After a number of complaints this season by leading drivers, the blue flag system has come under the spotlight in Austin with a revision to how it works, aimed at making it easier for leaders to pass the slower cars.
Although many would like to see the blue flag system disappear, which is aimed at avoiding artificially changing the order at the top of the field, a further strengthening of the regulations this weekend has brought more technology to it. While the flag system has been used for a number of years, a pre-warning system in the cockpit will not warn drivers when three seconds away, with the intention to let them ahead within one.
The revision said “Article 27.9 of the Sporting Regulations requires drivers who are caught by another car about to lap him to allow the faster driver past at the first available opportunity.
“The F1 Marshalling System has been developed in order to ensure that the point at which a driver is shown blue flags is consistent, rather than trusting the ability of marshals to identify situations that require blue flags.
“Whilst this has been largely successful the way in which teams and drivers use the system seems to have become inconsistent.
“From now onwards the system will be set to give a pre-warning when the faster car is within 3.0s of the car about to be lapped, this should be used by the team of the slower car to warn their driver he is soon going to be lapped and that allowing the faster car through should be considered a priority. When the faster car is within 1.0s of the car about to be lapped blue flags will be shown to the slower car (in addition to 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.
“It should be noted that the aim of using F1MS is ensure consistent application of the rules, additional instructions may also be given by race control when necessary.”
Although there has been criticism of slower drivers this season, few penalties have been applied, something which could change from this weekend onwards.