Race result called two laps early due to flag error

2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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The Chinese Grand Prix was accidentally shortened by two laps because race winner Lewis Hamilton was shown the chequered flag early.

Hamilton said on the radio he had been shown the chequered flag before beginning his final lap.

The classified results published by the FIA noted that the race was “declared at the end of lap 54, in accordance with Article 43.2 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations”.

The rule states: “Should for any reason the end-of-race signal be given before the leading car completes the scheduled number of laps, or the prescribed time has been completed, the race will be deemed to have finished when the leading car last crossed the line before the signal was given.”

The error means Jules Bianchi is classified 17th despite having been overtaken by Kamui Kobayashi at the end of the race.

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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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92 comments on “Race result called two laps early due to flag error”

  1. Lol what? I had no clue that such a rule was in place!

    1. If I was a guest chequered flag-waver, I’d just wait until my favourite driver was leading and then just call the race early. :)

      1. I’d wait until the lead cars are cycling through pit stops and give Kobayashi the highest position possible. haha

  2. Some people probably very relieved Ricciardo didn’t pass Alonso right now!

    1. Red-Bull would have taken the FIA to court again!

      1. Lol and may be lost out again :D

        1. Probably not this time. FIA clearly goofed up big time and they wouldn’t have been able to explain why they ended the race early. Caterham and Marussia could probably take FIA to task questioning the grounds of premature cancellation.

          FIA should consider themselves lucky this happened after the RBR appeal, else it would have been a black mark for them during the arguments with regard to the way they run the sport.

          1. Uhm, irrelevant. The appeal was about Ricciardo consuming over 100kg/h of fuel, Red Bull not using FIA’s sensor, and Red Bull ignoring every instruction that came from FIA.

          2. It has been a rule since racing began. It doesn’t matter WHY the signal was given early. If it waves, the race is over whether it is full distance or not.

            If the chequered flag doesn’t appear when the race distance is completed (think Pele in 2002) the race automatically finishes.

      2. There’s no appeal possible against sporting decisions, as evident by the 2008 Spa debacle.

      3. Imagine if they’d used 101 kg over all 56 laps…

      4. Hell yeah!

    2. Indeed, exactly what I though too yeah, that would have been an almighty shambles @john-h!

      Overall the flag marshalls were as bad as the directing by FOM today.

      1. @bascb, yes both were appalling.(I wont mention the lack of audible engine/exhaust noise either).

  3. Were there any overtakes in the last 2 laps ? that would really be unfortunate to lose positions because someone else isn’t able to count.

    1. just read the last sentence – so question answered :)

    2. @tmf42 Actually I’ve jut updated the article as I hadn’t noticed Kobayashi’s pass on Bianchi is ‘undone’ by this.

      1. Seems pretty unfair to me. If a position “countback” at the end of the season means this result makes a difference, surely this can be challenged? After all, Lewis is the one who stood to lose out the most from this, and he was fine.

        1. Why would Lewis stand to lose the most? He’s 1st with and without the 2 laps.

        2. Remember Brazil in 2003 when torrential rain caused havoc. Some laps before the scheduled end Webber spun and crashed heavily, ending up in the middle of the track. Alonso, ignoring waving double yellow flags was in a hurry to make a pitstop knowing the safety car would come out but ended up crashing into Webber’s wrecked car. The race was called several laps early because of the carnage and Fisichella in a Jordan was ultimately awarded the win courtesy of the countback rule, even though he was in second place at the time the race was called. Unluckiest driver was Coulthard who was on the right strategy and would have won the race, but was in the pits for his final stop on the lap that was counted back to, and was given 4th place.

          1. Sorry to disagree, but Fisichella was not THAT lucky. In fact, he was leading the race after overtaking Räikkönen on lap 54, and he went on to lead until the red flag. So it was in fact unfair to initially demote him to 2nd place.
            @ Coulthard: He was indeed unlucky to pit a few laps before the red flag, but it is by no means clear he would have won the race. In fact, Fisichella was planning to finish the race without another pit stop. He did confess that his fuel load was critically low, and that he might have had to refuel before the race was over, but there was going to be a safety car after Webber’s Crash, which would have allowed him to save a significant amount of fuel.
            Even after all These years, I remain convinced that Fisichella’s win was a deserved – although quite lucky – one. He wasn’t just awarded the win because he happened to be at the right place at the right time. He simply overtook Räikkönen at a time when Coulthard had to lap at least 0.5 secs per laps faster than him to catch him before the regular end of the race. He might have won the race even without the red flag.

          2. If this error happens in Brazil in 2008 Massa would have been champion

  4. malleshmagdum
    20th April 2014, 10:39

    Surprising! Imagine if someone made a move in the points positions in those two laps! Would have been controversial!

    1. Indeed, a lucky thing it was such a quiet race.

      Just wondering if the flag was intentionally shown – could it be the guy holding it nodded off and slumped forwards, making it visible?

      1. I couldn’t even see it on the TV slow-mo replay!

    2. For me, it is pure idiotic rather than surprising.

      This is the FIA, right here. One guy makes a small error completely unrelated to the racing itself, and the last two laps (which are often some of the most important (thankfully not in this case)) are cancelled. It is utterly ridiculous. Really, this does the sport’s image no good.

      I cannot believe that such a rule regarding the flags exists now. I can understand ten or twenty years ago, but with the racing and technology today, these things simply shouldn’t happen like this.

      The marshalling and flag waving doesn’t help. I saw constant blue flags waved out of place this race, which Crofty also picked up on many times. It was utterly atrocious.

  5. Didn’t Kob get past Bianchi on the last lap?? So now Bianchi gets the place?

  6. Didn’t Kobayashi overtake a Marussia on the last lap?

  7. ?
    I don’t understand. I thought the on-screen graphic showed 56/56.
    If the race had continued for two more laps though, would Alonso still be in third, would Hulkenburg still have been in sixth?

    1. They went round the track for two laps. But the official results will based on the positions at the end of lap 54. Although I think Kobayashi lost out.

      1. Ah, article is now corrected :)

    2. Hülkenberg hasn’t move all race. He was always in sixth. Alonso got overtake earlier.

  8. What about Kobayashi on Bianchi? Or was that before they took the flag?

  9. so a flag bearer or whatever u call them can just end the race just like that?

  10. This has happened before – I think the last time was the 1985 British Grand Prix at Silverstone when Alain Prost was declared the winner a lap early. There may be other examples.

    1. I only remember Pelé waving the flag too late. Funny.

      1. God doesn’t make mistakes. The race is over when Pelé says it’s over.

      2. Imagine if they had to do an extra lap because of that!

    2. Keith do you know why the was shortened by 2 laps instead of 1? I know that it’s what it says in the regulations but to me it doesn’t seem logical. If they gave the checkered flag on the second last lap (lap 55) why would they classify the race based on lap 54? The only reason I can think of is just in case that a different car, other than the leading car, is shown the checkered flag?

      1. Because that rule also applies to a race finished early for safety reasons where the intention might be to have drivers stop racing each other immediately. Think about Fischecella’s win.

    3. IIRC, at Silverstone in 1985, Jacques Laffite finished 3rd in his Ligier Renault, which then ran out of fuel after the flag on the lap that was meant to be the last. Nelson Piquet wasn’t a happy camper after this because he finished with enough fuel in his Brabham BMW and had the race gone the scheduled number of laps he would have finished 3rd because he would have passed Laffite’s out of fuel Ligier. First and second placed Alain Prost (McLaren) and Michele Alboreto (Ferrari) were unaffected by the officials error.

      As it was the Ligier was classified 3rd due to the lap count error and the Brabham was 4th. Not even Brabham owner Bernie Ecclestone could have changed that.

      1. @holdenv8 Good knowledge!

        Not hard to imagine what a furore there would be if Sunday’s mix-up had led to something more significant than 17th and 18th places begin swapped.

  11. Shocking to think mistakes like this still occur in a tightly regulated sport such as F1. According to the commentators, there were a few blue flags given incorrectly to leading drivers.

    1. I think those blue flags were mainly because they had lapped the back markers just before the next flag post.

    2. Because track position changes quickly in Formula 1, there is often not enough time to countermand a signalling instruction. Track officials are typically familiar enough with team liveries to discriminate between competitive- and uncompetitive entrants on sight, but the Chinese flagmen were unable to determine on their own that the overtake had already taken place.

      They weren’t signalling the wrong driver–they just didn’t know enough about the sport to make an autonomous decision.

      1. Of course, twenty years ago a more likely explanation would have been that they lived in deadly fear of the mere appearance of insubordination, so I guess they’re making progress.

  12. Top quality marshalling today, including the many mistakes from blue flag guy just before the final corner showing his flag to two people actually fighting for position.

    1. I’m pretty sure I saw him waving it to a lone Mercedes at one point too!

  13. Incompetents all of them!

  14. petebaldwin (@)
    20th April 2014, 10:52

    I can understand blue flags given to the wrong cars because you have temporary marshalls involved but the chequered flag!? Imaging Hamilton stuffed it in the wall on the last lap?

    1. In that case his blushes would have been saved…

      I don’t know what they do if they discover someone was short on fuel at the end of the race when they completed an ‘extra’ 2 laps plus the cool-down lap.

    2. I don’t think it was just the marshall who got the blue flags wrong: he was acting under instruction and if you look at the replay you can see the electronic sign just beyond the corner flashing blue as well. These things have to be controlled by Charlie and his FIA team.

  15. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    20th April 2014, 11:09

    I was wondering why the post race FOM graphics showed that total distance as “299km”, typically it’s around 308km.

  16. i’ve heard of premature ejaculation but premature flagulation that just ridiculous. lol

    1. Where’s the like button when you need it.

  17. Did they have a guest waving the flag?
    By the way, does F1 still use a start of final lap flag?

    1. FlyingLobster27
      20th April 2014, 12:12

      Don’t know about who waves the checkered, but as far as I know, F1 has never used a final lap flag.

    2. I dont think so, its all done by race officials and race marshals. And F1 doesnt have a white flag, it doesnt have a meaning as far as I can remember in any FIA sanctioned race.

      1. You normally see a white flag when Bernd Maylander is deployed.

        It means there’s a slow-moving vehicle–safety car, tow truck, RB10–on the track

      2. A white flag in F1 means a slow vehicle is on the track.

        1. @dirksen

          That one’s shown when you come up to lap Max Chilton.

          Badumm, tshh!

  18. Hypothetically, how would this work out in a situation where a car would not have the required litre of fuel at the end of 56 laps but would have had it at the end of 54?

    1. Haha, I doubt something like that is in the regulations ^^

    2. You’ve got it backwards. The race wasn’t extended by two laps–the official distance was retroactively reduced from 56 laps to 54.

      If anything, a driver would be more likely to preserve the required sample, as he could ostensibly have saved two laps’ worth of fuel.

      Technically, the entire field sees every flag at the same time via the on-board GPS marshalling system–but I question whether display indicated bungled chequers.

    3. Isn’t that just the rule for qualification… As I understand it (perhaps wrongly) you could set the car on fire if you wanted after the race distance was reached, because the race is over but after quali is still part of the GP

      1. No, they give a fuel sample of I believe 900ml after qually AND the race. Remember Seb getting UN trouble for not returning the car back to parc-ferme after he did his doughnuts in India. The cars and drivers are weighed post race and fuel samples taken.

    4. With 100 litres cap on fuel consumption during the race, the car can be disqualified from the results for using more fuel than the allowed limit. If the car didn’t have 101 litres in it at the start, it is team’s fault in ensuring that sufficient fuel was put into the car. If teams are required to give fuel sample at the end of the race, they have to give it or get excluded from results.

  19. So: it takes just a skillfull sneaking on to the pit wall by anyone with an hidden chequered flag to stop a race halfway through?

    1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      20th April 2014, 15:34

      @stefanauss Hey! Go and try your plan in Abu Dhabi!!!

  20. Call me crazy, but I just spent ten minutes coming up with different scenarios of sabotaging a race in your preferred drivers favour by finding ways to get on the pit wall with a chequered flag…disguises…parachuting in…self-ejecting flag hidden in javelin…possibilities are endless :D

  21. @keithcollantine

    The error means Jules Bianchi is classified 18th despite having been overtaken by Kamui Kobayashi at the end of the race.

    Isn’t that 17th?

  22. 1st it was random Blue Flag marshals waving blue flags to wrong drivers.
    Now theres this?
    What are the Chinese Marshals doing :S
    (Not implying that they are dreaming or stuff)

    1. Does seem to be that the flag waving was somewhat random this race. Seeing Alonso blue flagged because Rosberg was behind him, and then Lewis saying on the radio “I just got the chequered flag” before the race was done.

      They were just lucky that none of the random flagging seemed to have impacted the results of the race.

    2. The blue flags are controled by the FIA, you can tell because of the digital flags by the marshalls. They just get the orders and obey them to be honest.

  23. There was some blunder since the very beginning of the race. I followed the race both on live TV and on the i-pad F1 app, and from the start the i-pad showed that KM had 14 laps on his tyres when they were on lap 16…

  24. That’s quite terrible really. Imagine the controversy had major positions been exchanged during those two laps.

  25. Now I understand the radio communication between Ham and the engineer! I first thought Ham was distracted but no he wasn’t.

    Anyone knows the reason why that happen?

    1. May be the official dozed off due to the boring nature of the race, woke up hearing someone say “final lap” and rushed to wave the flag when he saw Lewis coming. It is just my imagination though I doubt FIA would elaborate the actual reason anyway!

      1. @zenren Ahahahah. You’re probably right! :)

  26. Do accounts people!

  27. Good god!!! This is supposed to be a professional outfit and yet they behave like total idiots. If it was amateur sport one could forgive such errors but this beggars belief and shows just what a shambles the sport has become!!

  28. So if it was shown after 10 laps because a Ferrari was in the lead then it counts as a win

  29. Ah! I wish we’d had known this rule before. We’d had bribed the marshal to wave the flag after 5 laps last season. :)

  30. And F1 let’s the fans down again. We and the teams were robbed… how about Koby losing his pass on Bianchi? That just is plain wrong and the FIA/FOM need to get their act together! Things are bad enough this year!!!

  31. What a silly rule.

    1. Well not really, its quite seinsible, Imagine Lewis had backed off after seeing the early chequred flag while Rosberg shoots past and on to the win after Lewis realises the race is still on has to get back up to speed.
      At best they would have to tell the drivers to switch posiitons back, but the Lewis would have lost the lead advantage he had.
      Not sure what would happen if it was only after 10 laps…

      1. It is a silly rule, because everyone knows how to count up to 56.

        Relying on the flag is not neeeded with the high-tech timing system in place.

  32. Michael Brown (@)
    21st April 2014, 3:14

    This would be more controversial of a championship contender was affected by this blunder.

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