By Stefan Kristensen
October 23, 2021

What Is the Blue Flag in Formula 1?

Flags are used in a variety of motorsport events, including Formula 1. The purpose of these flags is to quickly and effectively communicate simple messages from the race officials to the drivers. Many racing series use the same flags to convey the same messages.

In Formula 1 and other racing series, blue flags are used to indicate to specific drivers that they're about to be lapped by a faster driver. If a driver receives a blue flag, they must let the other driver past or they'll be penalized.

Today, we'll be taking a look at blue flags in Formula 1 racing. We will be going over how exactly the blue flag is used in the context of a race. We'll also talk briefly about some of the other flags you might see during a Formula 1 event.

Nowadays tracks have been fitted with electronic flag displays that can be operated by the marshals and works better during the night races. By Pitlane02 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 

How Are Blue Flags Used in Formula 1?

As we've mentioned, blue flags are used to let drivers know that a faster driver is on track to overtake them. And that they need to move over so that car can pass without losing significant time. This may seem like a counterintuitive practice to use during a race. However, it's done entirely in the name of safety to stop potential accidents from occurring.

The blue flag is usually given to drivers who are driving particularly slowly or have already been lapped once. If the driver doesn't immediately comply after being given the first blue flag, the race officials will give them two more blue flags. If they haven't complied by the time the third flag has been waved, the driver will be required to make a drive-through penalty.

The blue flag is also sometimes shown to drivers who are just about to exit the pit lane, to warn them if there is a faster car approaching the pit exit. When the blue flag is used in this context, however, it's held stationary; in the context of telling a slow driver to move over, however, the flag is always waved.

These days, however, physical flags aren't used as much; starting in 2008, the FIA has been using electronic flags to convey messages to drivers. These electronic flags are essentially just lighted panels that can display the various colors used for Formula 1 flags.

The advantage of electronic flags is that they work much better in low-light conditions, which is obviously beneficial during night races or races where the weather affects visibility. Of course, physical flags are still kept on hand as a redundancy in case the electronic flags happen to fail.

What Other Flags Are Used in Formula 1?

Aside from the blue flag, there are nine other flags used by race officials during a Grand Prix. Here are the other flags you might see on race day and what they mean:

  • checkered flag means the race has ended. The checkered flag is first shown to the race winner and then to every other car that passes the finish line behind them.
  • yellow flag means that all drivers need to slow down and refrain from passing other drivers. A double yellow flag means that drivers should be prepared to stop if needed.
  • red flag means that the race has been stopped, either due to an accident or poor driving conditions.
  • striped red and yellow flag means that the track is slippery as a result of water or spilled oil.
  • green flag means that a hazard has been removed from the track and drivers can resume driving at race speed.
  • white flag means that there is a slow-moving vehicle on the race track, such as a tow truck or a broken-down race car.
  • black flag with an orange circle means that a car has a mechanical problem. This flag is displayed along with the number of the car it applies to.
  • diagonally-split white and black flag is a warning that a driver has just committed unsportsmanlike behavior. This flag is also always shown with a car number.
  • black flag means that a driver has broken the rules and must return to the pit lane to be disqualified. Again, this flag is shown with the corresponding car number.
Written by Stefan Kristensen
Passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many stories behind racing that make it so interesting.
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