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Formula 1 red flags explained - When are they used?

Formula 1 red flags explained - When are they used?

Formula 1 red flags explained - When are they used?

Formula 1 red flags explained - When are they used?

Formula 1 uses a variety of flags to communicate with drivers throughout a Grand Prix weekend.

Each flag has a specific meaning, conveying crucial information to drivers in the heat of the action. Among these, the red flag stands out as the most significant stoppage signal.

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But what exactly does it mean, and what happens when a red flag is thrown? Let's delve into the world of red flags and their impact on a grand prix.

What is a red flag?

While a red flag signifies an immediate halt to the action, there are slight differences in how it might affect practice sessions and qualifying. In practice, the clock keeps running even during a red flag stoppage. This means the allotted practice time continues to tick down even when the session is paused.

In qualifying, however, if a red flag is thrown and there's not enough time left to complete a session, the race director might decide to call it an early day.

Generally, a red flag stoppage is triggered by either safety concerns like a significant accident or debris littering the track, or adverse weather conditions.

Heavy rain that significantly reduces visibility or a sudden downpour that creates treacherous track conditions can force race officials to halt the session to ensure driver safety.

What happens when a session is red flagged?

Race Control, the central authority overseeing the grand prix, makes the decision to deploy the red flag. This triggers the marshals stationed around the circuit to wave the red flags, and a digital red flag is also displayed.

Upon seeing the red flag, all drivers must significantly slow down and return to the pit lane in a safe manner. Teams are then allowed to make tyre changes and repairs to the cars at a free pit stop.

If the red flag was prompted by an accident, marshals and medical personnel can immediately rush to the injured driver(s). Marshals can also clear the debris from the accident scene or address any other safety concerns on the track.

How does a race restart after a red flag?

The duration of a red flag can vary depending on the severity of the situation. Minor incidents might result in a brief stoppage, while a major accident could lead to a longer delay.

Once the issue is addressed and the track is deemed safe again, Race Control may decide on a standing start or a rolling start, depending on the circumstances.

A rolling restart, which is used when the weather condition is deemed unsafe for a standing start, involves all cars lining up in a predetermined order, usually based on the positions they held before the red flag.

The leader, followed by the rest of the field in single file, takes the lead under a reduced speed limit controlled by a safety car. After a designated lap, the safety car pulls in, and the race resumes at full speed.

In dry-weather races, a standing start is the most common method after a red flag, with drivers starting in a stationary manner in their respective grid spots.

At the 2024 Monaco GP, Carlos Sainz suffered a puncture at the first corner and fell to the back of the field. However, a red flag and a standing restart meant the Ferrari driver was allowed to restart from his original third place.

The Spaniard held his position until the checkered flag, with the top 10 ultimately finishing in the same order they started for the first time in F1 history.

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