Whiting considering ways to automate chequered flag

Chequered flag.
© XPB 

FIA race director Charlie Whiting says that he's looking into whether the chequered flag at the end of Grand Prix races could be made into an automated process.

It follows an embarrassing end to the Canadian Grand Prix when supermodel Winnie Harlow was handed the flag and told to show it to the drivers a lap early. As a result, the race distance ended up being shortened by two laps.

F1 director of motorsport Ross Brawn subsequently apologised to Harlow, and insisted that it had not been her fault.

"Winnie simply followed the instructions she was given," he said. "She was asked to wave the chequered flag, but was told to do so after 69 of the 70 laps had been completed."

It follows a similar incident in the Chinese Grand Prix in 2014 when an official gave the signal too early.

The danger this week was that the premature chequered flag could have prompted a track invasion while cars were still racing at full speed.

“I was just worried," race winner Sebastian Vettel said after the race. "I told them on the last lap, so people don’t jump on the track, waving flags and celebrating, because we are still going at full pace.

"Some of the marshals were already celebrating – they peaked a bit early!"

Now Whiting is looking into how to ensure that the premature finish doesn't happen again.

"I think we'd need to probably think about having a better end of race signal," he admitted this week. "The chequered flag is traditional, but it's something that - as we've seen today - is prone to mistakes.

He suggested that one approach would be to have the black electronic screen show a chequered pattern at the appropriate moment.

"But if you're going to do it automatically, then you've got to think about exactly when you're going to do it, when you're going to activate it.

"We need to try and get to the situation where drivers only look at the chequered flag on the light panel. If they don't see that, then the race hasn't ended.

"It's not completely straightforward, it needs a little bit of thought," he continued. "Whether we need to go to that length to rectify a situation that happens every 10 years is arguable.

"But it's something that I'll certainly be looking at," he admitted.

Whiting certainly had no issue with the current policy of allowing celebrities to wave the flag in light of events in Montreal.

"The celebrity was not to blame, I don't think that that is anything that we need to consider," he said. "We may need to look at other things, like the amount of people that get up there sometimes.

"It's the same at the start," he pointed out. "You often get people up at the start, and they tend to bring friends with them - it gets a bit busy!"

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