Black flags, unlapping and British Grand Prix refunds

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The F1 Fanatic inbox has been a tad neglected but now we’re in the August break it’s time to return with a new batch of Your Questions Answered.

2012 British Grand Prix refund

Alan Fixter was one of several fans whose trips to this year’s British Grand Prix was wrecked by the weather:

Me and my son came on Friday to camp for the weekend and was let down by the weather. It took us several hours to leave the premises after we were told there was closure to some fields. We spent a lot of money on tickets etc. Would you reimburse?

Obviously F1 Fanatic is not connected with Silverstone in any way as so is not responsible for providing refunds. If, like Alan, you believe you should be able to claim a refund then you should email the circuit on – they will send you a form to fill in. See this page for more information:

You can swap notes with other fans who were at the race in our forum:

Business books

Frank is looking to read up on the business side of F1:

Can you advise on any good F1 books relating to the business side of the sport?

I know there are plenty of books about the drivers and about racing but I am really interested to know more about what happens in the business side of the sport.

If it’s business you’re interested in the best person to start with is F1 tycoon Bernie Ecclestone. Two fairly new books have been published on him and his extensive F1 dealings recently. Although it’s fair to say both fell slightly short of expectations, they are the most up-to-date books on the business side of the sport to be found:

Watkins’ book was originally intended to be an “authorised” biography before Ecclestone changed his mind. Of the two, Bower’s is the only one whose index includes references to Gerhard Gribkowsky. Make of that what you will.

I still prefer Terry Lovell’s 2004 book on Ecclestone “Bernie’s Game” to both of them, though obviously it is not as current. A slightly updated version appeared in 2009 with a different title and, curiously, with some of the original text absent. Make of that what you will as well.

Timothy Collings’ “The Piranha Club” is an interesting read on how the business of running an F1 team has changed through the years:

The British Grand Prix makes for an interesting case study of F1 business and politics. Alan Henry’s “The Battle for the British Grand Prix” covers the various attempts by Brands Hatch and Donington Park to take the race off Silverstone and brings the story up-to-date with the signing of the current 17-year deal.

I also have a couple of F1 business titles on my bookshelf I haven’t got around to reading yet: “The Powerbrokers – The Battle For F1’s Billions” (Henry again) and “Formula 1: The Business of Winning” by Russell Hotten, both of which may be worth a look. If anyone has read them, or has recommendations on other good books on F1 business, please share them in the comments.

If you decide to read any of these, remember if you buy from Amazon via this link you also support F1 Fanatic, which earns commission from the sale:

Why didn’t Alonso get a penalty like Hamilton?

Charity is curious to know why stopping on the track after qualifying can get you a penalty but stopping on the track after a race doesn’t:

At the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was excluded from the qualifying session because he did not make it to parc ferme.

Was it Valencia – European Grand Prix – where Alonso also stopped when he won the race, also not making it to parc ferme but he got to keep his points and win?

Kindly explain to me the difference or rather different use of the rules here.

As noted here at the time, Hamilton was punished under article 6.6.2 of the Technical Regulations, which states:

Competitors must ensure that a one litre sample of fuel may be taken from the car at any time during the event.

Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the stewards of the meeting), if a sample of fuel is required after a practice session the car concerned must have first been driven back to the pits under its own power.

Qualifying is defined as a practice session but the race is not, which explains why Hamilton received a penalty but Alonso did not.

However Alonso was perhaps fortunate not to fall foul of a different rule, article 43.3 of the Sporting Regulations:

After receiving the end??of??race signal all cars must proceed on the circuit directly to the post race parc ferme without any unnecessary delay, without receiving any object whatsoever and without any assistance (except that of the marshals if necessary).

This rule explains why we seldom see F1 drivers doing doughnuts and celebrating on the track after races (the need to preserve engines and gearboxes under the current rules is also a factor). However some drivers have rebelled against this including Hamilton at Silverstone this year and Vettel at Suzuka last year after he won the world championship.

Happily the stewards have been turning a blind eye to it. Hopefully that will continue.

Black flags

Steve Jones has another question about disqualification:

When was the last time a car was disqualified, ie. black-flagged, during the race?

While we’re at it, how about the black flag with orange circle (almost redundant with car radios and pit boards), and black/white flag for unsportsmanlike behaviour?

The last drivers to be black-flagged and disqualified during a race were Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella (pictured) during the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix, who had left the pits while the exit light was on red:

Every disqualification since then has come after the race and, curiously, they’ve all been at Melbourne: Rubens Barrichello in 2008 (left the pits against a red light), Lewis Hamilton in 2009 (misleading stewards about letting Jarno Trulli past) and both Sauber drivers in 2011 (rear wing dimensions).

I believe the last time an F1 driver was shown the black-and-orange flag was Robert Kubica for his broken front wing during the 2009 Italian Grand Prix.

And the seldom-seen black-and-white flag for “unsportsmanlike driving” last appeared during the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix when Hamilton repeatedly changed his line to try to keep Vitaly Petrov behind. The message apparently failed to get through: at the same track 12 months later Hamilton did exactly the same thing with Alonso and received a 20-second penalty.


We stay on the subject of Hamilton who raised eyebrows by unlapping himself from Vettel during tis year’s German Grand Prix. Nick asks:

How does a driver know if he can unlap himself without getting a penalty?

It is rare to see a driver unlap themself from a competitor but not unprecedented. Hamilton certainly knows this from experience.

At Interlagos in 2008 Kubica unlapped himself from Hamilton and, in doing so, presented Vettel an opportunity to pass Hamilton for position, which he did. This temporarily left Hamilton outside of the fifth place he needed to clinch the world championship, but of course that was resolved a few moments later.

The rules do not forbid drivers from unlapping themselves. Article 20.5 of the Sporting Regulations states:

As soon as a car is caught by another car which is about to lap it during the race the driver must allow the faster driver past at the first available opportunity. If the driver who has been caught does not allow the faster driver past, waved blue flags will be shown to indicate that he must allow the following driver to overtake.

It stands to reason that if one driver is capable of overtaking another then the driver doing the lapping is not “the faster driver” as defined in the rules.

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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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34 comments on “Black flags, unlapping and British Grand Prix refunds”

  1. Happily the stewards have been turning a blind eye to it. Hopefully that will continue.

    Felipe Massa did doughnuts at Interlagos last year but, as I remember, he got penalised for that so it looks like the stewards are either inconsistent or don’t provide enough explanation… again.

    1. @girts I don’t remember him getting a penalty for that and a quick search didn’t throw anything up – are you sure?

      1. @keithcollantine Shame on me. I obviously need to stop watching F1 cartoons. I was sure that Massa had to pay some fine but cannot find any evidence now online, too. My only explanation is that I heard somewhere a suggestion that he MIGHT be penalised or fined and afterwards it was included in THIS animation so I took it as truth.

        I’m sorry to everyone for the misleading statement and particularly to the FIA stewards for the unfounded accusations!

  2. I think Massa got a personal fine rather than a penalty.

    As for unlapping, a F1 series that doesn’t allow this would be a joke in my opinion. The FIA/FOTA need to be careful on this score because all these rules about overtaking etc are really ruining the sport and preventing genuine racing.

  3. Unlapping has never been penalised and many drivers have unlapped themselves over the years, often to end up with a good finish. Irvine passing Senna at Suzuka and Clark in the 67 Italian GP spring to mind. Clark actually fought back from being a lap down to the lead, although hit troubles later and finished 3rd. There are lots of others I’m sure.

  4. With regard to the difference in the rules for stopping on track after the race or after a practice session, there are two things I don’t understand: first, I don’t see why the penalty should be so high (disqualification from the session), and second, I think the wording of article 43.3 (“After receiving the end‐of‐race signal all cars must proceed on the circuit directly to the post race parc ferme without any unnecessary delay”) could be interpreted in the same way as 6.2.2 (“the car concerned must have first been driven back to the pits under its own power.”). What is “to proceed without delay to the post race parc ferme” if not to drive there under you own power?

    What also annoys me about regulation 43.3 is that it requires drivers and teams to be so coy about their stopping on track – and getting away with it. In Bahrain, for instance, race winner Vettel (as well as Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg, if memory serves me well), parked his car after taking the chequered flags, but did not wish to divulge why he had stopped. If the team feel they cannot say the real reason for stopping the car, then the FIA should investigate the matter and hand them a penalty as well.

    1. 1. technically Hamilton had qualified with an illegal car.

      2. ‘proceeding to parc ferme’ could be on the back of a tow truck.

      1. @sato113 @adrianmorse I think the level of punishment for Hamilton and McLaren was justified. It could be seen as gaining a huge advantage by reducing the amount of weight the car has to carry around. Every lap is worth around 0.3s/lap by virtue of burning fuel I believe so with Hamilton sticking it on pole he clearly had an advantage over everyone else. It’s difficult to prove any intention but given that it’s a relatively easy thing to control you would struggle to justify it otherwise.

        1. @keithcollantine went over the “gained an unfair advantage due to less fuel” argument after the 2010 qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. I tried digging it up, but alas, the search feature isn’t working for me right now (bum me a link, Keith?). At any rate, the time advantage it would have given him was something inconsequential as I recall. Something like barely a thousandth of a second. So the extremity wouldn’t really be justified if that was the case.

          1. @joey-poey I don’t think it would have made a difference in the case of Canada in 2010:

            Did running low on fuel give Lewis Hamilton pole position? No.

            I didn’t have a look at the figures in the case of Spain this year. Given that Hamilton’s fastest lap was quickest by around six-tenths of a second and he was only short a kilo or two of fuel, I don’t think he would have had much difficulty setting pole position in a correctly-fueled car. But he didn’t.

            Even so, the fact he started 24th instead of tenth seemed a bit off to me:

            McLaren’s mistake costs Hamilton too dearly

          2. Ah, thank you! My memory of the numbers were off, but I agree. It was too drastic of a punishment.

      2. 2. It says you must do so under your own power.

        1. only in qualy. (2) is talking about race

      3. @sato113,

        2. ‘proceeding to parc ferme’ could be on the back of a tow truck.

        First of all, that hardly seems ‘without delay’, and second, if you are allowed to park your car at will, then what is the point of the rule? The fact that there are cars stopping on track after the race leads me to assume they do it because they’re not sure whether they have enough fuel on board, and yet I never hear any team admitting to that fact, presumably because they fear a penalty. Yet no penalties are ever given, so it seems you can get away with it by being vague about problems on the car.

    2. 1. I think that disqualification from Q3 would be just, with Hamilton (or whomever in future) starting in 10th. That would also counter sato113’s comment on legaility, as the fuel is re-filled for each session. In fact, a fuel sample should be taken at the end of Q1, Q2 and Q3 if the FIA want to police this correctly anyway.

      2. This should be modified to say that cars should not be seen to be tampered with from the finish of the race until parc ferme – only touched by track marshalls (and other drivers!) if necessary. That way, drivers can celebrate if they wish to, pick up stray drivers, etc… and actually have a bit of fun having just completed a 2hr race.

      1. The qualifying times set in the first two qualifying sessions are only set for those who are eliminated. When you go through to Q3, your time from the previous session is wiped, so you’ve effectively not set a qualifying time at that point, even though in theory you can only start as far back as tenth.

        In fact, the whole of Qually is seen as just one session, and the parc ferme rules apply after the end of that session. The rule states that the car should be available to provide a fuel sample at any point during the session, so if a car stops on track it does break this rule. Force majeur accounts for most instances of cars stopping in which case it is overlooked, but since there’s no force majeur involved in putting in the wrong amount of fuel (or in McLaren’s case, not knowing how much they put in and choosing instead to try and wing it) the car is disqualified from the entire session. Meaning that its times set in all three parts of the qualifying session are taken off the board and the car starts from the back of the grid.

        Yes, in some respects, the punishment is harsh for the crime. But the point is that the rule encompasses a significant range of potential violations, for which the punishment is entirely fitting. That’s the rule, and that’s the punishment for breaking the rule.

        1. Very good points made, I understand the logic. However, I think common sense also should play a part here. As you say at the end, the rule is the rule and that’s the punishment. It doesn’t however mean that the rule itself shouldn’t be questioned.

          I understand that the times are wiped after Q1 and Q2. In my opinion, each mini-session should be treated independently, with fuel samples still being required to be taken at any stage. Force majeur aside, the car would be sent to the back of the mini-session (i.e. a car running out of fuel and failing to return to the pits at the end of Q2 for example starts in 17th place, because he/she made it through Q3 previously).

          This to me seems fairer, regardless of who the driver is, because their previous times (although ‘wiped’) that got them through the mini-sessions were set legally. The rule is a hangover from the old qually days IMO.

          1. Sorry, when I mention Q3 in the second paragraph I really mean Q1. I believe DC made the same mistake a few weeks back!

        2. I think I agree with that, at least for the most part @mazdachris, however, if someone beaches the car at the end of Q2 but did make it to Q3, they aren’t given their Q2 time in the results, but instead a 10th spot with no time, which seems to show the sessions are treated as somewhat separate at least. Since the stewards are clear that McLaren only went wrong in Q3, they could have similarly decided, I think, to just not give Hamilton a time in that part of the qualifying session.

          I would certainly prefer if that was the rule from now on really, seems much more reasonable (though then I guess it would be seen as evidence HAM was shafted, and consistency etc. Oh well).

  5. Didn’t Kimi do some donuts at Spa after his victory there in 2007?

    1. Yes. It was a particularly nice one.
      He also did a couple during the race in 2008 :)

      1. test moderated comment

      2. @john-h ouch, that hurts :-)

        1. Sorry Kimi. Hope to see some victory ones again this year!

  6. I believe Raikkonen also did a doughnut once on Spa. I am not sure which year it was, but it was in a Ferrari so either 2007 or 2009.

  7. That’s some impressive sleuthing Keith. Do you have an F1 equivalent of Wisden or something?

  8. Here’s an alternative to pitting for a black and orange flag.
    (Around 40 seconds in)

    1. Fantastic! Those bendy posts they used to have in chicanes would be ideal for that.

    2. Did the driver ever say if he did it on purpose? If so, that’s some incredible foresight and daring.

      1. @joey-poey Yep he did – I was at that race actually with @ratboy and @ajokay.

  9. I assumed the ban on doughnuts was to do with some kind ‘safe driving’ message, as the FIA is involved with road safety campaigns. However, this sounds like it’s actually just to make sure the post-race ceremonies are as tight to the timetable as possible, I’m guessing to keep the TV companies happy.
    I’m not sure which reason is worse…

  10. As far as unlapping goes in the not so far back times, in 2006 Monaco – Schumi and Fisi unlapped themselves from Fernando and were fighting back for positions.

  11. Interesting stuff.
    The definition or location of parc ferme seems to change as well in the case of Monaco. In most races, it’s an area in front of the weighbridge, isn’t it? But at Monaco, the winning trio line up in front of the Royal box, so that must be parc ferme, mustn’t it?
    And then what about weighing the drivers with their helmets immediately after the race in parc ferme conditions? This doesn’t happen at Monaco and it allows drivers to either put on additional clothing (DC’s Superman cape) or take off HANS and helmets and give them to other people before the presentation, After which they are apparently weighed at some later point when they have recovered their helmets etc from someone else and drunk loads Champagne.
    I know Monaco is different, but this seems more than a bit strange and insecure.

  12. As for DQs I seem to recall JPM getting one during the race at Indy for a grid procedure violation. I think he was late getting into the car. It was controversial because it took the stewards like half the race to figure this out. I also seem to recall him getting black-flagged for running the pit lane red light in Canada in 2005.

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