Winnie Harlow, 2018

F1 apologises to “innocent victim” Harlow for flag error

2018 Canadian Grand Prix

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Ross Brawn has issued an apology on behalf of Formula 1 to Winnie Harlow for the error which led to the model waving the chequered flag a lap too soon at the end of the Canadian Grand Prix.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting explained after the race that Harlow had waved the flag when she was told to do so, and the instruction was given on the wrong lap due to a miscommunication.

Nonetheless Harlow has been widely criticised and blamed for the error by some Formula 1 fans on social media.

Brawn described Harlow as “an innocent victim” in of a mix-up at the end of the race.

“She was asked to wave the chequered flag, but was told to do so after 69 of the 70 laps had been completed,” said Brawn in a statement issued by FOM.

“I was sad to see her so heavily criticised when, as race director Charlie Whiting explained, it was all down to a misunderstanding between two officials. Winnie simply followed the instructions she was given and I want to apologise for the grief she received and thank her for supporting Formula 1.

Something similar happened in China in 2014, but in that instance it wasn’t a celebrity waving the flag. As the saying goes, ‘to err is human’ and all of us – drivers, managers, engineers, mechanics, journalists and fans – make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them and try to prevent them happening again in the future.”

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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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66 comments on “F1 apologises to “innocent victim” Harlow for flag error”

  1. Ok, we get it…

    1. We need a good conspiracy theory for what happened, so here it goes…

      Her friend “Hammy” #44 was very concerned with the engine reliability; 7 races already. So, minimizing the chances of a engine failure at the end of the race was paramount. Solution: engage with a Canadian celebrity in charge of the checkered flag and tell her to wave the flag as early as possible. To avoid further embarrassment, FIA will take the fall by admitting it was their fault.

      Hamilton is like Machiavel

  2. She’s a ‘victim’ of more than being told to wave the flag at the wrong time.

    If I was at an event due to a friend, an event I knew little or cared little about, having received a tap on the shoulder in the paddock I wouldn’t feel worthy or confident of performing such a task in front of millions of people who’ve paid very good money to watch.
    If Ross feels so bad for her, perhaps he could explain how they choose their ‘victims’?
    At least give them 10 minutes of training so they at least look semi-professional whilst carrying out the wrong orders.

    1. Not necessary. She’s a Canadian celebrity at the Canadian GP. Celebs do this all the time because it takes no special skill to wave a flag when you are told to do so. Right from the beginning, I knew it was the responsibility of the officials to see that she waved it at the proper time, and that would include PREVENTING her from waving it at the wrong time. This is ALL on race control, and that is done by the FIA. It should be the FIA apologizing, not Brawn.

      1. It should be the FIA apologizing, not Brawn.

        @gwbridge – was it Liberty or the circuit who invited her? I initially assumed the circuit, but seeing Brawn’s statement, I wonder if it was Liberty.

        1. It doesn’t matter who invited her. What matters is that the FIA officials in race control lost “control”of the situation in a very basic way. I think Brawn’s statement was made for two reasons. First, Liberty Media rightly feel that the “show” aspect of an F1 race (the presentation) is their product. Second, no one else (and certainly not the FIA) was apologizing to Harlow for the abuse she got over this, and she has even been abused here where people are mostly very civil.

  3. My theory is that the organisers were worried that the somnolent snoring of bored spectators was about to drown out the drone of fuel saving engines and so pulled the plug early.

  4. Vettel fan 17 (@)
    12th June 2018, 19:03

    The grief she received? Honestly, that is probably the most exaggerated thing I have ever heard. They made it sound like somebody close to her died. I never heard them apologises for the grief a driver receives. Is that just because she’s a celebrity? Probably yes in my opinion

    1. She’s a celebrity? I had never heard of her before.

    2. @vettelfan17 Have you not seen the vitriol on social media? She’s been an easy target because she’s a woman, a model, and not an F1 fan. People (even in this very comment’s section) have attacked her looks, intelligence, and right to be there. FOM was very slow in explaining what happened, so yes, they do owe her an apology. She was a guest that simply did as she was told (as she should) and ended up being ridiculed. I don’t understand why this is so difficult to understand.

      1. @ajpennypacker Absolutely right. I must admit my first reaction was an ‘OMG, the bloody celeb screwed it up,’ which turned out to be completely wrong. I didn’t bother to check, but it’s not hard to believe that Twitter quickly filled up with self-righteous fans racing to excoriate her.

        There was some talk in the post-race segment on Sky that suggested the mess was actually the fault of the officials, but it was all a bit tentative and they should have provided an official statement as quickly as possible.

      2. She’s been an easy target because she’s

        a woman,


        a model,


        and not an F1 fan.


        That doesn’t mean it wasn’t nice having there, or that she was in any way responsible for the fault, but let’s not make it more than it is because some bigots found their way from their cave to their social media accounts.

        1. You are wrong, across social media people have been attacking exactly because she is a woman and a model. You can say “No” all you want but it doesn’t make it any less true.

      3. Kerry Maxwell
        13th June 2018, 18:38

        Hear hear!

      4. @ajpennypacker

        She’s an easy target because she’s a reality TV show star. A group who have the habit of wriggling their way into events like this to stay relevant.
        I think F1 fans are getting tired of celebs who also tart themselves up for attention yet the Grid Girls who are anonymous, were banned.
        After the race finishes on TV, turn over the channel and these ‘stars’ are still everywhere.
        I think you’ll find the ‘vitriol’ found on social media, is identical to that towards any other reality TV show stars, male or female who millions of people also worship to the point of making them mega rich. It’s not like the whole world is against them.
        If Liberty had drawn a lottery from the well paying crowd for someone to wave the flag and it turned out to be a Mother who’d worked hard to take her kids along, I doubt very much ‘social media’ would have made negative comments, they are more likely to have crowd-funded her to attend another race.
        You’re just playing identity politics and it’s you who’s singled her out because she’s a woman and I fear the organisers probably used her for the same role to appease the same feminists who had Grid Girls banned. This is just weird double standards.

    3. she got more than enough from “racefans”, for a mistake obviously other (nameless?) ppl did. it was a relief ending the borefest a lap early. should have done it on lap 55

    4. Invisiblekid
      13th June 2018, 15:42

      Wow where have you been for the last few days or the years since Twitter appeared, or even on here, since she has been knocked for it, less so the flag incident but certainly if she deserved to be there.

  5. Why am I the only one who doesn’t care if she waved it early or not? The result was not going to change the next lap, in my opinion. We should thank her it was cut short, honestly.

    1. Well it didn’t change in this occasion. What if Ricciardo messed up under pressure and Hamilton overtook in the final corner? He would take 2 extra points which can be very important when it comes to championships. Such mistakes should not happen.

      1. NonFerrariFan
        13th June 2018, 19:58

        FIA did it on purpose to help Ferrari.

    2. Why dont you just turn off the TV then, i wanted to see the race to the end.

      1. You did see it to the end. :-)

        1. Kerry Maxwell
          13th June 2018, 18:41

          Exactly! If I see one more comment that implies all the drivers shut off their engines the moment the flag is waved… The cars drove 70 laps!

          1. I didnt imply that, i know perfectly well what happend.

    3. Even if the championship didn’t change, Dan Ricciardo lost a legit fastest lap to his teammate

  6. I believe she also was the innocent victim of many internet comment bile.

    1. And the slightly toned down versions in comments (btl) on this site. It was made clear fairly soon after the race that she’d been instructed to wave the flag too early, yet that didn’t stop a ton of comments criticizing her personally and needlessly yesterday and today. If people are so ‘cued into’ Formula 1, unlike celebrities, why not try being better informed then?

  7. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    12th June 2018, 19:51

    Well, I think it is pretty obvious that people would criticize a celebrity for what they thought was their mistake. As people including myself assuem they often have no interest and often not much knowledge about the sport. If it had been a normal person waving the flag, I feel the blame would have not been put on him/her as much.

    But still, I just think there are too many of these celebrities on the grid now. The majority of them seem to have no interest and not much knowledge about what is going on. Then the media on the TV coverage waste time speaking to people that (sorry to say) sometimes seem a bit clueless about what is happening. Even during the race, they often end up filming these people in the teams garage. And I remember on one occasion, they wasted over 10 seconds showing someone who was clearly board and just on her phone not paying any attention to the timing screens or the race.

    1. @thegianthogweed
      No i think i would still criticize the person doing a screw up like this, if they put people who cant count the laps in charge of waving the flag it is a justified critique. Her being a celebrity just puts a face on the person who screwed up but that really doesnt matter.

      1. @rethla I mean, if she was told to wave the flag, she had no reason to disobey. The person telling her to do so was actually an official.

      2. @rethla Your problem is with the FIA race control staff who were present, not with the person who was instructed to wave the flag at the wrong time. No one to blame her but the FIA personnel.

        1. @gwbridge
          Yes, as i just said she only puts a face on it and it doesnt matter to me. If all the medias wasnt reporting this girl all the time i would never have seen her face and been just as fine.

          1. You are still blaming the honorary flag waver instead of the FIA officials, and that is not fair to Harlow who obviously had not a clue. For you to accuse Harlow of not being able to count is degrading for her and letting the FIA slide for failure to control the race properly. You can dance around it all you want, but your comment was still both offensive and inaccurate. There are times when you should just admit you were wrong rather than doubling down when multiple posters call you out.

          2. @gwbridge Keep on dreaming. Media is making a big deal of Harlow but shes a nobody to me.

            I was responding Ben Rowe about if it mattered that she was a celebrity or not, the rest is your words.

          3. @rethla Just keep doubling down. Your words speak for themselves: “No i think i would still criticize the person doing a screw up like this, if they put people who cant count the laps in charge of waving the flag it is a justified critique. Her being a celebrity just puts a face on the person who screwed up but that really doesnt matter.”

          4. @gwbridge

            Ok let me give you more of “my” words then. Harlow is the only one to blame for this misshap and i have a big problem with that.


            You are defending someone who dont needs defending from someone who doesnt care to be involved at all.

      3. Do you think that ANY person brought in to wave the flag at the end would just be allowed to count the laps and wave it on their own judgement, or look at the screen and then wave it without ant instruction from the OFFICIAL present?
        Use a bit of intelligence. Its obvious they wave it when they are told to.

        1. Use a bit of intelligence?
          Whatever their procedures they clearly failed a simple task and im very sure the main cause is the confusion in them treating the flagwaveing as a VIP package.

      4. It’s not always easy to know exactly what lap the leader is on when you’re at the track. It’s not like when you’re watching on TV with several people telling you that information, and with the lap counter right there on the screen. Regardless, the flag waver simply did what the pros told her to do, and the pros let her down. BTW, she actually did a great job of waving the flag per se. Some celebs are a bit meek about it.

  8. It’s the fault of the idiot that told her to wave the flag.
    What’s next blaming the flag itself.

    1. Indeed, 100% right, thanks for inviting her Lewis, she’s one brave beautiful human being, been through hell and fought back.. Respect
      @I blame the guy with the Walrus mustache.

      1. Where did you read that she was invited by Lewis? You do know she’s Canadian & one of their biggest international models, right?

        1. She said herself that she was there because she was Hamilton’s friend.

          1. No, she said she was friends with him. The organisers invited her to be checkered flag waver. So no, she was not their because she’s friends with him.

        2. @KGN11 “No, she said she was friends with him. The organisers invited her to be checkered flag waver. So no, she was not their because she’s friends with him.”

          They asked her if she was a follower of F1 racing, and her response was that she was there because Lewis is her friend. Of course, she was asked by the organizers to be flag waver. Of course, she is a well known fashion model. Of course, she is Canadian. What’s her ONLY connection to F1 racing which she stated she knew nothing about? Answer: She’s friends with Lewis, and a quick google shows that the tabloids have linked them romantically less than a year ago. There’s no problem with Lewis inviting his friends and entourage to F1 races, and I’m not saying she was made flag waver because Lewis suggested her or that anything would be wrong with it if he did.

          For anyone to be so hyper-defensive of Lewis as to state that “she was not their because she’s friends with him” is absolutely ridiculous and shouldn’t require this much explanation to refute. A little common sense would be appreciated.

      2. @budchekov You do understand who is responsible for race control, don’t you? It isn’t Liberty Media. This is just another example of a biased fan trying to pile onto Liberty Media with no basis.

        I’ll upvote the comments regarding Harlow, though. Nothing wrong with Lewis inviting his friends to attend the races, either, even if they aren’t really race fans.

  9. Why should nobodies wave the flag? She said that the only reason she was in the race is because she Hamilton’s friend. Why didn’t Jacques Villeneuve wave the flag since it was the 40 year anniversary in honor of his father?

  10. She did everyone watching a solid by waving the flag early. How can people be mad?

  11. Her publicist probably has still not stopped giggling with joy… more famous now than ever.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      12th June 2018, 23:18

      Yeah I was thinking the same. No-one would have had a clue who was waving the flag if this hadn’t happened!

    2. Yes, I didn’t have a clue who she was, I do now. Sometimes the Nuremberg defence is valid.

  12. Because she is a victim of bullying, has a weird face and this was Canada.

  13. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    13th June 2018, 0:01

    One way to solve the issue is to put tarrifs on chequered flags.

  14. Marcia Haynes
    13th June 2018, 2:30

    Maybe F1 should just leave the flag waving to professionals, this is too big a risk to take.

  15. Starting to make Formula E and WRC more appealing race by race.

  16. To people who are absolutely shocked at the apology, since according to them, Winnie Harlow has become “famous” because of the events of the race and hasn’t been attacked personally on social media, look no farther than the comments on this article.

    Btw, the term you’re looking for is “infamous”.

  17. She isn’t at fault. But I seriously question why she was asked to do it. She was asked on the grid if she was an f1 fan and said no, why are celebrities being put in this position anyway, it’s even worse if they aren’t even genuine fans. F1 is a serious sport and should be refereed in a serious manner. I’ve never seen a celebrity join a football pitch to blow the final whistle.

  18. I’m waiting for Ross Brawn’s apology to real Formula One fans for FOM’s choice of a vapid celebrity, one with no interest in F1, to wave the checkered flag in the first place, regardless of whether or not she did it correctly.

    1. “vapid”?

      Seems odd that you actually know her, but it’s a small world.

  19. Sergey Martyn
    13th June 2018, 8:11

    What else to expect when you ban the grid girls and give one of them the chequered flag?

  20. F1 fans, what the hell? Are we that whiny to punish the model who did only what the race officials explicitly asked her to do?
    As Will Buxton summarised: “Use your brains! It’s not a rocket science.”

    1. The ‘we’ are a tiny minority of people who will moan about anything – they certainly don’t represent F1 fans.

  21. Great media stunt.

    And why did FIA tell her to eave the flag after 69 laps? That makes no sense to someone not interested in racing.

  22. Vettel's right foot
    13th June 2018, 22:12

    She’s a pretty woman that takes sensual and often semi-undressed pictures in a sensual and sexual manner for a living. How is she any different from the grid girls that are now no longer considered politically correct? Because she’s got a unique complexion? Oh puhleease.

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