because of some backmarkers the gap increased between the leaders which spoiled any chance of salvaging a boring race.

  47. Yeah the advantage (the leader’s progress will diminish) can easily turn into a disadvantage. Let’s suppose Schumacher had a problem and is driving in the back of the field. Behind him are Alonso and Hamilton, in front of him there’s no one. Schumacher is a hard to pass guy, so if Alonso gets past Schumacher and Hamilton is stuck behind him for another 10 laps, Alonso might be pulling a gap larger than 10-15 seconds! That’s a disadvantage. Besides, with those HRT cars on a short track and the Virgin cars being 5 seconds of pace it’s going to cause more accidents than do any good. Also the team mate rule is a valid point. I’m against this idea.

    1. If Schumacher can be caught and passed by Alonso, then why can he be only caught by Hamilton but not passed? Alonso would have to be faster than Hamilton by a margin that would mean Hamilton would have no hope of passing Alonso anyway.

      It disappoints me a little to hear F1 fans rubbish an idea that has a good case for improving things by simply focusing on the negatives, especially as if nothing can be done about them – which they can, as several compromise suggestions made here have shown.

  48. I voted to keep blue flags. It would be a pretty horrible race to see a team or another team-mate used to block another driver legally.

    If you remove blue flags, then you would need to remove the rule on defending your line. Therefore no moving at all to block another driver is allowed.
    I wonder if the present drivers could adapt to no blocking?

    Otherwise with blue flags removed, you’d see chaos or one long train of cars at Monaco.

  49. Does F1 need more passing? Hell yeah! But I don’t see the blue flag rule being such a vital part.

    FIA should give the teams an ultimatum. Design a car that can follow closely and pass for position (and actually allow the teams to do tandem testing) or we’ll start implementing success ballasts based on race wins/qualifying pace.

    Or if ballasts aren’t the way to go, have the tyre manufacturer bring different compounds, say 3 steps, and make each team use a specific compound based on the performance of its car. Slower teams get best tire, mid-pack teams get second-best and Ferrari, McLaren, Red-Bull get the worst tires. Start awarding prize money for qualifying pace so teams won’t sacrifice qualifying for better tires.

  50. Banish the blues and wave the black at anyone who becomes a blocker, intentional or otherwise. Give them drive throughs as a penalty. Or a DQ for repeated offenses.

    As previously stated, with radio comms all drivers are keenly aware of their positions and their impacts on the race outcome.

  51. Get rid of them and make the leader work for the pass. We don’t have it on NACSAR and the IRL and nobdoy seems to mind.
    The Fontana situation is simple. Black flag the guy as it was so obvious what he was doing he had to be blocking under the regulations.

  52. I think the current system of automatic blue flags when the leader is just in sight of the backmarker spoils the potential for skilled overtaking moves. The fact that they are being lapped is a clear indication that the leader has a significant speed advantage and so should be able to get past without problem. It would also give the additional test of a driver when he has to “clean” the tyres after going off the racing line.

    Many mid field battles (and lets face it, this is where most of the overtaking happens) often get spoilt when they have to jump out of the way of the leaders and then end up with dirty tyres.

    I think do away with blue flags as a standard response to a leader aproaching a backmarker, and only show the flag if they are assessed by the RACE STEWARDS (now including an ex driver for informed opinion) to be deliberatly blocking or impeding a leading driver. That then becomes a warning, and after 2 blue flag incidents the 3rd becomes a black flag. Maybe even carrying the blue flag warning into the following race too?

    As mentioned in the article, the leading teams would have to optimise their cars for following others – and overtaking. The midfield and backmarkers would get more TV coverage as they are being lapped, and as a result be able to attract more sponsors, which would give them more income to develop their car to run faster.

    1. Maybe even carrying the blue flag warning into the following race too?

      Good idea. I’m sure a few here remember Jos “the boss” Verstappen’s reputation for being hard to lap!

  53. IN comparison of F1 to Indy car , Indy cars have no problems following within a car length of each other. In the last race Nico couldnt pass a Redbull running on 7 cylinders. How many times did we see Webber’s front end wash out behind Button and Schumacher.
    F1 needs blue flags, its obvious the aero on these cars makes it imnpossible to pass, unlike Indy cars. The problem is in the design of the cars , not the ability of the drivers.

    1. Absolutely, fix the root cause of this even being raised as a topic.

      Next we’ll have people will be suggesting that anyone in a podium position after a tenth of the race gets a drive through penalty to spice thing up. Well that should drop them back into or close to the pack and they should be able to over take ;-)

      Actually that’s a good idea, it’d give the top three the incentive to get a move on and build a gap for the drive through an still come out in position.

      Joking aside, my problem with the last race was it was like a cycling sprint race where you try to go a slowly as possible before showing your cards in the sprint for the line, although in cycling it’s entertaining.

      How can you have F1 where for 75% of the race the idea was to go as slowly as possible but stay at the front? **rolls eyes and shakes fist**

      I’m hoping the teams and drivers go for it a bit this weekend now they have more data and confidence in the tyres lasting etc.

  54. I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if all my comments have been covered but to my mind the issue with removing blue flags is the tyres.

    Firstly, the Blue flags should be binned unless the race director wants them shown for unsporting behaviour/blocking.

    But secondly and more importantly you’ve got to have the circuit and tyre condition right to allow the leaders to attack the back markers.

    And that goes for all overtaking.

    If you have hard tyres that don’t produce marbles then the whole track is available to race on. Backmarkers can be attacked with impunity…and like wise the leaders can race each other better cause there is more than 1 line, there is no real risk that 1 failed attempt will ruin your whole race.

    If you can sort out the tyres and therefore the track, you can bin the blueflags…whilst reserving the Black Flag or triple blues if someone is being particularly over the top in their defence.

  55. Banning blue flags wouldn’t need to be considered if overtaking was possible. The cars need more mechanical grip. Bang fat tyres on them, maybe even bring active suspension back. Then reduce aero grip.

    More propositions i think will work is having extra hard tyres so the dirty line problem is reduced,
    or having manual gearboxes so more mistakes are likely and so overtaking is increased.
    How about reducing the effectivness of the brakes? So the braking areas are larger.

    Or maybe the issue with overtaking may not be resolved by creating less turbulence but by what works better with turbulence

  56. Reverse grids and over taking lanes :-)

  57. Robert McKay
    23rd March 2010, 14:27

    I vote for relaxed, for the most part.

    I think the blue flags should be kept to at least warn the drivers they are to be lapped, but I’d drop the “penalty if you don’t move over within 3 waved flags”.

    It’s almost a self-policing thing – if you’re driving a Lotus round 4 seconds off the pace you know you’re not racing the leader. There’s little to gain in “racing” them. If some drivers are naughty it would be blatant enough to be dealt with by the stewards on its own merits, in the same way any racing incident is.

    I would add though that I think part of the consideration of this situation comes to the track. Considering blue flags at Monaco to me is almost a completely different proposition to blue flags at Sepang, Bahrain, or Shanghai where there is so much space. I think I’d keep the blue flag rules as they are at Monaco, as an exceptional case. Valencia and Singapore would be the grey area then…

    But like the second mandatory stop idea this is still rather fiddling around on the edge of a larger underlying problem.

  58. Keep Blue flags, they are a safety requirement.
    Don’t enforce them as strictly. Make it so that the lapped driver is only disallowed from defending their track positions by using defensive tactics, instead of having to get completely out of the way on the straight.

  59. I wouldn’t mind getting rid of them. It would really show the difference between a driver who is better at overtaking to one who is worse. I think that in F1 sometimes the leaders are given too much of an easy time. I think though that they shouldn’t really be able to defend, just keep driving rather than slowing completely to let the leader through.

  60. Finally, an article after mine own heart. I’ve been ranting against the overly-used blue flags basically since they were introduced. No need to get rid of them entirely, but a rationalisation is in order. Lapping is part of a driver’s skills. Passing back markers should be worked at, it shouldn’t just happen by the grace of stewards. A sorely needed rethinking of an unnecessary and counter-productive rule.

  61. interesting topic, and I am persuaded by both sides of the argument.
    Might I suggest a third way (yikes, shades of Blair…)?
    No blue flags to stay on the lead lap
    blue flags for cars 1 lap down or more?

    this in turn will doubtless lead to other, unforeseen complications.

  62. I think the blue flag should be waved at any car – even the cars leading the race, always when the race is getting boring.

  63. Relax the rules. Wave a blue flag to let the backmarker know a leader’s coming. If he doesnt move out of the way after a lap, force him to move with a drive through penalty.

    The thing I would worry about in an F1 without blue flags is the Kaz Nakajima’s of the grid running into a leader while moving out of the way. The blue flag should be a warning to move over when it’s safe.

    1. I agree completely. We still need a blue flag to stop the leaders being held up, but not so extreme rules that the guy at the back may compromise a position trying to pull over quickly. (like massa last year at monaco – not a blue flag but still being forced to pull over)
      Blue flags are essential though. Many people were complaining about how the top ten tyre rule is punishing people for being quick, and favoring those who are slower. With no blue flags, the leaders are going to be held up when overtaking – thus punishing them, and favoring the people at the back by not making them pull over and ruin their lap.
      And yes, IndyCar may not have blue flags and it may work for them. But this is NOT IndyCar, this is F1, not everything that works for IC will work with F1.

  64. I remember being at Montreal a few years back and everytime a Ferrari lapped a car going into the hairpin, all the red-clad trophy wives would leap to their feet in applause, oblivious to fact that Massa’s prey braked 100 meters early, on purpose. The current rule provides some appeal to this constituency, and they pay good money for their seats too.

    Nonetheless, in practice, I don’t think it would matter much. Unless there is a running battle among the prospectively lapped cars, they will simply move aside rather than waste time blocking a much faster car. And even so, in many such cases, the rearmost car in a battle will gladly move aside, when convenient, to minimize his loss of lap time, and hope he can follow the lapping car through. It would not be rational to attempt to thwart a lapping car unless you have reason to believe a full course yellow is imminent.

    Finally, as we are tossing around contrivances to slow down leading cars, let me suggest that we should also put “competition yellows” and mandatory stops to “check tire wear” on the table. Last time I checked, the France family was making a mint with their silly contraptions perioically to pack up a field of cars that are all exactly the same to begin with, and money talks in F1 too.

    1. getting rid of blue flags is not a contrivance – their introduction was.

  65. Personally, i think the rule should be that slower cars should be passed, but after 2 laps. But i am in firm belief that the blue flag should only be waved on the start finish straight however on more or less all tracks, Monaco should have the current rule for safety, and tracks like Valenvia Street should have it on posibly a back streight.

    Lets test the driver skill of the faster guys. It will get harder for the faster guys they come up against.

    With all the GPS gear they have on the car, with the SECU and stuff this shouldnt be too hard to police electronically.

  66. When were blue flags introduced?

    I remember Senna being famous for the way he could overtake cars and thus also for the way he moved through the backmarkers. I’m guessing blue flags weren’t waved then or at least not as quickly as they are now.

    I didn’t think about the effect it might have on car design, but indeed, if the cars would be forced to overtake backmarkers the designers would surely put some effort in designing their cars to be able to overtake.

    I say keep the blue flags down unless a backmarker is seriously hindering a car trying to lap him. Guess that’s rather vague, but maybe if it’s longer than a lap, the blue flag can come out? Or two laps. or forever maybe, but I wouldn’t like to see some overly aggressive backmarker (maybe with a link to the opposing team) ruining a race.

    On that note, there also should be mroe strict rules for cars that are being lapped. No Kobayashi style “defenses” should be allowed.

    1. A long time, they’re not a recent introduction.

      1. Yeah, but the question really is, did they make the rules more strict? Nowadays it seems they wave the blue flag is waved (shown) before the leaders are even behind the backmarker.

        I don’t think it has always been like that. Like I said, most certainly not during the eighties and early nineties when Senna was racing.

  67. Ballasts or tyre punishments or whatever are a 100% artificial way of influencing results.

    This sport is about the fastest driver/car combination. It’s not a computer game so don’t introduce game like rules…

    It’s similar to the race fuel one lap qualifying we used to see, it’s completely daft and didn’t lead to anything good.

  68. Removing blue flags from F1 in it’s current form is a very bad idea especially if your suggesting it as a means to improve overtaking. If you want to see cars lined up behind each other for two hours unable to overtake it’s a brilliant idea.

    There are many sensible solutions to dealing with overtaking issues, wider track cars, bigger tyres, KERS, getting rid of under floor planks, but in the current F1 getting rid of blue flags would be a disaster.

  69. Crid [CridComment at gmail]
    23rd March 2010, 23:30

    I’ll never understand these whines about “sportsmanship”. This is like complaining that once you achieve a certain level of performance as a tennis player, you should no longer be bothered with the net. Using blue flags, rule-makers have done everything they can to make the sport boring and robotic. And now the sport is boring and robotic.

    Listen, if a slower car is getting in your way, PASS THEM.

  70. Just let the drivers race. “All or nothing,” I say.

  71. Quite frankly it should be left as it is, I don’t know if this has been brought up but as a Flag Marshal I think the biggest reason behind the Blue Flag rule is the Safety aspect of it, especially this season in F1.

    With the Lotuses and such being so much slower than the cars at the front end of the grid and the uselessness of the mirrors on these cars Lapping cars without the Blue Flag rule could become a huge danger to the cars behind.

    Without the Blue Flag warning the driver in front won’t have much knowledge that a faster car is coming up behind him to lap him and may turn into a corner, thinking it was safe but in fact the race leader was sticking his nose down into the corner, which will turn into a huge argument and the Blue Flag Rule will be brought back.

    1. Nice to get your view based on real experience.

      The trouble with your argument about drivers not knowing about a faster car is, that it is not true for F1.
      The teams tell them up front per radio as they have GPS feed of the track positions. You are right with the mirrors, but i think the FIA should define larger mirrors in a better position for safety reasons instead of letting this ruin racing.

      The problem with the Blue Flag rules in F1 is, that it forces the back runners to move over and out of the way immediately.
      I saw the way Trulli and Glock moved over even in the tight part of the Bahrain circuit, where they immediately loose grip due to marbles off the racing line. It did not look very safe to me, and it often breaks up fights for position between these cars.
      I think a loosening of the rule would be good. No blocking from back markers but to have the leaders get past by themselves on parts where they are faster and can get past without safety concerns (straights).

    2. Having a steady blue flag to show that faster traffic is approaching is fine. Just change the rules so it doesn’t mean they need to dive over and let the following car through.

    3. With the Lotuses and such being so much slower than the cars at the front end of the grid and the uselessness of the mirrors on these cars Lapping cars without the Blue Flag rule could become a huge danger to the cars behind.

      I think that’s a massive exaggeration. The cars have radios and most tracks have huge amounts of run-off.

      Plus, as I said in the article, there are series where they race at night with a difference in speed between the cars which is far greater than what we have in F1.

      If they can cope with that, I’m sure the world’s best drivers can deal with catching an HRT all of three or four times per race.

  72. I am in favour of keeping the blue flags in F1 as backmarkers do not always see/know there is a faster car immediately behind them trying to lap them. The problem is that modern F1 cars have tiny rear-view mirrors and they are usually not positioned to deliver the best view to the rear, but to deliver the most aerodynamic efficiency.

    Another point is ‘fair-play’. The Norberto Fontana incident was regrettable. Without blue flags, backmarkers (and inexperienced drivers) can always claim they cannot see a faster car behind them at first instance or they cannot hear the instructions to yield from the pitwall because the pit-to-car radio is out of order.

    Finally, I think it is necessary to provide the race officials with adequate tools to conduct races. The blue flag must stay.

  73. There’s absolute no point in letting the leaders to “race” back markers, they are neither racing for track position, nor for a time record. The blue flag rules makes sure this kind of stupid “race for nothing” won’t happen, it makes sure that the back marks can’t do whatever they want.

    “In other series, drivers get severely penalized for not yielding or interfering with the leaders, including getting sent to the pits for the rest of the race. In Formula One, if the driver about to be lapped ignores three waved blue flags in a row, he is required to make a drive-through penalty.” The back markers still have 2 free BFs, they already do not have to make room immediately, so the ability to cut through the field quickly still plays a role, it’s not like that no front runners will lose time anymore with the BF rule.

    If you give chances to black markers to do whatever they want, and let them become a blocker, many things can happen, a race or WDC leader could be already take out, a black flag oder whatever penalty would be to late.

    Let’s just keep it as it is.

    1. Crid [CridComment at gmail]
      24th March 2010, 18:31

      > they are neither racing for track
      > position, nor for a time record.

      First of all, OF COURSE they’re racing for “track position”. Every driver is. They want to do as well as they can.

      Secondly, there’s more to racing than “time records”… For example:

      • The thrill of skilled competition

      • Letting your sponsors know you want to succeed

      • Letting your fans know you want to succeed

      • Letting your fellow drivers know you want to succeed

      Again, I just don’t understand this. If it’s all about some precious encounter between the four precious darlings at the front, what are the other 22 guys doing there at all?

      Bernie could hire a 707 to fly the circus around, instead of the two (three?) Boeing 747’s.

  74. Change the rule to apply only to cars going multiple laps down. Drivers should be allowed to fight to stay on the lead lap. But, if they are going two or more laps down they will only be slowing the leaders.

  75. My 2-cents: As several others have mentioned. Keep the blue flag as warning to a backmarker (slower car) that a frontrunner (faster car) is approaching. This not only for safety, but also as indication that absolutely no blocking is allowed. But let them race for a real overtaking maneuver. Let the stewards deal with drivers that don’t follow the ‘no blocking’ rule.

    1. GerardMP,

      I agree with this. The blue flags should be for information purposes and a tool for the Stewards to use to warn drivers. Blue flags should be waved and if the driver persistently blocks then they can at least the drivers can’t claim that they did not know about the situation (although there are already rules for blocking even for the race leader).

      The other way of doing it could be to only enforce blue flags for lone drivers. If there are two or more back markers racing each other then the chances of one of them being able to purposefully block a leader is remote as they would stand a greater chance of loosing places to the other back markers. In this case it should be up to the race leaders to get past this battle. Lone back markers though could be told to move out of the way without affecting their own race.

  76. My gut says get rid of the blue flags, but my mind says don’t. With so many different teams using the same engines, you have to admit that the chances of shenanigans and bad sportsmanship (no need to name names of course) will spoil proceedings for sure as we have seen all to often in the past. I guess its the lesser of two evils…

  77. If the question is to BAN blue flags, then this would turn me off completely from watching a race that does not provide an actual contest for positions – if a car wants to race or compete with another, it should not do so a LAP DOWN. So move over already.

    If they’re on an F1 track, why are they so slow (this is a stupid question on par with the argument “if they’re the best, they can overtake the backmarkers no problem). Maybe we can let them “race” the leaders, but introduce a rule saying if you’re lapped, then you’re out of the race.

    That way, they can create excitement by more “racing”, not to mention incidents on and off the track; the “talking to” by stewards and marshalls could become very interesting too.

  78. Two thirds is right Keith. Let the majority rule!

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