If you’re watching Formula One, then it’s very likely that you will have wondered what all the different flags mean.
Well, you shouldn’t worry, as we’ve compiled a guide of what all the different flags mean, as well as examples of when they are used.
What Do The Flags Mean In Formula One?
Below is a quick breakdown of what all the flags mean in Formula One. You can find more information about each flag further down the page.
Yellow Flag: Signals danger or caution on track. The driver must slow down, and no overtaking is allowed.
Red Flag: The session has been suspended, and all drivers must return to the pits at the next opportunity.
Green Flag: The green flag represents that the track is clear. The green flag is usually waved after an incident has been cleared.
Blue Flag: Drivers are shown a blue flag if they are about to be lapped by another, faster driver.
Yellow and red flag: A yellow and red flag is waved when there is a change to the track’s surface, such as an oil spill or standing water.
Black and white flag: The black and white flag is used to warn a driver over unsportsmanlike behavior.
Black and orange flag: This flag is shown to a driver who is driving with a serious mechanical issue that might be endangering themselves or other drivers. When a driver is shown this flag, they have to come into the pits where the team can try and fix the issue.
Black flag: A black flag is shown when a driver has been disqualified from the race. There will be a number held up alongside the black flag to signal which driver has been disqualified.
White flag: A white flag is used to show that there is a slow-moving vehicle ahead, such as the safety car.
Chequered flag: The chequered flag signals the end of the race – but we all knew that!
The Yellow Flag
The yellow flag is probably one of the most common flags you will see when you’re watching F1.
The flag is used to signal to drivers if there’s a caution ahead, such as a crash, or even marshalls near or close to the track.
When the track (or part of the track) is under yellow flag conditions, drivers have to slow down, and overtaking is prohibited.
Famous Yellow Flag Incidents
A famous incident regarding the yellow flag was in the 2012 F1 season, where Ferrari lodged a complaint against Vettel and Red Bull as it seemed that he had overtaken Jean-Éric Vergne under a yellow flag.
If found true, it would have demoted Vettel places in the race and would have meant he wouldn’t have enough points to claim the World Championship.
A subsequent investigation found that whilst the yellow flags were being displayed on screens still, the track was in fact clear and green flags were being waved when Vettel overtook Vergne. This meant that Vettel’s pass was legal.
The Red Flag
A red flag in F1 means that the current session has been suspended, and all drivers must return to the pits immediately.
There are a number of reasons why sessions would be red-flagged in F1, with the two most common being severe crashes & bad weather.
Recent Red Flags In Formula One
One of the most recent examples of a red flag affecting an F1 race was Zhou Guanyu’s severe crash at the 2022 Silverstone Grand Prix. In this case, the race was delayed for nearly an hour as the marshalls cleared up the mess.
Another recent incident involving a red flag was at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2021. With torrential rain, which isn’t a rare sight at Spa, causing safety concerns for the race stewards.
The race was actually red-flagged twice before the race had officially started, and was then suspended again (this time with no restart) after just three laps.
The Green Flag
The green flag is waved after a caution on the track has been cleared, and signals that normal race conditions are now in place.
It’s always exciting to see a green flag being waved, as it means the action on the track is about to heat up again!
The Blue Flag
A blue flag is waved at a driver who is about to be lapped by another car. Once a driver sees a blue flag, they must move out of the way of the faster driver.
The aim of the blue flag is to keep the momentum of the race going. If drivers were stuck behind cars they weren’t even competing with on the track, then the rest of the pack would catch up and each race would likely become a procession.
Despite the fact that blue-flagged drivers do move out of the way, it can still make it tricky when you are leading a race and need to overtake slower drivers, especially if you have chasing cars close behind.
Drivers need to be tactical when they choose to overtake, as it can slow your lap down which could cause chasing drivers to catch up.
If a blue-flagged driver doesn’t move out of the way, then they are given a time penalty, like Sergio Perez received in Barcelona in 2020 after not moving out of the way for Lewis Hamilton.
The Yellow And Red
The yellow and red flag warns drivers of a change in the track surface ahead, such as oil or standing water. The warning is there for the driver’s safety as unexpected oil or standing water on the track could cause them to lose control of the cars and crash.
The Black & White Flag
The black and white flag signals to a driver that their behavior is unsportsmanlike. Whilst this isn’t technically breaking the rules, the FIA has said in the past the flag acts like a yellow card. If a driver gets more than one black and white flag in a race, then the stewards will decide on an appropriate punishment.
Famous Black & White Flag Moments
The most recent and famous incident regarding a black and white flag would be that of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2021.
As the pair fought for the lead of the race, Verstappen weaved along the pit straight to stop Lewis Hamilton from getting passed him.
Verstappen received a black and white flag, which he sarcastically said ‘yeah perfect, say hi’ when he was told over the radio by his team.
The Black & Orange Flag
The black and orange flag is shown to a driver who has a serious issue with their car that may be a risk to themselves or other drivers.
The flag has been part of some recent controversies due to the FIA’s inconsistency regarding when the flag is used as some drivers were allowed to finish the race with damage, whilst other drivers were shown the flag and were forced to pit.
After these issues, the onus is now being put on teams to ensure their drivers and other drivers’ safety on the track, meaning the use of the black and orange flag will be reduced for the 2023 season & beyond.
The Black Flag
A black flag is shown to a driver when they are disqualified from the race for breaching the rules. When a driver is shown the black flag, they must enter the pits immediately and stop competing in the race.
How can a driver get disqualified from an F1 race?
There’s a variety of ways F1 drivers can get disqualified from a race. From dangerous driving, ignoring safety flags or even having a car that breaks the regulations.
Famous driver disqualifications
One of the most infamous disqualifications was Nigel Mansell in 1989 at Estoril. The Brit was shown a black flag for overshooting his entrance to the pits and then reversing back into his pit area whilst pitting for tires on lap 34.
Mansell was then shown a black flag as this was a violation of the rules. Controversially, Mansell didn’t quit the race and carried on racing.
He then took out Ayrton Senna in a battle on track, causing Senna to miss out on potentially winning the race whilst seriously damaging the Brazilian’s World Championship bid.
The White Flag
A white flag is waved when letting a driver know there is a slow-moving vehicle ahead, such as a safety car or a car that is slow due to mechanical issues.
The flag is waved directly before where the slow-moving vehicle is, so the driver knows that they are approaching the slow-moving car.