Marshal with a blue flag, 2017

Changing blue flag rules would be “hugely unpopular” with F1 teams

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In the round-up: FIA race director Charlie Whiting doubts F1’s blue flag rules are likely to be eased in future.

What they say

At a media briefing in Spain, Whiting was quizzed on whether F1’s strict blue flag rules, which force lapped cars to move out of the way quickly, should be revised:

Q: Do we need blue flags? Has there been any talk about getting rid of them?

CW: Yes there’s been talk about that, it’s been proposed a few times. Hugely unpopular with teams and drivers, of course. It’s something that is on the agenda, so to speak. It’s not been rejected completely. But it’s something we’d have to look carefully at to make sure that it wasn’t overly exploited. But I think the principle, there are many forms of racing in which they don’t have such a luxury, is something that we are open to discuss.

Q: What’s the likelihood of it happening?

CW: Less than 50% I would say. It’s not popular. It would be quite something to get that through. But I think we need to think it through carefully.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

@Esploratore’s read on which of the top teams will be most competitive in Monaco:

Red Bull’s chassis looks really strong, yes, considering it’s well known that Renault engine is not at the level of Mercedes, who might’ve been jumped by Ferrari slightly on engine. Red Bull, despite that, managed to have the same pace as Ferrari in Australia, same as Mercedes and Ferrari in Bahrain, a little slower than the other two in China, same as Mercedes in Baku when the battery didn’t give issues, same as Ferrari in Spain, so they look more-or-less in the fight with their race pace. They lose a lot in qualifying which sets them back.

Hopefully they’ll be able to deliver in Monaco. Their championship fight is over but it’s a team that only won three races last year, they certainly could aim to win five or six races in a season, that would be a step, before worrying about the title.

One thing is certain: I wouldn’t underestimate Mercedes, they’re capable to get pole even on a bad track, and Ferrari changed their wheelbase as well, so shouldn’t be as favoured in Monaco as they were last year.

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On this day in F1

  • On this day in 1983 Alain Prost won the first grand prix on the shortened Spa-Francorchamps, while Thierry Boutsen made his debut

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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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53 comments on “Changing blue flag rules would be “hugely unpopular” with F1 teams”

  1. I’ll say it again. The tires should have numbers not names. 1-n. The names are confusing and silly. I don’t see the marketing value–can I buy an ultra soft pirelli all season performance tire at No.

    1. They have fixed (more or less) the confusion about which variety of “SOFT” is the softest or hardest tyre available, but why change the colour scheme ? The dedicated fan will know, and be interested in, which colour equals which degree of grip/longevity and the on-screen graphics can identify which is soft-medium-hard simply by writing soft-medium-hard in the tyre colour.

      1. Daniel Vary
        22nd May 2018, 1:49

        It’d be potentially confusing to casual fans if the colour markings were changing each race. I think this is a sensible move, in fact when the super-hard and hyper-soft compounds were announced I posted a comment to the article then saying that Pirelli should just come to every race with Soft, Medium and Hard… for the hardcore fans, FOM could show a graphic showing the “hardness rating” as a numerical number (from 1-7) for the soft, medium and hard tyres for that weekend.

        I’m a hardcore F1 fan, but all I care about is an easy comparison of which tyres the drivers are on when they set a laptime, not the actual compounds. Only change I’d suggest to rumored proposal is make the soft tyre purple instead of red.

        1. all I care about is an easy comparison of which tyres the drivers are on when they set a laptime, not the actual compounds.

          While there may be very specific cases where knowing the specific compound helps (e.g. the Ferrari can’t make the ultrasoft last, or the Merc blisters on supersofts), in general I agree with you that the relative difference is more important once the race unfolds, as it tells us what strategies are at play.

          Only change I’d suggest to rumored proposal is make the soft tyre purple instead of red.

          I think the use of red is a bit of a callback to earlier days when those were the 3 colours used. Further, red and yellow are Pirelli’s brand colours, so I’d see them as wanting to retain them.

          I see where you’re coming from, however, given that purple is the indicator for fastest. I had the same feeling when the hypersoft was unveiled, I was thinking to myself “Damn shame they already used up purple for the ultrasoft”.

          1. Daniel Vary
            23rd May 2018, 0:02

            That’s a good point about Pirelli’s brand colours.

            Be interesting to see this weekend, where we’re going to have Pink, Purple and Red marked tyres.. should be fun spotting those quickly. Also thinking about it, if the FOM graphics don’t want to use S/S/S for all 3 compounds, are they going to use “H” for the hyper-soft???

      2. ColdFly (@)
        22nd May 2018, 8:24

        Don’t think the hardened fan would know the difference. Tyre performance depends more on the track than the compound.
        Simple: Hard, Medium, Soft and 3 standard colours. Great move.

    2. @dmw – to the casual viewer, these simplified names are definitely easier to understand, rather than having to remember whether ‘1’ is the soft end of the scale or the hard end. So, I’d agree with @hohum on that point, that it is a smart idea to consider and enact.

      @hohum – I presume the idea there is to keep the sidewalls consistent with the names, and in that respect I like the idea. Both the commentators and the on-screen graphics get the tyre compound wrong a surprising number of times, so to see the sidewall and infer which of the three they’re running makes it easier, as opposed to seeing a colour, thinking back to which compounds were chosen for the weekend, and then determining whether a tyre is S/M/H*.

      You make a good point that the on-screen graphics will be greatly simplified, as a single letter can be used to accurately identify the tyre.

      I also think that they want to avoid confusion by bringing in the old names, which will be inevitable if they use the old colours. Imagine a car running a purple sidewall – that tyre will be named “medium” or “soft” based on the track, but the commentator will likely slip in that it is “last year’s ultrasoft”, and that is likely a connotation – and confusion – that Pirelli would want to avoid.

      Finally, I wonder if Pirelli see a benefit in the slight opaqueness that this change offers, as it could mean a shift away from announcing which specific tyre compounds 1-8 are being used for a weekend, allowing Pirelli the freedom to play around with this some more without having too much of a spotlight on them.

      1. Finally, I wonder if Pirelli see a benefit in the slight opaqueness that this change offers, as it could mean a shift away from announcing which specific tyre compounds 1-8 are being used for a weekend, allowing Pirelli the freedom to play around with this some more without having too much of a spotlight on them.

        It would cost them nothing when announcing tyre allocations for a weekend to show what the compound is. It makes sense for the casual viewers of the broadcast to remove the confusing distinction between an ultra and hypersoft, but for the fans, we should know. It’s a talking point that generates interest and there’s no reason to remove that.

        They should have confidence in their decisions to bring certain compounds to certain tracks and if not that’s an area they should work on fixing, not try to cover up.

    3. @dmw Having this many different compound names shouldn’t be confusing at all to anyone, though. It isn’t that hard, LOL.

    4. Finally – sanity on the tyres, no longer will we have to hear the commentator say “he is on the soft tyre, which is to say the medium, the second hardest compound available here this weekend”, or some variation thereof!

      1. LOL, @THOMF1S :-)

        Not to mention them also saying “bear in mind that this year’s soft is softer than last year, so it is similar to last year’s supersoft”.

        1. Somehow changing the names will end them changing the compounds and thus making the soft this week softer than the soft last week?

          THEY ARE NOT getting rid of the multiple compounds, just changing the names back to what we used to use; prime(hard) and option (soft) with an added compound in the mix. The problem now will be week to week the pedantic broadcasters will want to tell you that this week’s soft is last week’s super-soft so in fat you will be making it worse not better for the casual fan.

        2. I don’t see how this change fixes either of those problems. Also get ready for

          “bear in mind this race’s soft tyre is hard than last race’s hard tyre!”

    5. The solution that Dieter tweeted was exactly what I (and several others) called for at the time Pirelli launched the new F1 tyre “rainbow” (their word, not mine). At the races themselves you don’t need to know where the tyre sits in the whole range, you only need to know where it sits relative to the other tyres brought to that particular race weekend.

      1. @geemac Agreed, only relative tyre compound matters.

        My only minor concern really is the thought of Crofty (for example) reiterating which types they actually are. So we start having commentary going off on tangents as to why this weeks soft tire was the hard tyre at so-and-so… What I guess I mean is they could re-introduce complexity and confusion at the commentary level unless they just get on board with the new names.

        1. @jmzwiv – I can just about hear Crofty’s voice in my mind giving a long-winded explanation about all this :-D And probably flubbing the name of a compound or two in his haste.

          1. @phylyp @jmzwiv #Croftyistheproblem

      2. Personally I hate this change. @geemac. Instead of kknowing which tyres a car actually is on, we are getting served a “harder, softer, softest” menue.
        And then the commentators will have to explain that while it is called the hard in Monaco, it is actually the same tyre that was used for the medium in Spain and might have been the same that Ferrari struggled with in Bahrain when it was called the soft (for example), and not forget to mention that it was the supersoft in the previous year, but it is still the same compound.

        To me what we have now is far more transparent and easier to understand.

  2. Hyperboost 😂 They need a drift button too which gives the rear wheels a kick to drop traction; the longer you hold the drift the more of a speed boost you get! If they’re arbitrarily giving speed boosts, why not?

    blue flags: 1% is less than 50%

    The way tyres are referred to would be a good change, hyper super ultra softs is all a bit much. I hope they still continue to inform the fans of the different compound choices for each race through the media.

    1. I see the tyre decision and the discussion about blue flags as open doors for controversy…

      For the casual viewer, once the soft will work better on a Ferrari and the next on a Mercedes, people will scream that Pirelli is favoring one of them… Still don’t understand why teams can’t choose freely and Pirelli developed the most used tyre for the following season and drop the least used.

      Blue flags, while I would prefer to see the leaders get past the backmarker on track and on their own, too many top teams have a sister team which might play a big role in the outcome of a race…

  3. Re Blue flags, their elimination should be a goal but the turbulent-air/tyre- wear barrier to passing will have to be addressed first. Prior to blue-flag rules the slower cars (107%) tended to decrease the gap between the dominant cars and the midfield and were especially effective at showing up less talented drivers in very fast cars.

  4. I like that tyres will be designed as soft medium and hard but I liked the colour schemes for the different compounds. The names were silly but the colours were a clever idea.

  5. Of course teams and drivers are against changing blue flag rules. In my opinion, blue flags should be solely to warn the slower car of a faster one coming, with the only obligation to be safe.
    Maybe the current cream of the crop wouldn’t be so elite if back-markers didn’t have to move aside for them… it would give others chances to catch up and actually pass.

    1. Maybe the current cream of the crop wouldn’t be so elite if back-markers didn’t have to move aside for them… it would give others chances to catch up and actually pass.

      @mtlracer – While definitely a noble idea in isolation, the prevalence of B-teams for the manufacturer teams means that there will always be accusations of making a pass easier for their own “parent” team drivers, and a regular robust defence for others.

      e.g. Sauber for Ferrari, Toro Rosso for Red Bull, and (holy moly, never thought I’d be writing this) Williams for Mercedes.

      1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        22nd May 2018, 7:07

        Very good point

      2. @phylyp, there was also, in the past, times when a driver might maliciously obstruct another driver to damage his race simply out of spite – Arnoux, rather resenting Prost’s success, was particularly fond of trying to screw up Prost’s races whenever he could by deliberately making it hard for him to lap him.

        1. Very interesting! And he got away without any penalties?

          That would never happen now, would it? We’ve only got mature, grown-up and well-adjusted drivers on the grid ;-)

          1. @phylyp, yes, Arnoux got away with it because there was no mechanism at the time to deal with a driver maliciously blocking another driver when being lapped.

      3. Duncan Snowden
        22nd May 2018, 12:42

        It’s a good point. I’m against the blue flag rule in principle, but in the current circumstances it’s probably a necessary evil.

  6. People are always eager to make a big story out of nothing. I’ve never found it confusing nor complicated at all with this many different compound names, LOL. Actually, I’ve always rather liked it this way, so I wish this particular approach would be kept instead. If this were to happen then at the very least, hopefully, they’d still keep informing beforehand which three specific compounds are going to available for each race like was the case before the current Pirelli era. I also disagree with the suggestion of getting rid of the blue flags, so hopefully, it’s never going to happen.

    1. If this were to happen then at the very least, hopefully, they’d still keep informing beforehand which three specific compounds are going to available for each race

      @jerejj – I have an unfounded suspicion that here lies the motivation. I’m sure Pirelli’s marketers have had a field day with the rainbow spectrum of colours, so to see Pirelli backing away from this makes me wonder if there’s some other motivation, as I alluded to in my comment above.

      In my opinion, I found only the hypersoft name marginally confusing at its announcement, due to the hyper vs. ultra confusion. And if I were to overthink things, I’d say the choice of a pastel colour instead of a strong-looking saturated colour was an odd choice for the fastest tyre.

      1. Hyper soft was the only problem I had with current tyres. I don’t know why they didn’t just make it symmetrical.

        Ultra Soft
        Super Soft
        Super Hard
        Ultra Hard

  7. Q: Do we need blue flags? Has there been any talk about getting rid of them?
    CW: […]Hugely unpopular with teams and drivers, of course.

    I think the question would be which drivers and teams. Is it those more likely to offer an opinion on FIA matters (e.g. Vettel) but who also benefit from blue flags (i.e. the top 3 at the very least)? I wonder what backmarkers have to say about it – Sauber for instance, have sadly been moving out of the way under blue flags for a few years now, what do they have to say? Or KMag, who has earned a bit of a reputation of being a terrible mover.

  8. Hyperboost? HHAHAHAHAHAHA

  9. Hyper boost.. kinda like collecting a star in Mario Kart

    What on earth are FE thinking? Do they really want people to take FE seriously?

    Next they’ll be offering drivers the opportunity to pick up bags of oil to throw behind their car in front of anyone approaching.

    Leave this sort of stuff to the gamers and concentrate of motor racing.

    1. >Leave this sort of stuff to the gamers and concentrate of motor racing.

      Well hang on a second. Not all games are sports, but all sports are indeed games, let’s not deny that. There’s nothing much more to beating an opponent in a race around a track other than for it being fun to do so. That the competition has a development component is secondary to the fact that motor racing is fun. It’s a fun game to play and it’s fun to watch – for those who do enjoy it anyway.

      It makes sense that they would investigate mechanics from other games now that technology know allows them to. FE has always been a test-bed for that, experimenting with new technologies…

      Separating sports from games is only going to be an increasing exercise in triviality as the idea of augmented reality really takes hold and more sports and games are designed around it. I think it’s incredibly smart prediction from Formula E to investigate and experiment in this space.

      1. @skipgamer Completely agree with this. Pit stops have an outsized strategic importance because of arbitrary rules as well. For instance, why are tyre changes allowed in the first place, but refueling isn’t? (Some will say safety, but that rings a bit hollow when every other top-tier category of motorsport has figured this out.) Why does Pirelli attempt to tune the compounds so that 1-stop and 2-stop strategies are close? You don’t hear F1 fans complaining about these arbitrary measures—but they are both designed to give teams the option of trading a bit of short-term pain (a pit stop, or a less grippy tyre) for long-term gain, which is nothing more or less than what the Mario Kart concept does for FE.

    2. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
      22nd May 2018, 8:36

      @dbradock they don’t want to attract you, or me: what’s the point in trying to steal thermal engines enthusiast when all they have to say is “ahah the noise is ridiculous – ahah they have to swap car because the battery doesn’t last – ahah this will never replace true motor sports”.
      They want to attract people who are not into motorsports, it’s easier, the audience is much larger, it can have an impact on society and I think they’re doing a good job.

      1. @m-bagattini

        They want to attract people who are not into motorsports, it’s easier, the audience is much larger

        While i agree with this to an extent, the question that will become moot is “what is the attraction?”
        Is it racing ? Or is it just another form of entertainment ?
        Sure, all these boosts might add more drama to the spectacle called Formula E.
        But at what cost (racing) ?–I genuinely believe this cost is getting lesser by the day. They are simply jumping on the ‘binge-watching & entertainment seeking’ bandwagon and trying to make the most out of it. Cant fault them for that though. Makes a lot of financial sense.

      2. @m-bagattini, the question is going to be whether those same casual fans would actually be more interested in watching Formula E because of that feature, or would think of it as a pointless gimmick that doesn’t do anything to draw them in.

        There are other features that Formula E has where there doesn’t seem to be any clear evidence whether those features are actually succeeding in drawing in a wider audience. As far as I can tell, there do not seem to have been any studies that give a clear breakdown of Formula E’s fan base and how different, or similar, it is to other racing series, and what motivates them to watch Formula E instead of a different series.

        Fanboost, for example, is cited as a positive feature that “increases fan engagement” and helps draw in more casual fans, but as the post FlatSix has pointed out in the past, in reality it seems that Fanboost almost always tends to go to just a handful of drivers (usually di Grassi, Buemi and Abt).

        Furthermore, is there any clear evidence that it is actually “increasing fan engagement” and helping to draw in a wider audience to the sport who might otherwise not have participated? Both Abt and di Grassi have questioned the reliability of Formula E’s voting mechanisms and questioned whether they could be open to abuse (say, by hiring fake social media accounts to spam the voting sites), so there is the question of how reliable any figures that Formula E might have on their media presence might be if there is the possibility of voting records being rigged.

    3. @dbradock

      It is absolutely silly. I have just started watching Formula E and i am already skeptical about the Fan-Boost thing.
      This hyper-boost sounds impractical too. What if all drivers use it on one particular lap ? I understand that it sort of equates to the Nitrous Oxide in video games but to have a level playing field, you’ll have to leave it to the drivers. Having this hyperboost would make skill a little bit redundant.

  10. Easing blue flag rules just sets us up for abuse like we had before that the “sister teams” hold up opponents of the “mother team”.

    1. @patrickl That’s my concern too. It would give the backmarkers a huge amount of power and I don’t think it would be to the benefit of the racing.

      If we get to a point where overtaking become more straightforward, it might be possible then, but we’re a long way from that being the case.

  11. If you take away current blue flag rules then be prepared for the millions of fans on the edge of their seats shouting in frustration ‘get out of the way’ !!!

    Australia, Spain, Monaco, Hungary, Suzuka, Singapore, Abu Dhabi… the races here would be so easily open to interference, potentially deliberate. The frustration of cars being held up potentially preventing a proper battle for position would far out way any positives in my opinion.

  12. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    22nd May 2018, 9:37

    I am actually often against how strict these rules are. It is partly due to the rules of F1 that the teams are so far apart in the first place. Which is heavily the cause of lapped drivers.

    The biggest problem I have is when lapped drivers have just pitted and happen to be quicker than the leaders. I remember this happening in Spain 2016. Haryanto had pitted and came out ahead of the top 3. He actually was setting quicker sector times yet still getting blue flags. It must have been hard for Haryanto to know weather to keep going or heavily sacrifice his pace advantage. If he had ignored them for long enough, despite being quicker, would he have got a penalty?

    Then there are still loads of occasions where there are drivers fighting for position at the back when the leader of the race catches them. Especially if the leader is well ahead of who is in 2nd, what hurts more? the leader costing himself a few seconds waiting for them or the lower teams position in the drivers and constructors championship. With he lower teams, a few points matter more than a top teams driver finishing 2nd rather than 1st a lot of the time.

    So I personally think they need to be less strict. There could do with being specific sections of every track that are designed for the cars to be lapped. So maybe make them wider and put a line at the edge indicating that they are only to be used by the lapped drivers while a lead driver needs to get past. This may give some space for the lapped drivers to still be fighting while this happens and not loose too much of an advantage. While also, the top drivers should be able to get past sooner.

    Some tracks would be really hard to make wider at certain areas and I don’t know what they would think of this idea anyway. But I think the current rules are very unfair towards the back markers who are often fighting towards crucial points towards their position the he championship.

  13. Crazy idea – instead of blue flags enabling easy passing, what if DRS was made available to the leader when he’s within 2-3 seconds of a backmarker, but the leader still has to normally overtake the backmarker? Rather than making the backmarker sacrifice his race pace to let someone past, it just hands a benefit to the leader to overcome any shenanigans a B-team driver might pull for the parent team.

    I know I’m likely to get shouted down for proposing a wider use of DRS :-)

    1. DRS is already in use when chasing down a backmarker

      If your idea is to use DRS only with lapped cars, that’s something I could live with.

      1. @johnmilk – DRS for a backmarker uses the same “within 1 second” rule as for any other car. My idea is that for a lapped car, it be increased to 2 seconds or more.

  14. I’m all for simplifying stuff but who are these ‘casual’ viewers? How is anybody going to casually pay a huge subscription to watch F1 and not know what its about? You have be a fan to buy into it. Next year you won’t be able to stumble upon it as you flick through channels to watch it. So let’s drop the pretence of dumbing down stuff to get more viewers. There is no such thing as a casual viewer. Now messing about with rules to get headlines makes more sense. So does the constant threats to quit. Just more nonsense to keep a dying thing alive.

  15. Provocative hypothesis:
    Getting rid of blue flags is hugely unpopular with anyone who has half a brain.

  16. John Toad (@)
    22nd May 2018, 16:49

    If you remove the blue flag rule it would motivate the teams to solve the overtaking problem.

  17. “Unpopular with the teams”! What a load of tosh. The teams should have no input into the rules, too many vested interests. The FOA should make the rules and the teams adapt.

  18. I would like to see the blue flags back to how they were for a long time which was just a warning that a faster driver was coming up. The slower driver didn’t have to practically leave the track like they do now to accommodate the overtaking driver. This is what made Senna. While Prost was arguably faster in race pace Senna was much more aggressive at passing lapped traffic. And there was a lot more lapped traffic for those guys as the cars were much farther apart in terms of speed.

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