#F1 Features: Why the FIA must dust down the black flag

Whilst the FIA may be correct in defending their right to enforce a uniform measurement of fuel flow rates, the 4-5 hour debacle following the chequered flag in Melbourne should have been avoided. It appears Charlie Whiting and his colleagues were caught out by Red Bull’s refusal to obey the instruction to reduce their fuel flow rate and possibly some advance scenario running would have predicted this may happen.

The FIA have since made their position clear, that at the point Red bull refused to comply with the instruction to run a lower rate of fuel flow, they were in breach of article 5.10. The penalty for such a breach of the regulations is disqualification, the only course of action open to the race stewards.

Following the stewards decision, TJ13 questioned why Ricciardo had not been black flagged. This would have avoided someone climbing onto the podium who in reality was never going to be credited with that position. Further, following the death of his father, Jenson would have achieved his 50th podium which he would of course have dedicated to John.

Following the FIA’s extraordinary decision to fight in public the Red Bull negative PR prior to the appeal hearing, it is clear Charlie Whiting and his team are fully ingrained in the small print surrounding this issue.

The big question is, what happens if Red Bull find themselves in a similar position this weekend in Malaysia? Well Autosport report, “Horner admitted the team was now in an awkward position following Friday’s failure”.

Christian rather speaks in riddles though. “I think we will have that conversation with Charlie [Whiting, FIA technical delegate] beforehand. It will be clear if we do see a variance, what are we going to do? Hopefully we can agree something that is sensible”.

Is the Red Bull’s team boss suggesting they will act as they did in Australia given similar circumstances, or indeed they intend to agree a different path with Charlie?

Horner continues, “We had a signal failure on Daniel’s car this morning immediately, so we obviously have replaced that for this afternoon’s session and I haven’t had the results of that. Hopefully it is reading as per the fuel rail and will behave for the rest of the weekend. If it doesn’t, we find ourselves in an awkward situation but it is one where we will try to work with the FIA, but again you are faced with the same dilemma as Australia a couple of weeks ago.”

There is at least the inference that the world champions may again disobey an instruction given to them during the race, and so the FIA must be ready.

Should Red Bull ignore an instruction during qualifying, presumably the driver would be excluded from the session and the team would appeal. Then should that driver manage to score a podium finish the rules prevent him from the presentation ceremony.

Aritcle 2.2.3.c “The suspensive effect resulting from the appeal does not allow the Competitor and the Driver to take part in the prize‐giving or the podium ceremony, nor to appear in the official classification of the Competition, in any place other than that resulting from the application of the penalty”.

Of course in Australia, Ricciardo was on and off the podium before the issue was debated and any appeal lodged. The eventual DQ was gutting for Ricciardo and the Australian fans, many hours later. It also appeared farcical to the rest of us – given there was only one outcome from the stewards following the technical delegates report to them.

This cannot be allowed to happen again. Given the certainty of the FIA’s position now on such a breach and the public nature of their explanations, should Red Bull, Toro Rosso or any team breach an instruction to adhere to the fuel sensor measure of flow, the stewards must instruct that car is black flagged.

A black flag orders a particular driver to return to his pit within the next lap and report immediately to the Clerk of the Course, usually because he has been disqualified from the race. The flag is accompanied by a board with the car number of the driver on it so no mistake is made.

The last black flag I remember being issued in F1, was in Canada 2005. Montoya was DQ’d during the race for exiting the pit lane whilst the red light was on.

The FIA must put behind them the fear of the consequences should by some miracle the International Tribunal get involved and revoke the decision to DQ a driver during the race.

The fans deserve to know if something is going on, and if Charlie won’t explain his decisions following a race, at least the black flag lets us know all is not well.

Time to dust it off and be ready.

19 responses to “#F1 Features: Why the FIA must dust down the black flag

  1. “Whilst the FIA may be correct in defending their right to enforce a uniform measurement of fuel flow rates,”

    May be correct? Who writes this stuff? The FIA are absolutely correct in demanding that teams, all teams, meet the regulations set down in the sporting code. And the sporting code is specific as to the fuel rates that teams can use. I posted the formula’s used a week ago. It’s black and white. Maybe Red Bull can claim Newey isn’t very good at math. Think the FIA will believe that? This subject is, like the engine sound on TV, is being beaten to death. No one on this list, and I mean no one, has the technical info the FIA has to make a determination.

    • But then why not just disqualify the team when they are breaking the rules there and then. If the FIA has all the information, which you would want to believe, then they could have told RB they face immediate disqualification if they don’t adjust their fuel flow accordingly.

      Now we have a long drawn-out process in which there won’t really be any winners, least of all F1 “the pinnacle of motorsport”

      • Because fuel flow rates are variable and the FIA probably needed to determine absolutely that Red Bull had broken the rules. They also would have tested the sensor after the race to confirm it was within spec.

    • “Whilst the FIA may be correct in defending their right to enforce a uniform measurement of fuel flow rates,”

      May be correct? Who writes this stuff?

      It’s amazing how different two readers’ reactions can be.

      I was expecting to find praise for the strength and clarity of position expressed in this editorial, and here is a brutal comment against the writing…

      Cav’, are you a native English-speaker? Of course you are, yes? Then surely you realize that to open the op/ed w/ the “Whilst the FIA…” turn-of-phrase is simply a convenient (and effective) rhetorical device to acknowledge the inarguable correctness of FIA’s action in the regulatory sense, while still citing the podium-ceremony farce that resulted as reason why the black flag must be unfurled and waved if necessary.

      This is a wonderfully-written editorial and technically very proficient…can we not appreciate the subtlety of the phrasing w/o declaring a mistrial?! lol…

      • Use of the word “may” brings into question whether, the FIA in this case, has the authority to enforce its own rules. Do you think there is any question that the FIA the right, in fact the responsibility to enforce its own rules?

    • Yes to the article, that is… Please don’t mistake my Yes as a response to the rampant complainer.

  2. From CW’s 2014 Race Director’s Tech Session, regarding FFM infractions: “Any potential over-use would be investigated after the race. It will be no different to any other technical check.”

    And now you know why they weren’t black flagged. 🙂

    • RB probably knew this. So if you know you’re not gonna get the black flag, you can go all in – that explains to me their approach. If black flag was an option, you know you loose anyway.

      Now, is that rule stupid? Hard one. From a fan and sporting perspective: yes. The question is if FIA needed to incorporate the possibility that the decive doesn’t work as proposed in the rules. From that perspective an investigation afterwards makes sense.

      • Still, I argue for the meatball: (from wiki): A black flag with an orange disk in its center indicates that a car is being summoned to the pits due to mechanical problems that are interfering with the race, such as an oil, water, or fuel leak.

        A wrong FFM surely interferes with the race?

    • Matt – Brilliant! I agree here with you 100%.

      Furthermore, the Judge has not shared a valid reason why the black flag would be appropriate. He writes, “This cannot be allowed to happen again.” And why not? Did the world of motorsport end?

      Given that it was the first race with new, technically very complex rules, throwing meatball flags quickly and early during races is exactly the opposite of the appropriate response to this situation. The deliberative process that is in the regulations was followed, and worked well.

      These complaints from the Judge against CW are emotional, illogical, and absurd. This call for the meatball flag to be thrown early and often is disappointing and inappropriate.

  3. In terms of keeping the fans informed, the FIA handled the situation extremely poorly. They should have let us know that Ricciardo was under investigation for a technical infringement just like they inform us of all the other investigations. However, a black flag would have been worse in this situation.

    The FIA was unprepared for what happened. They may have confidence in their rules, but they do not have 100% confidence in their sensors. That was their shortcoming. Luckily, they did not try to make up for it by arrogantly forcing their way. They are showing respect to the race teams by allowing Red Bull a chance to appeal. I hope that this hearing brings more clarity to the rules and the sensor issues, allowing the FIA to take a tougher stance in the future.

    In contrast, Montoya’s black flag was not waved because of a 1% infraction agaisnt the brand-new technical regulations. He was stopped because the pit exit light was red – a fact easily observable by most people in real time and in replays. He was not a shade over the legal limit, he blasted past it.

    I hope the FIA will not devolve into the blind, heavy-handed, and stubborn IMSA. Where is the justice for the #22 Porsche at Sebring 12hr when the incompetent officials forced the to lose a lap because of an incident caused by an obviously different team? Even when confronted with the evidence of their idiocy, they refused to let the car to unlap itself under safety car conditions. That is like Raikkonen receiving the black flag for Montoya’s error in Canada in 2005.

    I do not want that, so please, let them take their time.

    • The FIA was unprepared for what happened. They may have confidence in their rules, but they do not have 100% confidence in their sensors. That was their shortcoming. Luckily, they did not try to make up for it by arrogantly forcing their way. They are showing respect to the race teams by allowing Red Bull a chance to appeal.

      So, in reality, should your comment be one of praise for the FIA, which you basically offer?

      The trouble is we don’t know the exact timeline as it relates to the podium-ceremony.

      Not to get all JFK-assassination-ish, but we need FIA to release a minute-by-minute timeline of the debacle, so it will become apparent when, exactly, the stewards were made aware of the problem and began considering the potential case…was it during the race? If so, then perhaps you’re right and there should’ve been announcement of DR’s car being under-investigation.

      It was pleasing to hear Massa during FP3 (or was it quali?) state unambiguously that all teams must follow the rules, but I especially liked Hulkenberg’s defense of FIA, even if he was caught out slightly by the interviewer’s response, which he then quickly rejoined.

      Hulkenberg is amazingly articulate in English (Massa not as much, but he sounds more intelligible that Kamui at least).

  4. I don’t think black flags make great PR. Unless you have an obviously damaged car spewing metal bits or oil out on the track and limping along without retiring, I doubt we’d see the marshals bring out the black flag. It just isn’t worth it without cross-checking the car once its back in the pitlane. Too much at stake?

  5. I might have some sympathy for Red Bull were they not simultaneously lobbying for the fuel flow rule to be discarded completely … while their purse holder threatens to abandon the sport completely (with his PR man/ team principal at the same time publicly hailing him as the world’s greatest F1 fan !)

    Not edifying.

  6. A few questions:

    1) If Red Bull were to again defy FIA warnings about fuel flow and Ricciardo were to again find himself disqualified, would this result in Ricciardo getting points on his superlicense (for being a repeat-offender, in effect)?

    2) Is it definitely the case that the FIA didn’t put up a caption during the race saying Ricciardo was being investigated (I only saw the highlights so don’t know for certain)?

    3) Can a driver excluded from qualifying still enter the race? I thought they wouldn’t be allowed to but, if I’m reading this article correctly, it sounds like they are only excluded from the qualifying session in which the infringement occurs so if that was, say, Q3, does that mean the driver still qualifies somewhere in the top 11-16 (presumably 16th)?

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