Rules On Blue Flags Need To Change And Here’s Why
Formula One is the pinnacle of Motorsport, it’s the championship every driver wants to compete in, let alone win. However, with other series rapidly gaining in popularity such as the WEC and WRX, should F1 be looking for rule changes to stay on top?
Thanks to the most recent race in Interlagos, Brazil, the first rule that springs to mind is blue flags and lapping traffic. Firstly, might I say that it’s ridiculous for some cars to be 2 laps off the pace in a 2-hour race when all the cars are adhering to the same rules. This is however a different issue. In fact, the problem I’m referring to is clearly the controversial Ocon and Verstappen crash. As Max Verstappen was comfortably leading the race lapping up to 8 tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton, they ended up being ahead of the already lapped Ocon. The Force India driver, who had just pitted for tires, was in no mood to let his tire advantage go to waste and decided to un-lap himself from the leaders. As the Force India is consistently the fastest car in the speed traps, he had no trouble catching up to the gear box of the first placed Red Bull and tried the move round the outside of T1 to get the inside for T2. At this point, I’m guessing Maw didn’t want to be running in the dirty air of Esteban and tried to defend his track position. As we now all know, this ended up being a massive turning point in the race as the two collided and span letting Hamilton back into the lead with a healthy advantage. This isn’t the first time that lapped traffic has been a talking point this year though. If you go back to the Singapoure GP, the roles were reversed as Hamilton was leading Verstappen but got caught up in a midfield scrap allowing his lead to be reduced massively. And obviously, we all love the constant complaining of the Ferrari drivers shouting, “BLUE FLAGS!!!”.
Perhaps then, this is a good time to talk about the rules of blue flags and how they could be modified for the future. I say this as clearly the current rules aren’t working as well as they should. The drivers at the front feel like Moses as the Red Sea of F1 cars clears a path and the lapped traffic sometimes lose up to 5 seconds to the car ahead or behind breaking up amazing battles. Having mentioned the WEC for example earlier, maybe they and other endurance series have the solution. The main point in endurance racing is that blue flags don’t mean the same as they do in F1. In fact, in the VLN series on the Nordschleife – where passing is about as difficult as overtaking a lorry on a busy mountain pass – blue flags are said to be advice, not an obligation. This lets drivers know that the car behind is not for position and that they don’t need to battle. There is a difference between this and the enslaved traffic letting their masters pass that exists in F1. Clearly, this would be a solution to leaders being held up by slower cars. If anything, it would hinder the front runners. What it would help with is keeping the different groups together in the back of the pack and reduce the controversy of penalties being handed to drivers for not respecting the sacred blue flag. And don’t forget, back in the time of Sir Jackie Stewart for example, blue flags didn’t exist all together. He has famously always said that back in those days, getting through traffic was a skill that had to be learnt.
And what do you know, maybe it would be exciting seeing the leaders having to go off line finding special lines to pass. It definitely adds an extra element to the racing in WEC as the leaders battle each other whilst passing an also very intense battle in the GT classes. Let me know what you think the FOM and FIA should do about blue flags in F1. Should they change the rules, or keep them as they are?