Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, Losail International Circuit, 2021

Lessons to be learned from handling of Verstappen yellow flag incident – Horner

2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes there is “room for improvement” in how yellow flag incidents are handled after Max Verstappen received a grid penalty in Qatar.

Horner retracted his earlier comments that a “rogue marshal” waving yellow flags had caused his driver to collect a five-place grid drop. However he remained unhappy with the circumstances of the incident.

Verstappen was penalised after failing to slow while passing double waved yellow flags which were being shown due to Pierre Gasly’s stationary car at the end of qualifying. The usual accompanying warnings via light panels were not displayed at the time.

Having been given a formal warning by the stewards for his comments about the marshal, Horner stressed he did not take issue with the penalty, but felt the incident could have been handled better.

“The yellow flag was in accordance and the penalty was in accordance with the sporting code,” said Horner. “I think there are many lessons to be learnt from [qualifying].

“As a race team leader you learn from every single event. And I think no doubt the FIA will embrace that methodology as well that you can always learn and you can always improve.”

Valtteri Bottas was also penalised after passing a single waved yellow flag at the scene. Horner said he was unaware why double waved flags were displayed when Verstappen arrived shortly afterwards.

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“There was no explanation from that perspective, and of course, that was what my frustration was voiced at,” he said.

Analysis: The yellow flag confusion which hit Verstappen’s title hopes in Qatar explained
“I think there’s always room for improvement, isn’t there?” he added. “But I think we’ve seen other teams voicing, visually, their displeasure at the FIA at races as recent at Brazil.

“There’s always going to be frustration, obviously, when there’s a tight competition and marginal rules can have massive impacts like we saw with the grid penalty.”

However Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said the situation was not unusual. “There was a yellow on the track because of the car parked to the right,” he said. “I think that’s pretty normal, standard.

“The penalties are unfortunate, absolutely. But the rules are the rules. It happened to us in Austria I think 2020 in qualifying with Lewis [Hamilton].”

“You have the track marshalling system on the dash, you have it flashing, you have the flags and you have a car parked,” he added. “So it’s four criteria that need to be judged on and obviously in the heat of the moment in qualifying, these things can happen, but shouldn’t happen because it could be dangerous.”

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54 comments on “Lessons to be learned from handling of Verstappen yellow flag incident – Horner”

  1. Indeed. Yellow flag situation handling should always be consistent & entirely avoid confusion.

    1. @jerejj No. The most important part is that flags are out fast and marshalls are able to react instantly. Dashboard lights are backups. Horner is just doing the cover-my-ass dance.

      1. Marshall should have a button they can pres when they think they have to wave flags it’s much faster and seen in every car (Think Spa al the drivers didn’t saw the flags untill to late.

        Here was it for a car after the finish line and strange enough first double then single and then nothing that was very strange indeed.

        I don’t have problems with the penaulty as they were waved (not where i expected) and they should be followed.

    2. Look at the last sector times of the drivers that were out, Norris, Sainz, Bottas, Max etc and then tell me it was applied consistently….

      1. Markku Hänninen (@hmmh)
        22nd November 2021, 15:28

        Sector 3 times from the timing app for the drivers after Gasly:

        Ocon: 27.675
        Vettel: 30.174
        Norris: 27.546
        Alonso: 33.176
        Bottas: 27.769
        Sainz: 27.731
        Verstappen: 27.543

  2. Well on the screen it looked like Yellow S3, Green track, Yellow S3, Green track.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      23rd November 2021, 9:16

      Which made sense since Gasly went off, drove off again and then stopped on track.

    2. @qeki Unfortunately for those drivers involved, flags take precedence.

      1. Indeed, so according to the rules that lap is gone.
        There was no reason to wait so long.
        A lot of needless confusion created by massi and Co.

  3. I think this season has several more important lessons to learn from than a yellow flag incident. It has been quite a tainted season. The rules & regulations book will need a thorough review as well as the code of conduct (if any). In-season changes to the characteristics of a tyre. Rules meant for saving budget (max nr of engines) used to gain a competitive advantage and some ethical boundaries seriously crossed. The circus will have to ask themselves the question what they are. Are they still a sport?

    1. Rules meant for saving budget (max nr of engines) used to gain a competitive advantage

      Rules meant for ANYTHING has always been used to gain a competitive advantage. That’s the nature of F1.

    2. Red Bull have taken a lot more engine components than Mercedes.

      1. @scbriml RBR have had 4 PU’s, they’re allowed 3 both lost a PU (Hungary and Silverstone), and took 1 more complete PU.

        Mercedes have taken 5 ICE, as far as I’m aware, only Hamilton has had an ICE failure during practice (which was later said to be PU 1).

        1. @maddme Yes, but I was very specific in my statement. While Mercedes has taken more ICE, Red Bull have taken more engine components in total – Mercedes = 53 (22 HAM, 31 BOT), Red Bull = 60 (29 VER, 31 PER).

          Source: f1-fansite.com

          1. But you do know the ice is the part they changed without need.

          2. Where in the rules does it say it “has to be needed”?

            Red Bull changed all of Verstappen’s engine components in Russia to negate his penalty from Monza. Did they all need changing? No, they didn’t.

    3. Mayrton, why do you keep complaining about “in-season changes to the characteristics of a tyre” when Red Bull themselves have thoroughly dismissed that point and said “it’s made no difference”? They even initially suggested the changes could be slightly favourable for them, given a stiffer tyre carcass would have potential aerodynamic benefits for a higher rake car (e.g. by reducing potential issues with tyre squirt that could disrupt airflow through the diffuser).

      Would you prefer seeing drivers having further tyre blowouts and crashing into a wall instead? You were screaming for Pirelli to take action back in Baku – but, when they did, now you are blaming them for doing what you were demanding they must do?

      1. Verstappen fans: Oh poor Max was so unlucky with his tyre blow-out in Baku, without that he’d be WDC already.
        Pirelli: We’ll make the tyres stronger.
        Verstappen fans: Pirelli changed the tyres to help Mercedes!

      2. Do you honestly believe tyre blowouts was the reason for the change? Just as a super fast pitstop is way too dangerous I guess? Come on, think for yourself please. Even Brits and Lewis fans like Peter Windsor have clearly stated repeatedly that the tyre change, changed the entire season in Mercedes favour.

  4. F1oSaurus (@)
    23rd November 2021, 9:15

    He had the chance to start “fixing” this when Hamilton had a similar issue were in some parts flags were shown and in others not and Red Bull made sure Hamilton got the penalty.

    A car stationary on the track and double waved flags right next to it would be a clear indication that would overrule lack of indicators on the dash really though.

    Makes sense that a steward can decide on their own to start waving flags for something like that rather than wait for race control to confirm that a car is stationary on track.

    1. The steward was right in waving the flags (maybe the double yellows were too much, but it is not crystal clear).
      What needs improvement is how race control reacts when a marshal is waving a flag.
      They should not have given the all clear message and they should not have enabled DRS again.

      1. @exeviolthor

        They should not have given the all clear message

        Why not? Gasly was underway normally again. So then the track is cleared. Until he came to a full stop on track. And then double waved yellow was applied.

        It all makes perfect sense from the stewards point of view.

        1. @f1osaurus

          The marshal did everything correctly. A car is stopped in front of him so what else could he do?

          My point is that race control should have disabled DRS again and they should have displayed the yellow flags in the drivers’ dashboards. They were just too slow.

          It seems that race control were more concerned to not ruining the fastest laps of the drivers rather than making sure that the track is safe.

      2. It’s was not too much only why he showed first double then yellow then nothing.

  5. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
    23rd November 2021, 9:18

    Double waved yellows sounds correct to me, as once the car is stopped the driver will want to get out and the flags warn that there may be people on track.

    As Mayrton says, there are far more important questions which the FIA needs to address, namely the huge inconsistency in stewarding. FIA steward ought to be a professional job with qualifications, just like the referee in football. We need people who take pride in their work. The ridiculously catty response to Mercedes’ lawful request for an incident review shows the abject quality of the current stewards.

  6. “room for improvement”

    I absolutely agree but it’s the drivers that need to improve. Passing waved yellow flags at full speed is dangerous.

    This attempt at blaming the FIA for his driver’s mistake is pretty low, even by Red Bull standards.

    This is an extract from the decision letter regarding Carlos Sainz for the same incident, showing how a responsible driver behaves

    “The driver stated that although he did not see the yellow flag, he did see that Car 10 [Gasly] was stationary on the right of the pit straight and therefore assumed that there was the probability that he was in a yellow flag area, so made a significant reduction in speed in the relevant mini-sector.

    1. I think that the problem is not as simple as saying that the drivers need to improve. If 3 drivers cannot see the flags then maybe there is something wrong with the visibility in these cars.

      Also it was not the first time that this happens. Last year Hamilton and Giovinazzi dived in the pits when the pit lane was closed. More drivers would have done the same if they had not been notified by their teams that they could not do it.

      These are not rookies so if these drivers make these errors so often then this is a safety concern.

      1. @exeviolthor it really is that simple.
        Drivers (and teams) have become complacent, relying on boards and dash signals. What if these systems both fail?
        The rule that flags take precedence is there for a reason. Drivers need to take notice of the flags.

        1. @gardenfella72

          I agree that drivers need to take notice of the flags. What I am saying, though, is that drivers have been missing them so often that it cannot be because of incompetence. The reasons why they miss them need to be investigated.

          1. @exeviolthor the reason why they have been missing them is because they have been relying on dash signals.

    2. Lol, look at Sainzs last second time compared to Bottas…. he must have been on for pole if he lifted….

    3. Nice story, but if you look at the data it does not hold.
      Last sector (where ver won a lot)
      Alonso: 33.176
      Bottas: 27.769
      Sainz: 27.731
      Verstappen: 27.543

  7. The lesson learned is that if race control wants to turn the yellow off because Max is coming then they should radio all their marshalling points to wave the green flag whenever the see Max on track.

    Secondly, the golden rule for race drivers is to always look out for the flags. It doesn’t matter what the intention behind the waving flag is, once it is being waved respond accordingly.

  8. My opinion:
    Penalties are correct: safety is too important so ignoring flags should be penalised

    But just the fact that 4 drivers missed or ignored the flags is a clear sign that something is not right.
    Either drivers are very irresponsible by ignoring the flags, or the flags are not clear enough (Sainz missed it), or both.
    So drivers have a clear responsibility.
    But FIA also has a clear responsibility to make sure there are no conflicting signals. If the marshall is the most important input for the drivers, then why does the rest of the information (lights on steering wheel, pit info, …) not follow the marshall? If safety is that important, there can be no misunderstanding. So in that sense Horner does have a valid point

    1. Horner has a point but after the fact.
      Redbull brought to light Hamilton driving past a yellow light last season even though the light was blinking through a cloud of dust making it hard to see. The point being if the light or flag is shown respond immediately so always be on the look out.
      Lights indicating on the dash or steering of the car are recent introductions and are subject to failure.
      The intention of whoever is behind the lights is irrelevant just respond to the lights or flag.

      1. Well yeah, my point is that due to the security implications the lights on the steering should not be subject to failure.
        Open for misunderstanding/interpretation typically lower safety.

        1. You do know that the lights on the steering wheel don’t appear there automatically, even in 2021 we still hear of drivers with radios that fail. The pit board and the flag are still the trusted and reliable means of communication.

  9. This just shows why working for Redbull is very very perilous with such bosses like HORNER and the other guy
    a yellow flag is yellow flag and no other way to look at it.
    can you imagine the fiasco if a driver gets killed because a yellow flag was not respected…

  10. Lessons to be learned from this incident but no lessons to be learned when there is no investigation into the 2 lead cars driving meters off track when track limits are in place. Ok Horner.

  11. Horner is incredible. He just can’t let it go, can he? He should keep quiet for two reasons at least: Verstappen blatantly ignored the flags and Horner said too much without thinking.

  12. It’s always good to have your drivers back, so no problem with that. They are a team and there’s no point blaming each other in public. But I hope behind closed doors he speaks differently because Verstappen is doing himself no favour at all. He lost an almost certain win in Mexico 2019 and he lost the only chance to remotely challenge Hamilton here.
    And it is so unnecessary because the rules are quite clear. Whenever you see yellow flags (or even double yellow) you have to lift. It’s bad luck when it is destroying your lap and even more annoying when it’s due to some misunderstanding but you have the do it. You cannot mess with safety.

  13. I think drivers should always follow the flag signs by marshall posts. Period. I feel Horner’s comments about the “rogue marshal” are unjustified. But I don’t understand why the marshalls chose for a double-waved yellow flag. I didn’t see any situation with Gasly’s car that required a double-waved flag but perhaps the cameras missed it.

    1. @matthijs stopped car on track = double waved yellows
      The precise wording is “Double waved: Reduce your speed, do not overtake and be prepared to change direction or stop. There is a hazard wholly or partly blocking the track”

  14. Wasn’t it in 2012 that Vettel was investigated for overtaking under yellow signals in the Brazil finale of that year. But was cleared because whilst his steering wheel showed yellow, he didn’t make the overtake until after he passed the green flags. Allowing him to keep the championship he had claimed with his result in that race.

    Back then, the FIA stated that the flags took precedent over any other signals.

  15. Maybe also look at penalising drivers who regularly bin it in qualifying ruining other drivers laps at the same time. Seem to be the same handful of drivers ruining others qualifying throughout the year and they never get punished for it.

    1. Davethechicken
      23rd November 2021, 20:58

      The counter to that is to be ahead of them on the track.
      Always the risk when running last in qualy is a yellow flag will ruin your lap.

  16. The teams are all followers and stuck in their ways. During daytime qualifying the track is heating all day so going out last is better. But during nighttime qualifying the track is cooling so going out last is the wrong approach. Another lesson to be learned.

  17. Is the lesson to ask your driver to respect the yellow flag, Christian?

  18. If this came from any other Team Principal in the paddock, it would be easy to take it seriously.
    But coming from whingebag Horner, meh.

  19. Horner certainly has lessons to learn after how he handled the Verstappen yellow flag incident.

  20. So in short, any (volunteer) official can flag at any time, one or two flags even by mistake. You must reduce speed. Now that is a perfect way to influence a pole position fight. Love conspiraties..

    1. @pietkoster Yes, flags do occasionally get waved incorrectly. That doesn’t matter, it’s the driver’s job to obey them.

      There have been two GP to my knowledge that finished early because the chequered flag was waved too soon.

  21. Conspiracy theories…..

    1. Engels is veel moeilijker dan Nederlands😁

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