The impact of ‘Blue Flags’ on F1

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The blue flag is not a flag you generally want waved in your direction. It signals that you are a slow car and that lead lap traffic is coming up behind you so you should yield the position. In other words, get out of the way.

We’ve discussed this blue flag challenge at length on our podcasts with professional driver Paul Charsley. It is not easy to simply disappear in the middle of a corner or even in the run up to a corner and slower cars have had this challenge for decades in Formula One. This past weekend was effectively class time for British Marussia driver Max Chilton.

After pitting early for a damaged nose on his car, Chilton was then lapped by traffic much earlier in the race than he would have otherwise been had he not had the altercation with Giedo van der Garde. As it was, Chilton had to learn how to get out of the way and manage the blue flags. He told AUTOSPORT:

“The team did say it’s a bit of an art and that it would take more than the first race to get used to it,” Chilton told AUTOSPORT.

“I had already started learning towards the end of the race how to do it and how much you can gain by doing it at the right point”.

It truly is an art and if you are racing against another car and both of you are getting passed, it becomes a prime opportunity for the car your racing to move past you as well. It’s an intriguing part of F1 racing and I recently asked Matt Bell, of Grand Am fame, how he approaches faster traffic in a multi-classed series while at the Rolex 24 in Daytona. Here was his interview:

[vsw id=”jv7PLDUWHGM” source=”youtube” width=”600″ height=”400″ autoplay=”no”]

Notice his comment about the two drivers consciously aware that they are both trying to impact each others race as little as possible. He’s is running a completely different race and both drivers need to respect that and commit to minimizing their impact on each other.

Chilton lost valuable time trying to get out of the way and this impedes even teams like Marussia and Caterham in their own race program. It’s part of racing in F1 but how to minimize its impact is a real art and valuable skills that Chilton, Bianchi and all the other rookies in the back will learn.

Some fans have argued that blue flags should go away. The fact is the leaders have to earn the positions and forcing cars to pull over is not the right position the FIA should have on the issue. What do you think? Should blue flags be a part of F1?

Chilton had a terrific debut in F1 and while he struggled behind Giedo van de Garde’s Caterham, he eventually passed him and put 26s between them. Marussia has certainly arrived in 2013.

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