Romain Grosjean, Haas, Singapore, 2018

Grosjean’s block on Hamilton “one of the worst cases of ignoring blue flags”

2018 Singapore Grand Prix

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Romain Grosjean committed “one of the worst cases of ignoring blue flags I’ve seen” in the Singapore Grand Prix according to FIA race director Charlie Whiting.

The Haas driver was given a five-second time penalty and two penalty points on his licence for failing to let Lewis Hamilton by while trying to overtake Sergey Sirotkin. Hamilton lost several seconds which allowed Max Verstappen to catch him.

“Romain just completely forgot the golden rule of blue flags and that’s if you’re in a battle you’ve got to forget your own battle and move over,” said Whiting. “I’ve drilled that into them many times.

“I think he completely forgot about it. He was so intent on his battle with Sirotkin that he just didn’t… the light panels were flashing with his race number on them, Lewis was much faster, it was probably one of the worst cases of ignoring blue flags that I’ve seen for a long time.”

However Whiting said Nico Hulkenberg was within his right to stay in front of Valtteri Bottas when he was about to be lapped by the Mercedes driver.

“Valtteri didn’t get close enough to deserve a blue flag so there was no issue there with Nico not respecting the blue flag,” he said. Blue flags are only shown to drivers when they are less than 1.2 seconds ahead of a car which is trying to lap them.

Whiting said he does not think the time limit should be increased. “This time last year it was one second. We had a few discussions and opened it up to 1.2,” he explaied.

“I don’t think we should go any more than that because then you get into a situation where a driver has to back off and lose a lot more time than he really should to let the other car through. He’s got to do it at his earliest opportunity, which is what we say, and [if] he’s 1.4, 1.6 seconds behind, he’s got to back off and lose a lot of time. And we don’t want that to happen because it’s not fair.

“I think it’s reasonable to expect a driver can get within 1.2 seconds. Everyone else did today except Valtteri. I don’t know why that was, probably his car wasn’t exactly as he wanted it. I spoke to him earlier and he said he just couldn’t make any headway. Well that’s not our problem, without wishing to sound unkind, everyone else was abiding by that and had to work to that and we couldn’t make an exception for him.”

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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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47 comments on “Grosjean’s block on Hamilton “one of the worst cases of ignoring blue flags””

  1. Gunther Steiner must be in the verge of exploding.
    If you throw cards with the drivers’s numbers on a table and tell him to pick the numbers of the drivers he’d choose to drive for Haas next year, 20 and 8 would be very close to be the last ones on his choice.

  2. Valtteri Bottas did himself a whole lot of no good today.

    When has a car, with no technical issues and no track problems, finished almost a minute behind the identical sister car? Whining about the Hulk just drew more attention to a dreadful race perfprmance.

    1. Funnily enough…….the one person his performance does most for is……Nico Rosberg…..

    2. @gnosticbrian the funny part is that Bottas is actually a great driver and has quite a bit of pace and could beat almost anyone on the grid under the right conditions. When Lewis is in tune with his car, he’s just in a world of his own. Lewis looks like a superstar when he’s having trouble with the car and would be in Bottas’ situation were it not for his ability.

      We’ve seen Lewis make everyone he’s raced again look bad so it’s not surprising that Bottas is in the same situation. He nearly lapped Button in 2012 who pitted to avoid the humiliation and then Button almost outscored him that season when Hamilton could have won the championship if McLaren wasn’t somehow vandoorning Lewis.

      1. @freelittlebirds Button was going through a period where he was struggling beyond belief, but that evaporated after Silverstone. Other than that period of five races, Button was always quite close to Lewis, and there were times when he dominated him outright. Bottas has never really done that, and he’s not even matching Rosberg either. So a driver who is worse than Button or Rosberg, two people who were considered good drivers, not great, is really not good enough to be driving for one of the best teams on the grid. Not to mention that the only reason he got that seat in the first place is that Mercedes had no other options other than Wehrlein (who was a rookie), and he was managed by none other than Toto Wolff himself.

        1. @mashiat

          Button was always quite close to Lewis, and there were times when he dominated him outright

          When did Button dominate Lewis? Did that happen in 2012?

    3. When has a car, with no technical issues and no track problems, finished almost a minute behind the identical sister car?

      Possibly Button in Canada 2012? Finished a lap down on the sister car (also driven by Hamilton).

      1. Massa basically every race from 2010-2013.

      2. I prefer to remember Canada 2011 😀

    4. Fikri Harish (@)
      17th September 2018, 4:08

      In the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix, Alonso was only a couple seconds away from overlapping Massa.
      I’m pretty sure Alonso has tons of other occasions like that given the relative weakness of his teammate (Piquet Jr, Grosjean, post-accident Massa and 2014 Raikkonen).

  3. Grosjean immediately post his ban seemed to have learned his lesson & was driving very well while at Lotus for the most part. I dunno if getting the Haas drive on merit got to his head, but he’s regressed badly since joining them & even though we haven’t heard too much from him on the radio lately, he was starting to sound like a spoiled, entitled prima donna. He’s also looked woefully out of his depth wheel to wheel. I wouldn’t bank on him keeping his ride for much longer unless something improves. One more infraction & he might have to serve another ban.

  4. It’d be nice if we could go back to when the blue flag meant there is someone coming up to lap you and nothing more than that. This is getting tiring when the blue flag means make your car completely disappear or else. Separates the men from the boys.

      1. Oh boy, it’s when I see onboard footage from past seasons that I realize how much better the cars looked without the Halo…

    1. @darryn, when the blue flag rule was originally introduced into Grand Prix racing in the 1930s, the flag was intended to mean a faster car is approaching and that the driver it is being shown to should move aside – there are contemporary records from the late 1930s which confirm that.

      There are also a wide range of contemporary reports from the 1950s onwards from a range of motorsport series, including F1, that show that a blue flag was an instruction to a driver to move to either the left or right hand side of the track – it varied depending on the nation and race event, but more commonly to pull to the right hand side of the track – to allow a faster driver to pass him.

      It wasn’t just for cars either, as FIM, the motorcycle equivalent of the FIA, also intended a blue flag to have a similar context when they adopted it in the mid 1930s (that the rider it is being shown to is being overtaken by a faster rider and should stick to one side of the track to allow that other rider through).

      There are other contemporary records which also show that the original meaning of a blue flag was to tell a driver to let somebody else through – for example, in 1953 the RAC issued advice to flag marshals on what the different flags are meant to tell the drivers. For the blue flag, the marshals were told that a blue flag would give a driver the following instruction: “Light Blue Flag held horizontally: Keep close to left, another competitor wishes to pass.”

      Alternatively, here is this line from a report on the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix: “Whereas Rindt had got through the traffic in four laps, it took Ickx five laps and Stewart seven laps and it was very noticeable that no-one moved aside for him, in spite of blue flags being waved” – the implication being that the blue flags were not just waived to say “there is someone coming up to lap you and nothing more than that”, but that the driver was expected to move aside when he was shown a blue flag signal.

      Martin Brundle has also said that, when he drove for Tyrrell, Ken Tyrrell knew that the blue flag rule meant “there is a faster driver approaching, move to one side of the track and allow them to pass you”. In brief, what Ken told him was that, as there was no penalty for not giving way when shown a blue flag and because Ken didn’t want his drivers to lose time by letting somebody else through, he should just ignore it.

      It may be the case that, until the 1990s, the blue flag rule was laxly enforced or that people reinterpreted it as guidance rather than an explicit instruction, but the intended message of a blue flag from the very beginning has always been “there is a faster driver approaching, move to one side of the track and allow them to pass you”. All that really happened was that, because too many drivers were not obeying the rule to let another car though, the FIA finally introduced a penalty mechanism in the 1990s to enforce an existing rule.

      1. Interesting. Thanks!. I guess I will re-phrase it and say that I preferred it when it was unenforced. I liked when someone like Arnoux would just hold his line because he was unhappy if he was getting lapped. Just another thing to naturally randomize the race instead of sprinklers or high degradation tires.

        1. @darryn, Arnoux was much more malicious than that, because he would deliberately try to sabotage the races of some other drivers out of spite.

          I’m not sure that sort of behaviour would be so willingly tolerated today – imagine if a backmarker today was to sabotage the races of a title contender by deliberately blocking him in a race?

      2. During the 60s and 70s (and perhaps more) it was also confirmed in written reports that there were two types of blue flag in use, during the same period.
        1. Static Blue Flag: A car is closing and will want to pass.
        2. Waved Blue Flag: Move over.

        This seems perfectly clear to me… so I don’t understand why some people are now oddly asking why drivers racing in front should have to cease their race and move over. It’s an illogical attitude. But it could be made equally clear by banning the front cars from passing each other (once blue flags have been shown) while they are moving out of the way of the main passing cars.

      3. I remember, may have been late 80’s early 90’s, blue flags waved at a slow car at Monaco, the driver was not being lapped but was getting them because he was slow, he just ignored them.

        1. Which reminds me of Schumacher and Brawn ignoring a Black Flag…
          Talk about: ‘set a thief to catch a thief’… lol.

          1. BlackJackFan, surely Mansell ignoring a black flag during the 1989 Portuguese GP is far worse, particularly since he then proceeded to take Senna out of that race as well.

          2. I’m not interested in ‘better/worse’ arguments – they’re the same as ‘what/if’ arguments: irrelevant at best; useless at worst.
            Your comment gives the impression you are a Schumacher fan – and therefore not impartial.
            I was alleging that Brawn’s reputation is/was suspect, a point you attempt to gloss over by suggesting Mansell’s action was worse – right or wrong, it’s irrelevant to my point, and inadmissible evidence to the debate… ;)

    2. What an utter mess that would be.

  5. I feel Whiting said this because it’s Grosjean. What about Sirotkin braking so late on old tires, that he locked up and pushed Grosjean wide? Was he not also racing?

    Seriously Whiting seems so subjective in his decisions, I really think he’s the one out of his depth.

    1. He really is. Not suitable for the job anymore. Way to biased, subjective, Ecclestone alike. What about black flagging Perez? Clearly as an idiotic move as Vettel in Baku on Hamilton. Clear black flag situations. It is his team that needs to police this

  6. That was absolutely absurd… I like Grosjean but he nearly screwed up the entire race for Lewis and his championship. All of a sudden, Max was in a position to overtake Lewis who was trying to avoid a collision.

    This could have ended Grosjean’s career and there was no point to it whatsoever. Just let them pass and get on with it.

    Grosjean’s having some great results lately and he just needs to get down and make sure he gets the most points for his team and himself. The last thing he needs is the FIA all over him – it’s not a battle he wants to fight and certainly not one he can win…

  7. Charlie Whiting is singlehandedly attempting to ruin racing as we know it.

    Racing is about racing. Guys shouldn’t have to stop racing just to let someone by.

    Grosjean did NOTHING wrong. But because we have to protect the Golden Boys, everyone else should be made to suffer.

    Why even have 20 cars on track. Maybe we just leave it at 6 and see how that goes for them.

    1. Yeah, I agree. Make it a straight race (not a circuit, but from a to b) or forget about the blue flag and be a man in this clearly faster car you’re in

  8. Forget your own battle?!

    I thought they‘re trying to make a show…

    That battle was one of the best moments in the race, plus HAM had to make his way through while keeping VER behind.

    If it’s either that or „forget your own battles“, please get rid of the blue flags altogether.

    1. Make your car faster or respect blue flags.
      Even Hamilton when he is being lapped immediately gives way, even if he’s faster than the car lapping him. Likewise Vetttel, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Alonso, etc.

    2. why get rid of blue flags? to allow your favorite driver overtake another driver who did everything right up until that point… Blue flags are a necessity, if not for it, whats there to stop a top team use their 2nd team/drivers to use as backmarkers and stop/delay leading cars so their main guy can catch up while destroying leading car’s tyres and give overtake chance to following car in an impossible situation? do you think that would make racing more exciting? or more disgusting?

      1. Exactly, pit their second driver 6times just so they can get in the way of the target car.

      2. Constructor championship is more valuable for a team than the drivers championship.

  9. It’s always the same guy doing the same thing over and over again. If it’s not him it is his team mate.

  10. All this whining is insufferable.

    “Help! Theres another car on the track, my qualy lap is over!!!”

    “Charlie! tell this guy to let me pass, how dare he defend!!!”

    “Why are these guys racing?!? black flag them all!!!”

    I miss the time when F1 was full of mature men shutting up and doing their talking by actions.

  11. -it is bad to have blue flags to counter a lack of competition created by awful rules, copyright FIA
    -is it moronic to have the same delay for the blue flags across all the circuits on the calendar
    -it is beyond stupidity to blame more GRO than SIR for slowing faster drivers

  12. I’m surprised Sirotkin didn’t get a same punishment

    1. The blue flag is always shown to the car that is about to be lapped. Sirotkin was ahead of Grosjean (not Hamilton) so the blue flags were not being waved for him.

      He would have been shown the blue flag only after Hamilton had passed Grosjean.

  13. This might sound an absurd argument, but why not apply blue flags when the lapping car is within 1.x seconds of the to-be-lapped car (as it is now), and also apply blue flags at the same time to any other to-be-lapped cars that are within DRS range of one another?

    That would ensure that if two midfielders/backmarkers are battling for position, they all get the impact of blue flags much closer together, which should hopefully lessen the impact of blue flags to their battle when being lapped.

  14. It indeed was one of the worst cases ever, so, therefore, the penalty was entirely justified.

  15. F1 doesn’t need blue flag!!
    There are some reason it would be a good decision:
    1, The slower car’s driver should decide to race with faster car’s driver or don’t. (As a result they probably slow each other or don’t.)
    2, Blue flag is unfair, when drivers at the end of the field couldn’t race each other because of the faster car’s driver.
    3, Without blue fags, teams should develop cars to be fast not only clean air, but turbulent air as well in order to overtake cars easier.
    4, I think races would be more interesting without blue flags.

  16. Ok Charlie, we know why it’s the worst blue flag case ever for you. Not for anything Grosjean did or failed to do, but for who was behind. We got your number, Charlie. Just pack up, and good riddance.

  17. The one thing i’m confused about is Hulkenberg did get blue flags, twice. So Bottas must have been close enough. Fair enough very soon after he dropped out of range, but doesn’t this mean Hulkenberg failed to let him by as he didn’t move over even with a 2nd warning? That is something that makes little sense. Unless they came out and Bottas never was even within 1.2 seconds. But in that case, that is poor because it could have affected Hulkenberg’s race for no reason. So I don’t think this is likely.

  18. @keithcollantine @dieterrencken

    Guys, what are the arguments for and against removing the blue flag rule in F1?

    I would love to see race leaders overtaking backmarkers on merit. What entertainment this would make!

    1. F1 doesn’t need blue flag!!
      There are some reason it would be a good decision:
      1, The slower car’s driver should decide to race with faster car’s driver or don’t. (As a result they probably slow each other or don’t.)
      2, Blue flag is unfair, when drivers at the end of the field couldn’t race each other because of the faster car’s driver.
      3, Without blue fags, teams should develop cars to be fast not only clean air, but turbulent air as well in order to overtake cars easier.
      4, I think races would be more interesting without blue flags.

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