What are Black Flags in F1 and Has a Driver Ever Been Black Flagged?

Published 12/07/2019, 6:00 AM EST

No matter what sport one plays, there is an unspoken rule to play the game in a fair manner. To prevent the players from breaking the rules, precedents are set in place and enforced. F1 is no different and it is all the more important for drivers to abide by the rules. Usually, penalties are handed out for minor offenses but, depending on the severity of the action, the penalty also becomes tougher.

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What does a black flag mean in F1?

For the worst type of offense, a black flag is usually waved. Whenever a driver receives this, he has to drive back to the pits. It usually means that a driver has been excluded from the race.

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Black flags have rarely been used in F1 as nobody has broken the rules that badly to warrant one. The sport developed a new penalty system where penalty points are added to the license. If a driver accumulated 12 points within a span of one year, he would receive a race ban.

The black flag is not to be confused with the black flag with an orange disc. The latter is only used if a driver’s damaged car poses a threat to the safety of the other drivers.

What happens if an F1 driver refuses to heed a black flag?

There hasn’t been an instance so far in F1 where a driver refused to abide by a black flag. So, let’s march into the world of assumption. Consider a driver is shown a black flag for dangerous driving or other equally hazardous reasons and the driver continues to race around the circuit.

Well, in that case, it is likely that the stewards will temporarily halt the race in order to apprehend the disqualified driver. For anyone that disobeys the FIA, there will be serious consequences. Hence, imagine the level of action the FIA might consider for someone who continued to stay on the track despite disqualification.

Well, there is a very high chance that the driver might receive a lifelong suspension from any racing series governed by the FIA unless the driver has a reasonable explanation to prove his innocence. But, nevertheless, to anyone who’s looking to pursue a career in racing, we’d suggest don’t ever disrespect any governing body’s order.

Black flag history

The first time a Formula One driver received the black flag was back in 1969 at the Canadian Grand Prix and the driver involved was Al Pease. Following the British-Canadian’s disqualification, there were several other such incidents over the years involving world champions as well.

Formula One F1 – Hungarian Grand Prix – Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary – August 1, 2021 Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel celebrates with team members after finishing second REUTERS/David W Cerny

Quite recently, Sebastian Vettel got disqualified from the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix after the FIA failed to retrieve the required amount of fuel sample from the German’s Aston Martin. Unfortunately, to his poor luck, he was then in P2.

F1 black flag incidents

Here are 5 instances of F1 drivers getting a black flag for certain misdemeanours.

Juan Pablo Montoya – 2004

Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya picked up a disqualification in 2004 at the US Grand Prix. As it turned out, his Williams-BMW stalled and he sprinted to the pits to hop in the spare car from the pit lane. Unfortunately for him, the stewards decided to show him a black flag for changing his car right before the start of the race.

Ayrton Senna – 1988

 

Ayrton Senna of Brazil sits aboard the #12 Camel Team Lotus Honda Lotus 99T Honda RA166E V6 turbo during practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix on 11th April 1987 at the Autodromo Internacional Nelson Piquet Jacarepagua circuit near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Getty Images)

Even a driver of Ayrton Senna’s calibre was not safe from the black flag. To make matters worse, this was at his home Grand Prix in Brazil, which wouldn’t have gone down well with the fans. A mechanical failure in his first-choice car before the race, meant that he started the race from the pits using his spare car.

Like Montoya, Senna was shown the black flag for changing his vehicle after the race was green-flagged at the end of the formation lap.

Michael Schumacher – 1994

The seven-time world champion saw the black flag during his championship-winning season in 1994. During the British Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher qualified on the front row alongside polesitter Damon Hill.

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM – AUGUST 30: GP VON BELGIEN 1992, Spa; Ayrton SENNA, SIEGER Michael SCHUMACHER/GER – BENETTON FORD – (Photo by Bongarts/Getty Images)

During the formation lap, Schumacher overtook Hill twice before retaking his assigned place on the grid. Then, it became a case of blatant ignorance as he ignored a stop-go penalty call and two black flags during the race. He went on to finish the the race in second, but the stewards got their own back, by classifying him as a disqualification.

Al Pease – 1969

If anyone thought that the 2019 Williams cars were terrible slow, Canadian driver Al Pease was a whole new level. His black flag came in his last race during the 1969 Canadian Grand Prix. Pease earned the unwanted honour of being the only driver to be disqualified for being too slow on the track.

The stewards black flagged him after a series of on-track incidents and complaints from drivers. At the time of disqualification, he had finish 22 laps, while the leaders completed 46 laps. Two years earlier, he finished his first race in 1967, 43 laps behind the winner.

Hans Heyer

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Hans Heyer will arguably go down in history as the recipient of the most memorable black flag. During the 1977 German Grand Prix, Heyer failed to qualify for the race. However, Heyer knew a few marshalls on a personal level and pulled some strings to sneak onto the grid without anyone noticing. The German did manage to complete a fair number of laps until he retired with a gearbox problem. That made the stewards really suspicious and, he was disqualified and was credited DNQ, DNF, and DSQ in a single race.

Flags and their meanings in F1

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FlagsMeaning
Chequered FlagThe race has ended.
Red FlagThe session has been stopped.
Yellow FlagIndicates dangers ahead and drivers are barred from overtaking.
Blue FlagShown to a car to indicate that a faster car is approaching from behind (applies to both lapped cars and to those racing).
Black FlagThe driver involved is disqualified from the session possibly for leaving another driver’s life in jeopardy.
Red & Yellow Striped FlagThe track is slippery due to oil spills or water.
Green FlagDrivers are allowed to proceed at racing speed.
Black Flag With Orange DiscShown with a car number to indicate that the driver involved must return to the pits immediately possibly because the car is coping with a mechanical issue.
Black and White flagWarning to the driver involved for committing an unsportsmanlike action on the track. A couple more black and white could lead to disqualification.
White FlagWarns of a slow-moving vehicle on the track; Could be anything from a safety car to a tow truck.

 

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Dhruv George

13607 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Motorsports author for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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