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Canadian F1 GP celeb chequered flag error – should fans do the wave?
Posted By: Editor   |  13 Jun 2018   |  4:09 pm GMT  |  197 comments

Formula One officials were left red-faced at the Canadian Grand Prix after the chequered flag was waved one lap early by a celebrity.

It begs the question – why shouldn’t a fan get that opportunity?

With the Canadian Grand Prix usually consisting of 70 laps, celebrity guest Winnie Harlow was mistakenly instructed by the official starter to wave the chequered flag at the end of lap 69, when race-leader Sebastian Vettel still had one lap to go.

The early deployment also prompted some marshals to believe the race was over and wave their flags in the usual cool-down lap tradition.

As per the regulations, an early chequered flag deployment is treated in the same manner as a red flag scenario, and the official results are to be taken from one lap further back (in this case, to the end of lap 68).

The organiser’s blushes were spared, however, by the fact that no position changes occurred on what would have been the final lap of the race, meaning no driver lost out in the scenario.

However, Daniel Ricciardo’s fastest lap was chalked off and handed to Max Verstappen, who held the accolade earlier in the race.

“The chequered flag was shown a lap early because of a miscommunication with the guy that they call the starter here, who starts and finishes the races,” said Whiting.

“He thought it was the last lap, he asked race control to confirm it, they confirmed it, but they thought he was making a statement when he was asking a question.

“He just showed it a lap early, or he told the flag waver to show it a lap early, so it wasn’t anything to do with the fact that it was a celebrity flag waver.”

Whiting believes that those involved need to be briefed better about the on-screen graphics, which display which lap the leader is on, as opposed to how many laps have been completed.

“I think people who don’t work in F1 are sometimes a little confused by the graphic that they see on the screen where it says 69 out of 70,” he said.

“We all know that means we’re on lap 69, but to someone who let’s say is more casual observer thinks ‘Oh, this must mean it’s the last lap.’

“I think that’s where the doubt originates. Obviously we need to do a better job of briefing these people.

“You’re dealing with a lot of human beings, different countries, different languages, and it’s not always absolutely perfect.

“Of course we strive for perfection. Fortunately there was no real harm done, insofar as it didn’t affect the result of the race.”

This situation isn’t a new one in Formula One. A similar scenario happened at the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix and, fortunately, it didn’t impact on any of the points-paying positions. However, Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi had his late-race pass on Manor’s Jules Bianchi ruled out due to the count-back of laps.

The 2014 Chinese Grand Prix race-winner Lewis Hamilton saw the chequered flag one lap earlier than scheduled.

Conversely, at the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix, footballing legend Pele waved the chequered flag too late after missing the moment that race-winner Michael Schumacher crossed the line.

Whiting conceded that the marshals prematurely cheering the winner would have only added to the uncertainty.

“This is part of the confusion. Sometimes marshals wave all their flags to congratulate the winner, and some of them were doing that, because they thought the race had finished too,” he said.

“Presumably they’d been told that the chequered flag had been shown. But the fact that it had been shown early, they didn’t know that of course.

“If all the marshals had started coming on the track when the guys were still racing, which is what I believe happened somewhere else in the past, that’s something that if this ever happens again we need to make sure we can take care of that.”

Waving the chequered flags: An opportunity for fan engagement?

Whilst the subject of whether or not the early chequered flag rule needs to be kept will probably be a meeting topic in the not-too-distant future, it can’t be denied that the honour of waving the chequered flag might be better-used as a fan engagement opportunity.

Liberty Media have been seeking ways to get the fans more involved in the usually-restrictive sport, and have already increased Formula One’s social media activity, and increased the number of additional attractions for fans attending a Grand Prix.

At some Grands Prix, paddock passes and opportunities to meet – and have photos with – the teams have been on offer as prizes.

An opportunity to wave the chequered flag at the winning driver would be an easy-to-implement prize for a Grand Prix goer.

The only drawback is that a member of the public would probably be less equipped to deal with any backlash from a flag-waving error than a celebrity.

All images: Motorsport Images

Do you think the rule on an early chequered flag needs to be changed? Leave your comments below.


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I have an idea – why not train up a monkey/babboon/chimpanzee to be the official flag waver at EACH race that way surely we would have something to look forward to and keep us awake and just maybe entertained after such processional farces , oops sorry – “races”. Please take this on board Liberty.


you are perfectly right, at least that would be fun instead of some one who is painted white & black or the other way around ???


Why does F1 need to continually play with gimmicks. Would football have a celebrity or fan blow the final whistle? It’s an absolute nonsense and just further drives a wedge between the fans that want to watch a sport, and the owners that want an entertainment franchise.


F1 has been doing much more than merely playing with gimmicks. What they have done over the last decade with things like the DRS, PUs, circuit designs, thongs etc, is akin to football adding an extra 4 goals to the sides of the field, increasing the number of players to 20 per team and allowing randomly selected kids from the grandstands to take the penalty shots for their favourite teams.


How was that even possible ? The flag waver must be chosen for some good reasons (a model ?) and be given the signal to wave it at the correct time by an official. So simple, but in this day and age we seem to be able to screw these basic things up.


In Australia they famously used to get the same guy – Glenn Dix – to do it every year and he brought huge energy and flair to the ‘art’ of flag waving. Never got the lap wrong either. Not sure you’d be able to replicate that now because the flag waver is up in a box not down on the circuit. A shame in a way.

Open-minded to a celeb or fan doing it but maybe adding another person in there confuses things? Particularly if there is collective unfamiliarity with the protocol. I mean, if the official made a mistake in Canada it could happen anywhere else, couldn’t it? You’d think it’d be pretty straightforward but in my experience human error can creep into almost the most trivial of things. Happens to all of us unfortunately. Maybe best to get a new system in place, or a new rule, before offering up to fans (I still think the flag should be kept).


Glenn Dix was much more than a dancer with artistic flare. He was a very experienced race official. He kept his own notes about who was leading a race and how many laps they’d completed, in case the race director became preoccupied with a critical incident on the back half of the track during the final seconds of a race. Glenn was openly critical about a GP organising committee (Melbourne) assigning flag waving duty to a dignitary who wasn’t intimately familiar with the state of play. In that case, it was Sir Jack Brabham – nice guy, but expert only in the other side of racing.



Now that’s how to wave a flag!


I wish they would get rid of celebrities completely, but Liberty Media seems to encourage it. I am fed up with the grid walk being taken up asking these people who they want to win etc, when clearly they have no interest in the racing at all, just promoting their new film etc. Having a fan ie paying punter waving the flag would be much better.


I could not agree more. Handing J. Beeber the champagne bottle the other year in Monaco was the lowest of the low.


It was cringeworthy at best.


Fans don’t get to fire the starting pistol at a athletics match. Then why do they need to be involved in the official ending of a F1 Grand Prix?

I do like the “real” flag, it’s part of the athmosphere of the sport. It is digital enough as it is.


This issue has nothing to do with the flag waver (whatever your opinion on who that should or shouldn’t be). The problem lies with communication between race control and the “guy they call the starter” (sounds very official). That’s where it went wrong and that’s what needs to be the focus of any scrutiny. It’s not only embarrassing when this happens, but we were lucky it didn’t affect the race result. There is also a significant safety aspect to it as some drivers may get confused and slow while others are at racing speed, and, as in this case, marshals were also confused and startied waving their flags and potentially approaching the track with cars still at racing speeds. The marshals should really have an independent verification of the end of the race so that they are not put in harms way.


Less gimmick and more racing in F1 please. Keep it simple, focusing on racing and the drivers, respect the traditional aspects, keep the “European” format.


It wasn’t her fault. It was the fault of those ‘professionals’, (btw, I like that they use a flag, it’s part of history). Saying that, that mistake is typical F1, the pinnacle of motor sports! Remember the brilliant idea regarding qualifying from Bernie. The impossibility to pass a car in front of you. The rules regarding grid penalties for, well, a lot of things. The different punishments for the same errors. Tires that dictate a race. The fact that F1 appeals to so many constructors that we only have 10 teams and only 4 engine suppliers. It’s no wonder that viewers switch off, or worse fall asleep while watching. Oh, not to forget the interviews with drivers which are worthless. Anyways, up to France where my hopes for an exciting race probably will be smashed again.


James, this statement from Charlie points to a deeper problem, doesn’t it?

“The chequered flag was shown a lap early because of a miscommunication with the guy that they call the starter here, who starts and finishes the races,” said Whiting.

He thought it was the last lap, he asked race control to confirm it, they confirmed it, but they thought he was making a statement when he was asking a question.”

Not only did he check with race control, they too confirmed it. Even if they thought that he was making a statement, shouldn’t they have corrected him?


What about getting rid of the flag waver altogether? The race is started with lights, end it with lights. When the leader is approaching S/F to finish the last lap, the lights come back on. The lights can be flashing red (or use flashing white lights). Could install a large screen next to the start stand and put up a graphic of a waving checkered flag. Race control would manage it and leave it in the hands of those who know F1.


Good idea but keep the designated flag person.


all the mistakes were made by ‘those who know’. no one else.


Imagine if there had been a pass for the lead on the last lap.

F1 could say “Woops sorry, the flag was already waved, the race actually finished two laps ago. Nevermind, at least we drew attention to the wickedness of prejudice”


I’ve been wondering what part “VIPs” play in the image of glamour around f1. I don’t think I like it more because models, rock stars and celebrities get special access to the paddock. It does, in some quasi rational way, sort of justify the costs of theses extreme vip ticket packages, I guess.

It seems sort of duplicitous to do away with grid girls and then have a celebrity wave the checkered flag.


Good point really. Being a model she’s a female trading on her looks. No different to a grid girl.


According to one particular driver, he likes this ‘model’ approach as it is seen as ‘diversity’ in action……cringeworthy.


I don’t suppose I was the only person who groaned out loud to see Winnie Harlow up there with the flag. What a disgusting personality she has! The close ups of her waving said flag were more sickening due to the fact she was most interested in swishing her hair out of the way of her face for the cameras instead of concentrating on the job in hand. I think the only “celebrity” who should be privileged with waving the flag is an ex GP legend, they’re always about in the paddock. I might be imagining this but I’m sure Mario Andretti was there in Canada.

The sooner Liberty realise they need to appeal to motorsport fans, and not just the general public, the better.


I think Liberty DO need to appeal to the general public, that’s how they’re going to grow their business.

Celebrity has a role to grow in all of this. Bernie Ecclestone, when he was running F1, said that Hamilton was the best champion that there had ever been. Why? Because Hamilton is seen on chat shows, in front row seats at basketball games, and always there is a caption or a commentator saying that he is World F1 Champion or some such. He puts F1 in view of those who might not have been thinking too hard about F1.

Same here. Have Damon Hill wave the flag and everybody goes “huh?”. Have Winnie Harlow or Tom Cruise or Beyonce do it and it will be on the news and on social media and people will take notice and, again, F1 gets some new exposure.

Fans tend to see this 180 degree wrong, in my opinion. Liberty’s challenge is not to keep the gate for us, but to build new interest in the sport.


What an awesome idea Simon B.
Or get Glenn Dix as the official flag waver (you may remember him from the Adelaide GP, best ever flag waver by a country mile.


I remember the flag waver at Watkins Glen GPs who, for many years, wore a lavender suit !! Anyone know who he was ?


@ Nic M…No, i don’t know who he was but i know what he was…A guy with no dress sense’. hahaha


what is the go with that chicks face?


She has a skin condition that causes uneven pigmentation.


was not selected to wave the flag because of her personality?

if that wasn’t the case then you would have been chosen to wave that flag.


Despite it being clearly stated in the article that RACE CONTROL is responsible for recalling the flag waver when to wave the flag, 15% of the comments at this point (of 56) are directly or indirectly attributing blame to the FLAG WAVER.

Welcome to the internet.


isn’t it sickening? the article was intended to bring about such.


Just imagine Kimi would have overtaken Lewis in lap 69 and then one of Lewis party friends waved early and the overtake was meaningless, Lewis becoming 2018 WDC with 1 point more than Seb.

I would say give the flag to former drivers, old F1 journalists or whatever who are neutral. A fan may prefer a certain driver and if shit happens (see the above scenario) there would be too much talking and proving that the WDC is not tainted. Even if the fan was neutral and it was misinformation, computer and TV black out or whatever. If you can avoid trouble, avoid trouble.


That would have made what difference? The same official decides the race is up and tells Mario Andretti or Nigel Mansell or whoever to wave the flag, because the race distance is up.

The rules have to be that way, I suppose. Because once that flag is waved people will decide the race is over, and act like the race is over and a driver may have to lift off to avoid a bad incident. And so they have to go back to the state immediately before the waving of the flag.


Where is Sebee?

Surely the real blame lies with Winnie Harlow, who Lewis specifically asked to hold off on waving the chequered flag until the Ferraris and Redbulls ran out of fuel? Lewis was conserving fuel in the hope that his illuminati friends would help him get the win right?


I’m kidding obviously, but Mr E used to talk about sprinkling some water on the track randomly to spice things up, so I imagine he would be thinking that perhaps randomly changing the race length periodically might spice things up? No?

Maybe star mode, like in super Mario Kart? In fact, just make f1 like mariokart and be done with it. It’s 2018 people.

“Look! That dog has a puffy tail, here puff!”


I might be getting a bit crusty, but didn’t they previously wave a white flag signalling the penultimate lap of the race? Surely that being waved a lap early (2 Laps from the end) would cause less problems than waving the chequered? Why don’t they wave the white flag anymore? Maybe I’m confusing my motorsports, I swear I would hear Murray Walker shouting on about it back in the day… then again, he would often give me a heart attack by exclaiming that my driver was out when it was actually his teammate.


A white flag for the penultimate lap has only ever been used in North America – as in Indy cars and NASCAR.


A long-standing marshal who has contributed to the circuit for years should maybe have the opportunity to wave the flag. Tbh if the flag hadn’t been waved early I wouldn’t have known or cared who got to do it. I have no idea who’s been waving the flag at every other grand prix.

This does relate to something that I’ve come to despise in the sport though. Celebs and high-profile/high net-worth individuals who have little to no knowledge or care for F1 getting to hang out with teams and drivers, sit in F1 cars, getting guided tours of the garages and having unfettered access to the F1 world. Meanwhile Joe Bloggs, who hasn’t missed a race on TV for 30 years, shows up to his home grand prix every year, has put a relative fortune into the sport and who would literally cut off his pinky toes for a chance to just sit quietly at the back of the garage, sits in the rain behind three security fences hoping to catch a 2 second glimpse of his favourite driver running to the toilet. How can fans feel valued when this is a common occurrence?

Win the lottery or get famous, then you’ll be a valued ‘fan’.


get a grip! the person who waves the flag does not decide when to wave it. they are instructed to wave it.


Your comprehension abilities are virtually non existent as evidenced by the Richie post.


Read people’s posts properly before you reply to half of the comments.


What AndyT said…


aveli – maybe you’re the one who needs to get a grip – Richie’s post has nothing to do with the timing of the flag waving being wrong at Canada, and all to do with the type of person who gets to do that sort of thing.


i am so sorry andyt….

i though you understood that the only reason all of these words appear here is because the waving of the flag was mistimed. why don’t you allow richie to expand on the matter as he knows better what he means to say than you do.


Hear, hear.


Liberty missed a trick: a tie in with Disney to provide cartoon characters for the flag wave. Even better, animated digital figures of Carey and Bratches, with plenty of grey moustache.

I did ask before if Deputy Dawg or Goofy was a possibility but got no reply from James.


As per the regulations, an early chequered flag deployment is treated in the same manner as a red flag scenario, and the official results are to be taken from one lap further back (in this case, to the end of lap 58).

Lap 68.


Noted, thanks!


I miss the flamboyant waving of Glenn Dix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj66aLdebbk


Absolutely! How we went from the wonderful Glen to indifferent rag waving from a tower is a another great shame of F1.


This guy was like a bullfighter — he seemed to charge at the cars as they flicked by.

Unthinkable in today’s safety obsessed F1.


Quite rightly. It’s silly and unnecessary to have somebody standing on the track waving a flag when it can be avoided.

Also to not have Colin Chapmans standing next to that guy, flinging his cap around.


Motor racing can be avoided. I can guarantee that if Motor racing were to cease tomorrow, life would continue on this planet unabated.


yes, bring back Glen! hopefully, he can still avoid getting run over.


It would be cool to give everyone in the grandstand alongside the finish straight a flag to wave at the end of the race. It would look spectacular, and the odd handful of people waving during the race (like people would do) wouldn’t matter.


Everything has to be a gimmick?

The flag waving? The engines? The open cockpits? The sprint? The tires? The passing (DRS)?

I can’t handle anymore gimmicks!


Not everything needs to be a big show. Have a permanent starter/finisher? and be done with it.


I’d go for permament stewards and marshalls before that!


There’s an appeal in the idea of a team of travelling stewards and other officials. ISTR that CART used to have something like that. The challenge is the way that F1 is run, with local organisers taking care of this staffing. So F1 itself doesn’t bear the cost.

I should think the legislation is easy. But where would you have the training ground for more stewards and marshalls?


Mistakes are easy to make, just look at the number of comments here where the poster is calling out the celebrity about this – even after the article points out the complexities of dealing with local circuit officials. Personally I don’t mind who does it, raffle winner, random person picked from the crowd, celebrity, whoever, the bottom line is the FIA need to make sure the local official knows the right time to hand them the flag.


@ Andy…i don’t think many people are calling her out, rather they are questioning the so called ‘ celebrity’ status’ . IMO she is nothing more that a disinterested model who happens to be a friend of Hamilton. What is it that you see that entitles her to be classified as a ‘celebrity’? I’m curious.


They invited her to wave the flag. At least they are gentlemen enough to take the blame, not make the girl feel bad after the mess up.

Hence the long explanation about how it’s not her fault.


I would think this is what most F1 fans would agree with….

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