Winnie Harlow, Canadian Grand Prix, 2018

FIA says celebrity guest Winnie Harlow not to blame for chequered flag error

2018 Canadian Grand Prix

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The celebrity guest who waved the chequered flag at the Canadian Grand Prix, Winnie Harlow, was not to blame for the signal being given a lap early, according to the FIA.

Race director Charlie Whiting explained the confusion which led to Harlow waving the flag on the 69th lap of 70.

“The chequered flag was shown a lap early because there was a mis-communication between the start platform and the guy they call the starter here, the guy who starts and finishes the race,” said Whiting.

“He thought it was the last lap, he asked race control to confirm it, they confirmed it. They thought he was making a statement when he was in fact asking a question, and he just showed it a lap early.

“He told the flag-waver to wave it a lap early, so it wasn’t anything to do with the fact it was a celebrity flag-waver.”

Under Formula 1’s rules, the race result had to be taken from the lap before the flag was shown.

“The reason for doing that is to make sure that if there was some confusion over it then if you go back to the end of the previous lap then you will get a true race classification.

“It’s like when a race is stopped, it can’t be restarted, you take it back to the end of the lap prior to which the stop was given.”

Whiting suspects a mis-reading of the lap counter may have contributed to the mistake.

“I think people who don’t work in Formula 1 sometimes are confused by the graphic that they see on the screen where it says 69 out of 70. We all know that means we’re on lap 69 but to someone who’s a slightly more casual observer, might think ‘that must mean it’s the last lap’. I think that’s where the doubt originates.

“We obviously need to do a better job briefing these people.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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67 comments on “FIA says celebrity guest Winnie Harlow not to blame for chequered flag error”

  1. So nice of “race director” Charlie Whiting to throw “the guy they call the starter here” under the bus like that.

    1. And what if he’s right? What reason would he have to blame someone who’s innocent?

      1. And besides, she did claim she was told to wave the flag too early.
        If I were her, I’d wave the flag as soon as I could too. That race need to just end.

      2. AbSomple Twist
        11th June 2018, 6:22

        I must say it’s so unprofessional to blame “the guy they call the starter here.” Charley you’re the guy responsible for running the race. Ass.

      3. It says in the article the race control gave the flag man the confirmation to wave the flag:
        “he asked race control to confirm it, they confirmed it.”

        In other words the the people who f1 calls race control confirmed it and the flag man was just following orders.

        1. @socksolid

          It says in the article the race control gave the flag man the confirmation to wave the flag:
          “he asked race control to confirm it, they confirmed it.”

          In other words the the people who f1 calls race control confirmed it and the flag man was just following orders.

          Exactly right

      4. Maybe he is taking the blame – as his job title is “Race Director and Permanent Starter”

    2. @eurobrun I don’t think so

      “He thought it was the last lap, he asked race control to confirm it, they confirmed it. They thought he was making a statement when he was in fact asking a question, and he just showed it a lap early.

      There’s the “Lap 69=last lap” thing but I don’t think he described it as the main cause

  2. Harry Enfield plus Paul.
    11th June 2018, 0:40

    God love her. All she was thinking about was Kid blast Hamsy and his nose ring.

  3. I agree, don’t blame her.
    Blame the guy who thought it is a good idea to hire some stupid celebrity for that job.

    1. What makes her stupid?

    2. If you read the article, the ‘stupid’ celebrity did as was told. The FIA race control are responsible for the error.
      Why they didn’t use a simple radio to track and communicate the location of the race leader, I’d never know.

      1. But why did they have to pick her? I was not under the impression that she even cared the slightest about the race. If you insist on letting someone “famous” (never heard of the woman before this screw up) it shouln’t be to hard to find someone who has at least a little bit of affinity with the sport.
        Even better: pick one lucky fan from the audience and make him/her/whatever mega-ultra-vip for the weekend and do the flagging.

        1. She is a Canadian celebrity at a Canadian race, makes perfect sense to me. These things shouldnt always only be done by the F1 inner circle. I for one can’t stand it when every podium interview was Brundle, Coulthard or Eddie Jordan.

          1. Can’t please every angry fan making absurd requests. I guess he think it takes some ‘special skills’ to wave a flag.

  4. Everyone who celebrated the end of the previous millennium on January 1st 2000 made the same mistake.

    1. Because there was a race that ended and results collated? What on earth are you talking about?

      1. We all waved the chequered flag to the previous millennium a year early. For the same reason that Whiting points out in the article.

        1. You’ve been holding on to that for 18 years ey? Sad…

    2. Yeah, you’re allmost right, except you aren’t.
      On the callender we count the years completed, opposed to f1 where we count the lap currently running.

      1. It turns out you actually are right. At least according to wikipedia. So, sorry about that. Still don’t really care though.

      2. Not really, though. There was no year zero (not accounting for historical quirks such as the fact that a certain Jesus H. Christ was apparently born 6 years before … himself), our calendar suddenly jumped (in retrospect) from the year 1 BC to 1 AD. Consequently, the second millenium BC did indeed end on 31 December 2000.

        1. That’s why I corrected myself.

  5. So they had Winnie Harlow and David De Gea?

  6. clearly, if there’s blame it goes to Liberty for making it a “sponsor” moment. Big FAIL!!

  7. Whiting says: “We all know that means we’re on lap 69 but to someone who’s a slightly more casual observer…” Since when did “casual observers” run a GP?

    1. @paul-a – LOL, I think that is really the pertinent point.

      Although judging by the comments of some, it appears that the marshals provided by the circuit can be classified as casual observers.

  8. “Only available in Canada, you say.” Pity.!

  9. This is all a bit too much. They just happened to take that perfect photo? They look a bit too happy if that was after the fact. As if she didn’t want to do something that gets her publicity. “Oops!” *giggle* “Teehee” It definitely looks like that starter bloke would be keen to get in on something that would make her day if it doesn’t go higher up anyway that is. I just don’t buy that it’s possible for there to a simple miscommunication with anything to do with whether it’s the last lap or not.

    Anyway I’d never heard of her before this and it got me to google her and learn about that skin condition so… Grats to her I guess? Not a bad viral awareness campaign…

    1. It is actually possible to take a photo at one point in time, and proceed to post that photo at a later time; which actually allows a window of time when things can happen.

      They might’ve taken the photo on her phone as she was getting ready to wave the flag, but she didn’t post it right away because she was busy waving the flag a lap early.

      I guess if she took the time to post the picture right away and missed the call to wave the flag she may have waved it on the correct lap.

      1. There are fans running from the stands to the track in the background, and if it was taken before hand it’s even more perplexing why the starter would have that comedic “not my fault” expression.

  10. Just imagine if the same thing happened in football or something, a referee ending a game a couple of minutes early because of a miscommunication… Glad there wasn’t anything at stake today. Still a ridiculous thing to happen!

    1. It is quite possible that putin will end the cup at the opening game, if russia were winning. the russia will be world champion

  11. Where is the technology involved in this process?, I don’t believe the way they describe the process to wave the checkered flag is like that, The Formula 1 is the most advance technology in the cars, it is ridiculous, is just a matter to put a light that turn on on the last lap, that’s it.

    1. One light is all that is needed. With “wave flag” scribbled in black marker next to it.

  12. Why is a serious and important part of officiating the race handed out like confetti to nobodies?

    Are they going to let a celebrity decide on racing incidents? I’d love to hear what she thought about Perez being squeezed off track? Whether to send out the SC or VSC? What about post race scrutineering? Does she want to take a fuel sample? Leave the proper F1 jobs to properly qualified people.

    Same goes for tv time during the race. I’d don’t care about local personalities in the garage during the race. Race time is for racing people. Flavio Briatore roaming to pit lane: relevant. Fashion designer in garage: not relevant. Martin Whitmarsh seen talking to team principals: relevant. Local politicial looking bored at race: not relevant.

    1. 10-4 on all your comments …

    2. Whatabout drivers wives?

      1. Pretty drivers wife: relevant
        Not pretty drivers wife: not relevant.
        Not pretty drivers wife somehow in bikini: semi-relevant.

        All kidding aside, not relevant during the race. Sure show some of the celebs and people-to-be-seen during practice, but come race day we want to see cars.

        1. But the races are booooring.

    3. How I wish Briatore wasn’t relevant anymore.

    4. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      11th June 2018, 23:06

      I think them showing the celebrities is really annoying during the race. It baffles me why they chose some of them. There was one time where they showed someone famous (don’t know who) during the race. For over 10 seconds! All she was doing was looking at her phone paying no attention to the timing screens or anything about the race looking board stiff. Why are these people there and why do they take chunks of time out of the race and show these people. And then in the pre race show, wasting minutes of time with people who know nothing about F1 and are there for money and are clearly are pretending to be interested in F1 in the interviews. So awkward to listen….

      The only time I can see this filming being more relevant is when showing a replay of a drivers close friend with their reaction to what happened. Shows that they are paying attention to what is happening. Wasting time showing these people that clearly have no interest is incredibly annoying.

  13. I have an opinion
    11th June 2018, 3:22

    Is it not the responsibilty of Mr Whiting, as Race Director, that all marshals and other functionaries are adequately trained? To be fair, these personnel are provided by the circuit and there have been numerous examples of sub-par marshalls and vehicle recovery crew at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the past.

    The starter was unsure and did the right thing by asking Race Control. I will kindly assume that the misunderstanding was due to a language barrier rather than frank incompetence.

    1. Yep, it’s funny the way he pretends it’s not his job. Always blaming, explaining or deferring away any situation unsafe or incorrect situation that ever happens.

      How he still has this job is beyond me… He should be saying it was an unacceptable mistake that they will work at ensuring new processes for which are in place at the next race. Furthermore that they will endeavour to ensure such incompetence doesn’t affect what are normally a highly professional events for which the pinnacle of motorsport should be known.

      How a miscommunication becomes an acceptable excuse for anyone involved is beyond me.

      They really need to get rid of whiting, he explains away absolutely everything every time and never accepts anything can be improved or better systems can be put in place.

      1. @skipgamer
        Agreed. Time for Whiting to move over. Not just this incident, but a number of dodgy decisions throughout the season.

        1. Should of gone 5-10 years ago.

          Long overdue

        2. @eurobrun I’ll never forget Martin Brundle saying tractors shouldn’t be trackside even under double yellow flags, he said it more than once and well before Bianchi’s accident. FIA and Whiting took no blame for this, I just don’t understand.

      2. Why is FIA always so incompetent?
        Why are F1 teams so competent?
        Why is FOM so vain?

        Working for FIA = government sector job-competence-level
        Working for F1 team = private sector job-competence-level
        Working for FOM = advertising agency superficiality-level

      3. FIA and incompetence are synonymous, which is why Charlie Whiting fits in so well. You think flagging a race two laps early is bad? How about selling the commercial rights to Bernie for $100 million, who then (with CVC) turns around and ultimately sells those same commerights to Liberty Media for $8.0 billion.

  14. What I don’t understand is why this starter boy had to ask or ‘ask for confirmation’ it’s the last lap. Does he not have a counter of some sorts in front of him? How does it go normally, does race direction tell him to wave without him knowing the lapcount? If not, is he counting down himself??

    1. @flatsix maybe he couldn’t connect to the F1 live app because the service was down again?
      Or it’s like in that lethal weapon 2 movie when they struggle to decide as to whether do 1, 2, jump or 1, 2, 3 then jump.

      1. maybe he couldn’t connect to the F1 live app because the service was down again?

        Hahaha COTD! :)

  15. ”the guy who starts and finishes the race,” – He’s actually the starter himself, LOL.

  16. The mistake she made was waiting until the 68th lap to wave the flag. She should have done it on the second lap and put everyone out of their misery.

    1. The Dolphins
      11th June 2018, 17:49

      @bluechris Bravo. My thoughts exactly. I was urging the lap counter to go faster, like staring at the clock on a dull day at work.

    2. If the chequer was saved on the 2nd lap, what would actually happen? Or for the sake of argument, before two thirds distance, say lap 35?

  17. Despite the fact this was a mistake from FIA no more ‘celebrity’ flag wavers- how about Liberty get a proper F1F each race to do this? It would be a dream come true for any of us to do this- yet we have “celebrities” like Maria Carey and……………….. who ever wave the flag last night doing this. Liberty – get the fans in, these people don’t know or care about F1.

    1. +1
      Unfortunatelly, not a F1F… It’s RF now….mmmm

  18. Well I think she did a great job…
    Little bit too late ?…For sure….
    But hey, there are a lot of these grid girls out of a job now,so if the FIA can help get them back in the work force, I’am all for it.

  19. Soo…are they going to react and change this rule or will the FIA be passive like usual and wait until there’s a MASSIVE problem? What would happen if someone waved the flag after 10 laps? Would the race actually be stopped?

    1. Yes, I fail to see how this will ever be a massive problem however.

  20. Bring back Glen Dix !!

  21. “He thought it was the last lap, he asked race control to confirm it, they confirmed it.”

    “We obviously need to do a better job briefing these people.”

    Alternatively, you need to do a better job understanding ‘these people’.

  22. Waiting for the day Greenpeace manages to hide a self-waving checkered flag at Spa and activate it after 20 laps…

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