F1 may use digital checkered flag after Canadian Grand Prix mix-up

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Formula One is considering moving to a digital checkered flag after a miscommunication between officials saw celebrity Winnie Harlow throw the flag a lap early at this past weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

The computerized flag, displayed on a light panel and used officially to signal to drivers the end of the race, wouldn’t replace the physical flag, but would turn it into a meaningless prop, F1 race director Charlie Whiting told Autosport.

At the Montreal event early June, a local official mistook the ‘current lap’ indicated on a TV broadcast for the number of laps elapsed, and other officials he was asking for confirmation of that fact instead thought he was giving them information.

As a result, Harlow was prompted to throw the flag after just 69 laps instead of 70, though most teams caught the mistake and continued racing until the end anyway. Sebastian Vettel ended up the victor.

“The chequered flag is traditional, but it’s something that, as we’ve seen, is prone to mistakes,” Whiting said. “You could, and it would be quite straightforward for us, make the big black panel show a chequered flag at the appropriate time.”

Several concerns over safety were raised after the mistake was made, since some marshals could have gone out onto the track if they assumed the race was over; some drivers similarly may have slowed while others kept racing.

The last time a mistake was made throwing a checkered flag was at the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix; and at the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix, when soccer icon Pele waved the flag too late.

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