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What Do the Different F1 Flags Mean?

There are many different flags in F1 – all with very different meanings.

Fun with flags, Formula One edition. Communication is incredibly important in F1 and one of the ways in which drivers receive information is from coloured flags dotted around the track. Or, coloured light panels, which are becoming used more and more.

The flags are deployed by the marshals to communicate certain messages to the drivers. These coloured flags have different meanings and are used to share messages about different things.

So, while the drivers are juggling acceleration, braking, steering, steering wheel switches and information, radio messages and so much more, they are also needing to pay attention to the flags.

We wanted to share with you what they all mean and why they are important:

Chequered Flag:

The simplest of them all. It means the session has officially ended and is waved until all cars have crossed the line.

Green Flag:

The green flag means the track is clear and there are no issues ahead. It is used in practice sessions, qualifying and the race.

Yellow Flag:

The bright-yellow flag means there is a hazard up ahead and for drivers to approach with caution. It comes in two forms: a single-waved yellow and double-waved yellow.

In both cases, a driver must slow down, avoid overtaking and must be prepared to avoid a hazard up ahead. In a double-waved yellow, they must slow down considerably, as it is often used when marshals are on track. In practice of qualifying, drivers must not attempt to set a competitive lap time.

Red Flag:

This flag is used to stop a practice session, qualifying session or race due to a serious accident or extreme weather. Officials make the call to bring out the red flag and they are then waved at the start line and marshals posts. Drivers must reduce their speeds and proceed back to the pit lane. In practice and qualifying they go to their garages and in the race, they line up at the pit lane exit.

Blue Flag:

Blue flags inform a driver that a faster car is behind them and looking to overtake. In the race, it means a driver is behind lapped and they must allow the faster car past as soon as they can. In practice and qualifying it means a faster car is approaching them, or they have exited the pits and a quicker car is behind.

Black Flag:

This is used to disqualify a driver and means they must return to their pit garage immediately. This flag is only waved based on the decision of the stewards.

Black and White Flag:

This flag is used to warn a driver of unsportsmanlike behaviour and usually appears alongside the driver’s race number.

Black and Orange Flag:

The black flag featuring an orange circle instructs a driver that their car has damage or a mechanical issue, which could be dangerous. So they must return to the pits as soon as possible. The car may return to the track if the chief scrutineer is satisfied that the issues have been resolved.

White Flag:

The white flag is used to tell the driver a much slower vehicle is up ahead, so warning that a hazard is ahead of them.

Yellow and Red Striped Flag:

This means that there is a slippery surface up ahead on track due to oil, water or another substance causing a lowering of grip levels. So the drivers know they need to slow down and be careful through that section.