Circuit atmosphere, Circuit Zandvoort, 2022

Drivers call on fans to “behave” and urge tougher consequences for flare-throwing

2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers say the sport needs to do more to ensure fans do not endanger their safety by throwing flares onto the circuit.

Two flares landed on the track during yesterday’s qualifying session at Zandvoort. At least one fan was ejected from the circuit for an incident involving a flare.

Drivers discussed the safety dangers of flares and the smoke they generate in the briefing ahead of this weekend’s race. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon said the brightly coloured smoke is “part of the atmosphere” but admitted “it’s not great to see [them] on the track.”

“Nothing should be thrown,” he stressed. “We’re driving at 300kph, so it could be dangerous to hit something through the straight line.”

Nicholas Latifi said the smoke created by flares has been a growing problem during races.

“Obviously we don’t mind it in certain situations. I would say specifically in qualifying and at the start of the races, even during the race is not the greatest.

“Spa was probably the first time, and I think a lot of other drivers commented the same, it actually confused whether there was a car off ahead of you or whether it was just an orange flare. Most of the time I find it is a very distinct orange, so you know that’s a flare, not gravel. But in Spa there was a few times I was like ‘has someone gone off in front and there’s just not a yellow flag?’ You don’t exactly know.”

The problem is more acute at Zandvoort, says Latifi, because the fans are much closer to the track.

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“It’s not ideal, especially on a track like this where everything is very close. At Spa, Red Bull Ring, everything’s so much further away from the track, the grandstands.

“So I think the fans need to behave a little bit because I remember at the last lap last year when they lit the flares, you couldn’t see anything in the chicane at the end. And again, if there’s still a race going on behind then, it could be quite dangerous.”

Fans were warned not to bring flares into the circuit ahead of the race. Latifi said it’s not realistic to ensure none of them bring flares in, but wants tougher action against those who do.

“Maybe there needs to be some, maybe not stricter security checks because you can’t security check 100,000 people properly, but stricter consequences if someone’s seen doing that,” he said.

Daniel Ricciardo agreed tougher action should be taken against those who throw flares onto the track. “I 100% agree that the person should be kicked out,” he said. “Probably more but at the very least.”

However his team mate Lando Norris doubts there is much more that can be done to deter spectators from lighting flares.

“I heard he got kicked out, the guy, that’s the only thing you can really do,” he said. “I heard they’re trying to limit flares actually getting into the track and give specific times of when they can actually light them. But, we’re in the Netherlands and they’re drinking a lot and having a good time so in a way you don’t want to blame them.

“But if they’re like metal canisters, which I think a lot of them are, then if it gets thrown up or something, then it can be dangerous. They’re trying, I think FIA have discussed it already and they’re limiting as much as possible.”

Besides the obvious safety hazards of flares landing on the circuit, there is an additional concern they could be used to influence the outcome of the race. If the track is neutralised due to a flare during the race, as was the case during qualifying, the resulting disruption could give teams the opportunity to make quick pit stops under Safety Car conditions or similar.

After qualifying Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was asked whether he was concerned the throwing of flares yesterday could have been timed to target Lewis Hamilton, following his rivalry with local favourite Max Verstappen last year. Hamilton passed by Tarzan shortly after the second flare was thrown during qualifying.

“Clearly the flare is the more dangerous thing because if such a can hits you, we’ve seen that in the past, it can have lethal consequences and the halo wouldn’t help you with that,” said Wolff.

“We looked at the camera angles when Lewis was going through the pit lane. I don’t know if somebody threw it at him, but it happened before he actually was at that point.

“So again a few idiots and I hope that the organisers are having a grip on it with the security.”

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2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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16 comments on “Drivers call on fans to “behave” and urge tougher consequences for flare-throwing”

  1. Lando? Can’t blame them? Wrong!
    Also Ocon’s tacit acceptance is unwelcome.
    These flares are unnecessary and should be stringently banned and the message drilled into the “fans” relentlessly until they are no longer used. Let’s stop our sport descending into some football/soccer type of mentality.

    1. ^ This.

  2. Lethal indeed.

  3. Tougher? They literally handed the person over to the police who brought charges to them. What do they want? Public flogging?

    1. Ahhh – good old Max Moseley – he would have enjoyed that :)

    2. Lifetime bans from any future Formula 1 event.

    3. Maybe better security procedures to prevent them from being brought in and bans help as well.

      1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
        4th September 2022, 18:56

        It was mentioned by organizers that flares were also brought into the circuit not being hidden in backpack but on the body.

    4. @sjaakfoo the reason why the circuit owners have been putting up the notices stating that flares should not be used around the track is because, even if they are just letting the flares off in the stands, the people who are doing so are committing a criminal offence.

      The flares that are used are classed as a controlled pyrotechnic device which have strict legal restrictions on their use, and because they contain a small explosive charge to ignite the flare, there are also strict legal restrictions on how the flares should be transported.

      Whilst one person who threw a flare onto the track was caught and now faces charges from the police, the second person who threw a flare later in the session hasn’t been caught. Meanwhile, those letting off the flares in the stands are, from a legal perspective, also acting illegally, and yet it seems that those letting off the flares around the track have also not been punished in any way.

      Yes, one person is now finally facing repercussions for their actions – but, in reality, that one person is the exception, and most of those who act in this way are not being punished for it.

  4. As a Dutch fan, I hope there’s no more flares at all. They contribute nothing to the spectacle. If the fans want to act like football fans then create some nice chants instead.

  5. Bring a flare? Lifetime ban from all F1 events. Issue fixed.

    1. Please provide us with a brief description of your proposal for enforcement of this penalty.

        1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
          4th September 2022, 18:58

          How will that work across multiple countries, it is not like 100,000 fans can be checked on ID.

  6. I can’t bring in 2 l of bottled water, or an umbrella, but they can smoke half of the track with these flares, seems fair…

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