Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Suzuka, 2022

Drivers kept racing after chequered flag amid confusion over finish

2022 Japanese Grand Prix

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Several Formula 1 drivers continued racing at full speed after the chequered flag was shown at Suzuka as their teams were unsure whether or not the race had finished.

The Japanese Grand Prix was badly disrupted by rain and ended with only 28 laps of the original 53 being completed due to the three-hour maximum race time limit expiring.

Under the F1 sporting regulations, time-limited races are supposed to conclude “at the end of the lap following the lap during which the two hour period ended.” Winner Max Verstappen began the 28th lap with just seconds left of time remaining. However when he completed the lap he was shown the chequered flag rather than commencing the final lap.

Many teams were caught out by the unexpectedly early end to the race. They included Red Bull, who told Verstappen he had begun his final lap after he crossed the line before telling the winner that the race was over halfway through the cool-down lap.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Japanese Grand Prix in pictures
Ferrari also told Charles Leclerc he had begun the final lap after he had actually finished the race. However Ferrari’s recently-introduced automated radio message system played its “chequered flag” message when he crossed the line, helping the team to realise their mistake.

As the leaders began to back off with the race over, some drivers behind them continued to race at full speed in the belief they were still racing for position. When Sergio Perez, who was third across the line, backed off, he was caught by Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton who continued to race after taking the chequered flag. The pair were surprised when they encountered the Red Bull driver who had finished the race 12 seconds before them.

Fernando Alonso was also involved in an intense battle over sixth position with Sebastian Vettel. The pair crossed the line side-by-side, Vettel claiming the position by a hundredth of a second.

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But Alonso carried on racing and completed two sectors of the cool-down lap at speed before being told to back off and return to the pits.

Both Alpine drivers kept racing after the chequered flag
“It was very chaotic for everyone,” said Alonso after the race. “Even the last lap, we didn’t know if it was the last lap or not, so it was very difficult for everybody.”

McLaren team principal Andrea Seidl said his team were surprised other drivers remained at racing speeds after receiving the chequered flag on the timing screen.

“From our side, it was pretty clear what had to happen there,” Seidl said in response to a question from RaceFans.

“I think also the chequered flag was out at the right time. But we saw that Max, for example, was still going flat out after crossing the chequered flag, so I’m not exactly sure what happened there or which communications happened there.

“For us it’s clear – we saw the chequered flag and if it’s out, then you respect it. But we saw that Max kept pushing, so we went on the safe side until we had clarity.”

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Ocon and Hamilton’s radio messages after chequered flag

Ocon and Hamilton take the chequered flag in fourth and fifth positions, but the Alpine driver keeps racing:

Speaker To Message
Josh Peckett Esteban Ocon Esteban, that is the chequered flag. Chequered flag. Well done mate, you did it!
Esteban Ocon Josh Peckett Ocon is still racing with Hamilton
You sure? Are you sure?
Josh Peckett Esteban Ocon Yes.
Esteban Ocon Josh Peckett Ocon continues to race Hamilton
He’s still pushing behind…
Josh Peckett Esteban Ocon Keep pushing, please. Keep pushing.
Josh Peckett Esteban Ocon Esteban, the cars in front have backed off.

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Behind him, Hamilton is also still pushing:

Speaker To Message
Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So we have taken the flag, so let’s go strat mode one. So you’ve got cars ahead going slow…
Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington What’s that? He’s taken the flag?
Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton Yeah affirm!
Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington Backing off
Aww shit, man…
Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton Yeah, copy. Felt like that came out one lap early according to our timing.
Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So we’re going strat mode one. And that’s P5 Lewis.

The pair back off when they catch Perez and Leclerc, then start to push again:

Speaker To Message
Josh Peckett Esteban Ocon Ocon has passed Perez and Leclerc
Okay, the chequered flag was out, Esteban. That’s it.
Esteban Ocon Josh Peckett Backing off
Okay, okay… You’re sure, yeah?
Josh Peckett Esteban Ocon As sure as I can be.
Esteban Ocon Josh Peckett Both drivers return to racing speed
Okay, well, I’m passing everyone and then you tell me.
Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington Are you sure the race is over? These guys are still pushing.
Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton Yep. Yep they have shown the flag. We’re seeing it on the timing page.
Josh Peckett Esteban Ocon Okay Esteban, we are going to come in the pit lane at the end of this lap please. Instruction from race control. So the chequered flag was out, we’re coming in the pit lane this lap please. Scenario 12, please. Scenario 12. We are not racing now. We are not racing – the race is over. You finished P4. Well done. Box now. Let’s just try and cool those brakes on the way in.
Esteban Ocon Josh Peckett Yeah, sorry. Just hasn’t happened a lot of times…
Josh Peckett Esteban Ocon Yeah, so the confusion has happened because the flag came out a few seconds earlier than we think it should’ve done., so we did a lap less than we thought we were going to. Sorry for the confusion at the end.
Esteban Ocon Josh Peckett That’s okay

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2022 Japanese Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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47 comments on “Drivers kept racing after chequered flag amid confusion over finish”

  1. “Winner Max Verstappen began the 28th lap with just seconds left of time remaining. However when the completed the lap he was shown the chequered flag rather than commencing the final lap.” — I think second “the” should be “he”.

    So we’re clear, the FIA waved the chequered flag and ended the race a lap early, right?

    1. Yes. Two timed races in two weeks and the race finishes were handled differently.

      What a mess.

    2. No, you are wrong on that one. If a race ends through the 2-hour limit, you get an extra lap. If the 3-hour time window expires, you don’t get an extra lap. It’s a bit of mess in the rules, but it was handled correctly

    3. YES 100% @dang FIA or more specifically Liberty Media’s Americanization of F1 turning it into Nascar where race cars are allergic to the rain making up the rules to build more hype wwe style is creating more fans and engagement is killing the sport for purists.

      Virtually every other FIA sanctioned series race adds +1 lap when the timer goes to zero for practical reasons because it prevents scenarios like the flag waver not having enough time to get the chequered flag ready and prevents drivers from parking the car before the line and driving over it when the clock goes to zero.. BUT at Suzuka the officials invented new rules and used 4d mental gymnastics to interpret current regs the way that suits them..
      It did look like there was meant to be another lap as the main feed did not film ‘winner’ Max crossing the line whilst the onscreen it shown the chequered flag graphics. The sub 75% race distance yet full points clown show was another farce to add to this race weekend

      At the end of everything it isn’t a huge deal but it proves that modern Post Bernie/rise of superMax reddit era F1 has become more of a farce with inconsistent rulings, meddling governing body and more aggressive Balkanised fanbase.

      This nonsense plus ridiculous delays to the race starts and massively cutting it short is further killing F1’s appeal to the hardcore fanbase. We want to watch the best drivers in the world race in the rain and not sit in the pits during a red flag tweeting.. This (barring USA 2005 which was more politics) would never happen under Bernie and Whiting, south korea 2010 which resembled a river with half completed swamp like track was a million times worse than Suzuka 2022 but that race went the full distance.

    4. I am sure they did that Max crossed the line with seconds to spare. But the Fia want togo home early orso!

    5. (@dang) Apparently it was the correct application of the rules, though as usual the rules are needlessly arbitrary. There are two different time limits in play – the uusal 2 hour race time limit used in Singapore, and the 3 hour from the start of the original race limit for races which are interrupted which was used today.

      The usual 2 hour race limit is 2 hours plus one lap from when the leader crosses the line. The three hour limit is just 3 hours ending the first time the leader crosses the line.

      1. Its never time-based, always race distance based. Standard is 305km plus 1 lap, (except for Monaco) or 2 hours plus one lap, which may be extended to 3 hours plus one lap.

      2. OMG. I know F1 rules are always going to be inherently complex, but this is ridiculous. Chequered flag being handled handled differently between the two situations is… insane, to be quite frank. On top of that, making points reductions for partial race distances only apply if the race happens to be suspended when the clock runs out is barmey. It’s almost as if the FIA said “we screwed up with following the rules last year, so instead of following them we’re going to make them so convoluted that nobody can even tell if we’re following them”.

  2. Jonathan Parkin
    9th October 2022, 18:20

    First Singapore and then Japan. And also Monaco this year and Spa last year.

    It seems lately when it rains it creates a complete cluster fudge.

    And it really shouldn’t. We need to sort this out because the wet races since Spa last year have been completely farcical. Not what you want from the pinnacle of motorsport

  3. What I learned today is that the rules state the following:
    If the race takes 2 hours it is + one lap.
    If the race is suspended and therefore reaches the 3 hours limit it is over immediately and not + one lap.
    Makes no sense and it’s probably a loophole in the regulation but it’s still there…

    1. Actually it does make sense. The 3 hour limit guarantees the event finishes by a certain time (5pm in the case Japan). This is because there’s fading light, things to pack, flights to catch. Hard and fast, stop there.

      The 2 hour limit is for sporting reasons, so it makes sense that it can have a +1 lap. Otherwise you might have somebody who is 50 seconds in the lead near the end of the 2 hour period deliberately slow down in order to count the clock down and avoid doing one more lap.

    2. Kyle (@hammerheadgb)
      9th October 2022, 19:35

      Personally I don’t believe the rules say that at all, but it does appear to be today’s interpretation. The relevant clause is Article 5.4, taken with clause b), but to my mind all that does is change the time period before which the race completion procedure (i.e. time expires, leader crosses line, final lap declared) is initiated.

  4. For the second time this year the arbitrary and nonsensical three-hour time limit has come into play, turning a potentially fascinating contest into a glorified sprint race.

    Add to that the race being red-flagged because drivers were on the wrong tyres, the chequered flag being waved at the wrong time, and the nonsense of full points being awarded for half a race.

    All in all, a bad day at the office for the FIA.

    1. @red-andy With the fading light, going full-distance was never an option in Japan

    2. I agree it’s a shame as it can bring to a halt races disappointingly early, and things like Button’s win in Canada wouldn’t happen today, although as @paeschli says, the light would be a problem. In my view, things should be more flexible, with a rule something like the originally scheduled start time should allow at least a three hour window to complete the race given the timing of sunset locally (or local noise regs or something), but that things could go on longer at the discretion of the race director (subject to the 2 hour race time limit). So if you have, say, a race in midsummer on a clear day at Silverstone and there’s a long delay to repair a barrier after a red flag crash, the race director could allow things to run over 3 hours, with maybe a backstop for a limit of 5 hours or something so things don’t get ridiculous.

  5. A right fustercluck. At least they didn’t send the cranes and tractors out onto the track to celebrate the end of the race.
    4’s commentator was convinced it was “45 minutes, plus one lap, to go”. (Don’t know, or care, about Sky) Surely that rule should be consistent with the 2-hour limit for uninterrupted races. Why was everyone on the wrong tyres for both starts? Why’s there a loophole for awarding full points when they can’t get a wet race under way in time?

    1. F1 Sporting Regs require “Wet” tyres for a rolling restart behind the SC.
      Seems this means Wet not Intermediate.
      Last year there was a race with only one car, LH on the start line. That was Great to see…..

  6. Just a thought – If the race is truly over at 3h mark, Wouldnt everybody behind verstappen get the checkered flag at 3h?

    1. Yes. Some people are trying to cover for the FIA, by insisting the FIA has a set of rules, and always follows the rules. Nothing can be further from the truth. We were all robbed of an exciting last lap for the drivers not in 1st place. FIA seem to only care about 1st place and not care one iota about the rest of the field.

  7. A slight edit to the above – one of Ocon’s messages from the end had gone missing, that’s been added in now.

  8. This is also a safety issue. Specially given the weather conditions. Drivers need to be told clearly that the race is ending… imagine if Ocon had backed off right away while Lewis was still at full chat…

    1. @fer-no65
      Spot on ! Even in normal conditions drivers usually slow down but not by too much after the start finish line because it can be dangerous with other drivers still racing behind at full speed.

  9. So I’m not going crazy! I was sure when I was watching that this had happened…couldn’t tell for sure because when the timer hit 0 they were showing Sergio/Charles and not Max, but I was estimating where he was and guessed he had just started a lap. I think the cameraman also didn’t catch him getting the chequered flag because he was probably also thinking there was 1 more lap to go. So many mistakes on this weekend.

  10. Everybody is tired. Why pospone the inevitable. Get packing and let’s get home. Understandable. Now four more races to go for the midfield.

  11. And after watching FIA bungle timing, points, and penalties, does anyone have any expectation that FIA will really be “certifying” the teams’ financials from last season in some fair and consistent manner?

    1. It seems that they now interpret the rules as $145M plus one lap.
      The discussion is now how much one lap costs.

  12. So what? Were the teams too dumb to see the checkered icon on the screen and relay that to the drivers? I mean, these guys are paid huge salaries and like Perez always says, they always seem to be “sleeping.”

    1. The real question should be why the teams don’t feel they can trust the FIA are correct when showing the ‘Last Lap’ & chequered flag messages

    2. Surely if the rules state +1 lap and the chequered flag is shown a lap early, the confusion is understandable?

  13. They did bring the final lap graphic up as Max started the final lap so i was surprised commentators kept saying there would be another lap left.

    Clearly none of the teams or commentators were watching the screens.

  14. Come on, man. The race can go 2 hours plus 1 lap but can’t go 3 hours plus 1 lap because of time constraints??? This is one of the longer circuits and a lap at race speed takes 1 1/2 minutes. The cool down will happen regardless so the extra lap is delaying the post race events by 1 1/2 minutes.

    1. The 3 hour hard limit isn’t for sporting reasons or for post-race events, it’s for environmental (and sometimes commercial) reasons.
      It was getting really dark at that time. You seem unaware of exactly how dark it is, but it was substantially darker than it looked on TV.
      If you watched the podium, you’d have noticed in the wider shots that was particularly dark even then.

      Darkness falls pretty quick in Japan at this time of year. It can transition from decent daylight to difficult to see in less than 30 minutes at that time of day. Especially when it’s cloudy.

      1. @S Darkness arrives pretty quickly in, for example, the Middle East (as evident from Abu Dhabi GPs) & Southeast Asia, but not so much within Japan’s latitudes regardless of what time of year.
        The race ultimately ended about 22-23 min before sunset time (17:27 yesterday) with the podium stuff also occurring before sunset, but the cloudy sky made everything seem darker than in reality, both on TV & track, so everyone got a slightly misleading idea.
        With an entirely clear sky, the area & surroundings would’ve looked a lot less dark.

        1. Have you never been in Japan at this time of year @jerejj?
          Environmental factors (China’s smog and the mountain range to the west of the circuit, for example) tend to lower light very quickly when the sun gets low. Add the heavy cloud cover…
          As for TV – the professional broadcast cameras they use feature large apertures and very sensitive image sensors which can pick up more light than the human eye.

          Tell you what – I’m heading back to Japan in a few weeks, I’ll record a video of the sunset for you. You can time it.

          1. @S I’ve never been to Japan (hopefully one day), but good points.

          2. Head over there as soon as you can, @jerejj. You’ll love it!
            Borders open from tomorrow ;)

      2. @S

        3h is also not a hard limit, because cars still have to complete the lap after the 3 hour mark.
        Everyone agrees when the timer runs out there should be one more lap, so it’s consistent with the 2 hour mark. So they better fix that for next season.

        If 3 hours + 1 lap is too long to be racing because of environmental / noise regulations or too close to sunset they should just start the race earlier in the day.

        1. The completion of lap the leader is on at the 3 hour point is as hard as any race time limit gets in motorsport.

          Everyone agrees when the timer runs out there should be one more lap

          No they don’t. Not when the hard limit is reached. Least of all the FIA, who implemented this rule just recently.

          So they better fix that for next season.

          Don’t hold your breath.

          If 3 hours + 1 lap is too long to be racing because of environmental / noise regulations or too close to sunset they should just start the race earlier in the day.

          Don’t expect that to happen either. 2:00pm local time is pretty early as it is.

  15. How can FIA manage to mess up with something so simple that’s far from rocket science?
    I was equally confused as the graphics showed ‘final lap’ that eventually went away, so I thought otherwise & also the world feed footage not switching to Max until only after he’d crossed the timing line, which only increased uncertainty over whether the race has finished or final lap began.

  16. If the flag was waved one lap to early (which I think it did), then the results should be from one lap earlier, just like in Canada 2018 (regulation 59.2, hasn’t changed since 2018 – it was 43.2 back then).
    That should void Leclerc’s penalty, postponing Max’ title, as well as Alonso’s overtake on Russell.

  17. Art 57— the leader will be shown the end-of-session signal when he crosses the control line (the Line) at the end of the lap following the lap during which the two (2) hour period ended,

    b) Should the race be suspended (see Article 57) the length of the suspension will be added to this period up to a maximum total race time of three (3) hours.

    It states a maximum race time of 3h but it’s probably intended to be applied the same way as the 2h above. Yet an other example of how hard it is to write down a good set of rules that leaves no interpretation. But they should have communicated this to the teams so it would have been clear for all drivers when the finish flag would be out

    1. up to a maximum total race time of three (3) hours.

      Pretty easy to interpret, isn’t it?

      1. Maybe but the phrase “added to this period” makes a reference to the rule above so you can also read it that you should change the two hour period into a max three hour period and than follow the same procedure.

        1. It quite clearly says 2 hours + 1 lap, and then maximum of 3 hours.
          Not 3 hours + 1 lap.

          Really, I get people’s confusion. Most times that races stop on the clock, it is the 2 hour ‘race-time’ clock – so therefore 1 extra lap is added.
          But the rules here are as clear as they can possibly be without adding specific wording to disregard something that isn’t even there.
          It says “a maximum of 3 hours” simply because it means “a maximum of 3 hours.”

  18. Did the 2 hour maybe just coexcisted with the 3 hour limit after start? With the 3 hour maxumum duration after the initial start expiring seconds before the 2 hour maximum race duration? In that case the final lap began when the 3 hour clock ran out.

    1. @Femke The 2-hour limit solely applies as the maximum as long as a race doesn’t get red-flagged, but if yes, the absolute 3-hour limit comes to play with the 2-hour limit still applying as the maximum for driving, so they coexist in a way.

  19. what a total mess

Comments are closed.