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F1 tweaks blue flag rules for Azerbaijan GP

Formula 1’s blue flag procedures have been tweaked for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix following recent complaints from drivers about the difficulties of lapping traffic this year.

F1 tweaks blue flag rules for Azerbaijan GP
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-Benz F1 W08
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32
Marcus Ericsson, Sauber C36
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 Team

While backmarkers are supposed to move aside for lead cars as soon as they get given a blue flag warning, the timing of that alert was changed for the start of this season.

While the slower cars should get a pre-warning from their teams when leaders are three seconds behind them, an official automatic trigger point for blue flags and lights in the cockpit was reduced from 1.5 seconds to 1.0 seconds for the start of 2017.

Although the change in gap does not seem like a lot, the need to get closer to get past – allied to how much more difficult it is for cars to follow each other at a short distance – has led to a situation where some lead drivers are thinking lapping cars has been made too hard.

Kimi Raikkonen, in particular, was quite outspoken about the matter during the FIA drivers’ briefing at the Canadian Grand Prix when he talked about the difficulties he had faced with backmarkers when he led the previous race in Monaco.

Earlier this season, Max Verstappen was also annoyed after he felt the blue flag rules had nearly cost him his podium finish in China.

On the flip side, the cars at the back of the field argue that if they have to move aside too soon then that can unduly affect their own battle for position.

Having listened to the drivers, F1 race director Charlie Whiting has decided upon a slight tweak to the timings from this weekend, with the blue flags and lights now triggered at 1.2 seconds rather than 1.0 seconds.

The FIA will view what impact this change makes on the backmarker situation before deciding whether further tweaks are needed or it is the right solution.

A note sent from Whiting to teams on Thursday said: “When the faster car is within 1.2s of the car about to be lapped blue flags will be shown to the slower car (in addition to blue light panels, blue cockpit lights and a message on the timing monitors) and the driver must allow the following driver to overtake at the first available opportunity.”

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About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Azerbaijan GP
Location Baku City Circuit
Author Jonathan Noble
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