What is a blue flag in F1? Flag system explained

A steward waves a blue flag as during a practice run (Picture: JENNIFER LORENZINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

In Formula One (F1), there are 10 flags used to indicate important information to drivers during a Grand Prix.

Each colour – blue, red, yellow, green, variations of black and white – and pattern has a specific meaning which affects what’s happening in the race.

Here, we’ll explain what the significance of the blue flag is in F1, plus give you a rundown of what the others mean.

And what happens if a driver doesn’t react accordingly…

What does a blue flag in F1 mean?

If a blue flag is waved in F1, it is telling a slower driver that a faster car is trying to overtake.

All F1 drivers must follow the flag system or risk receiving a penalty (Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Though it may seem counterintuitive, as it’s a race, the car about to be lapped must let the other pass.

This is to avoid any accidents. They must do this at the earliest opportunity – as soon as it’s safe to do so.

A maximum of three blue flags will be waved before a driver is given a penalty.

But it’s not just a blue flag they see – screens at the side of the track should flash to let them know what’s going on.

What other flags are there in F1 and how do they work?

There are nine other flags in play in an F1 race, and all of them are incredibly important for a driver to know.

A marshal waves a yellow flag in the Formula One Grand Prix of France in 2018 (Picture: Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Here are the basics:

  • Yellow: This flag indicates that there is a hazard on the track up ahead, or ‘downstream’, so no overtaking is allowed. This is if it’s stationary or being waved. If the flag is waved twice, it means that the track is blocked by something.
  • Yellow and Red Stripes: Denotes a slippery surface, such as oil or water getting on the track.
  • Red: The red flag is used when a session has been suspended, perhaps due to extreme weather or because there has been an accident.
  • White: This flag tells drivers that there is a ‘slow-moving vehicle’ on the track – so a vehicle not part of the race. When the flag is stationary, that is a warning that the driver is about to catch up to the vehicle, but a waved white flag is a bit more urgent – it’s possibly obstructing the way, which could potentially be dangerous. If the flag has ‘SC’ on it, it means the safety car is on the track.
  • Green: The green flag is basically a signal for ‘all clear’, meaning any dangers reported with the yellow, red or striped flag, is now gone.
  • Black with Gold Spot: Sometimes thought of as an orange spot, whatever the case, a black flag with a gold/orange circle in the centre indicates a mechanical problem. The car may be putting the driver in danger, so they need to stop as soon as they can reach the pit.
  • Black and White Stripes: This will be shown if there is ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’ on the track. If the behaviour doesn’t improve, there may be a penalty given, which is signalled by…
  • Black: The black flag is a penalty. The driver must return to the pit. They may be even disqualified from the race.
  • Chequered: A black and white chequered flag means the race is complete.

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