F1 2020 The chequered flag is back
For the 2019 Formula 1 season, the FIA modified the regulations so that a chequered light panel would signify the end of the race, replacing the traditional waving of the chequered flag that had been used for decades. However, during the Japanese Grand Prix, there was a glitch in the system, causing the chequered flag panel to display to Valtteri Bottas as he finished the penultimate lap, officially concluding the race. This meant that Sergio Perez’s collision with Pierre Gasly didn’t officially occur.
To avoid similar errors in the future, both a physical and virtual chequered flag will be used for the 2020 season, with the end of the race being indicated by the actual waving of the flag. The sport has had numerous chequered flag mishaps involving celebrities. For example, at the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix, a miscommunication led to model Winnie Harlow mistakenly waving the flag early, resulting in the digital flag being prioritized. In another incident, Brazilian soccer legend Pele waved too late during the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix, causing him to miss home race winner Felipe Massa’s Ferrari as it crossed the finish line.
Following the Grand Prix, FIA race director Michael Masi did not confirm whether the issue with the flag system was caused by an automatic or human error. He acknowledged that it was an unprecedented incident involving the chequered flag board and further investigation was necessary. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari argued that the chequered flag should be the only official way to end an F1 race because it is the “ultimate signal” that drivers respond to.
During Wednesday’s FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting, it was decided to reinstate the physical chequered flag as the definitive end-of-race signal. However, the existing rules will still apply in cases where the flag is mistakenly displayed early, and the race result will be declared at that moment rather than relying on the chequered light panel as a backup.
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