Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019

F1’s black-and-white flag to be used as ‘motorsport’s yellow card’

2019 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 race director Michael Masi is reviving the use of the little-seen black-and-white flag, which he says should be thought of as “the motorsport version of a yellow card”.

Pierre Gasly was shown the flag, referred to as the ‘unsportsmanlike driving’ signal, during last week’s Belgian Grand Prix. Mas had advised drivers they would be shown the signal if they cut the apex at Raidillon three times, and any subsequent infractions would be reported to the stewards.

Gasly was shown the flag for this reason. However Masi also intends to use the flag as a public warning to drivers who are at risk of incurring a penalty for other infractions.

“The black-and-white flag, ‘bad sportsmanship’ flag, is something that hasn’t been used, prior to this, [since] 2010,” he explained. “But one of the discussions that’s been ongoing with the sporting directors is using it.

“One of the reasons I haven’t used it to date was trying to find out off as many of them why it stopped being used, and no one can come up with a valid reason. It’s one of the flags that exist in the code. Every single sporting director and every single driver is supportive of the use of it. It’s effectively the motorsport version of a yellow card.”

Masi said the discussions around reviving its use began before the Canadian Grand Prix, where Sebastian Vettel as controversially penalised for rejoining the track in an unsafe fashion.

The last F1 driver to be shown the flag before Gasly was Lewis Hamilton during the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix. The stewards warned him for weaving on the straight to disrupt the slipstream of a driver behind.

The flag could be used for “a range of [things]”, said Masi. “Squeezing drivers, moving under brakes, all those types of things. But we see it effectively as motorsport’s version of a yellow car, to put it in football terms.”

The International Sporting Code defines the black and white flag as “a warning to the driver concerned that he has been reported for unsportsmanlike behaviour”, noting it should “be shown only once”. It is displayed motionless and should be “accompanied by a black board with a white number which should be shown to the driver whose car’s number is displayed.”

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8 comments on “F1’s black-and-white flag to be used as ‘motorsport’s yellow card’”

  1. Checo should’ve received that warning or one of his three-allocated warnings for his defense against Albon on the Kemmel straight if not a penalty, and a penalty for maintaining a position by going off the track a bit earlier had he managed to stay ahead till the end, but fortunately Albon managed to get past anyway, so they didn’t matter as much after all.

  2. I really like this idea. Rather than just dropping a penalty on the driver, let them know to cut it out.

  3. Hmm, not really ‘yellow card’ is it?
    A player who repeated a ‘yellow-card’ offence in the same football match, would be shown a red card and sent off immediately, wouldn’t they? But this black and white flag is merely a warning that ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’ has been noted and will be reviewed later and without the possible sanction of being disqualified if they do it (or another offence) in the same race again.

  4. I think the element of subjectivity would be little higher in cases where they would use this flag. I just hope it doesn’t spoil good aggressive racing in the name of sporting code..the line differentiating the two seems to be getting thinner in the last few years.

    On a lighter note, i think we might see Magnussen’s car draped in Black-and-white henceforth. There is a lot of black already…

  5. Good and no excuses for not knowing what it is! I had to know all the flags when going for my race license – I expect the top drivers should know the flags too!

  6. @webtel If the statement is interpreted how I’ve taken it (and of course, that’s mainly assumption at this stage) I think it’s purpose is actually to avoid what you’re concerned about.

    To give a driver a clear and recorded warning instead of just dropping a penalty on them. My concern is the opposite, that if a precedent is set that drivers get only a “yellow card” for their first offence, that a driver will (as any competitive sportsman SHOULD) take full use of this and once at every grand prix make one illegal and dangerous defensive or offensive maneuver. But we’re yet to see where else the flag might be used, so either way we don’t know yet.

    I agree re. Magnussen. Perhaps instead of the Danish flag on his cockpit surround they could use this next to his name.

  7. I think it’s a good idea, this can effectively warn a driver who’s being over aggressive without disrupting the race order, it will also reduce these overused time penalties that for me detract from the sport. For sure, if a driver do something blatantly aggressive, he can be punished straight with time penalty, but at least this flag can reduce the amount of silly penalties being handed for small infractions.

  8. Good to see Masi is examining these aspects of stewarding races, and isn’t just settling for “this is how it has always been done”. Hopefully, he can similarly bring in some teeth into other aspects as well, such as track limits, etc.

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