New Viewer’s Guide to Formula One Flags – What Do They All Mean? 

Formula one has seen a huge surge in viewership since 2020 and many new viewers are probably puzzled by the commentators and graphics shown on-screen sometimes. We’re here to fix that with this guide where we’ll cover probably more than you need to know about F1 Flags and their meanings. 

Green for Go! 

To kick off this article we have an easy one, when the green flag is waved it signifies that the track is clear and racing can go ahead. Whether it be at the end of a safety car period, the start of a warmup lap, or qualifying session; this flag always has the same meaning. 

Blue Flag 

XPB Images

At all times:

Shown to a driver leaving the garage that traffic is incoming so he can rejoin the circuit safely.  

During practice:

Shown to drivers not on a hot lap to notify them that a driver on a hot lap is close by and that they should avoid the racing line to not affect their time. 

During the race:

Shown to a driver who is about to be lapped. When shown the driver is expected to move out of the way of the faster car to allow them to pass safely and quickly. If this flag is ignored, the driver in question could receive a penalty. 

White Flag

When the white flag is shown, it’s usually to inform a driver that there is a much slower car/vehicle ahead of them. It’s usually shown when drivers do practice starts at the tail end of practice sessions. 

Yellow Flag 

The yellow flag signals to drivers that there is a significant threat ahead of them, it can be either single waved or double waved. 

Single Waved:

As a result of a hazard that is either partially or entirely on the track, drivers are required to slow down, are prohibited from passing, and must be ready to make a directional adjustment.

It must to be obvious that a driver has slowed down when they are in the appropriate area or sectors.

Double Waved: 

Drivers must drastically reduce their speed, refrain from overtaking, and be ready to change course or stop if a hazard completely or partially blocks the track or if marshals are present on or near the track.

It must be clear during free practice and qualifying that a driver hasn’t tried to establish a significant lap time (they should abandon the lap, though it does not mean they have to pit, as the track could be clear the following lap).

Pink “Code 60” Flag 

This flag is pink with a white “X” through the it and a circle inscribed with “60”, it is sparsely used to set a track speed limit of 60kph. This flag is usually accompanied by the double-waved yellow flags and can be used to limit parts of the track or the whole track to 60. It can be used in practice sessions, qualifying and the actual race. 

A single yellow flag and a board reading “FCY” (Full Course Yellow) or a purple flag with a white circle containing the number 60 (known as “Code 60”), which establishes a 60 km/h limit, will be displayed if a single speed limit is enforced around the entire track.

If there is a speed limit on a portion of the track, the start and end of the zone will be marked with a double yellow flag and a board that reads “SLOW.” If there is a variable speed limit, this will be signalled with a single yellow flag and a board that reads “VSC” (Virtual Safety Car).

Red flag

A red flag is waved at the start line – and at each marshal post around the circuit – when officials have decided to stop a practice session, qualifying session or race, with reasons ranging from a serious incident to poor weather conditions.

The red flag is used at the start line – and at each marshall post around the track – when race arbiters have decided to stop a race, practice session, or qualifying whether it be from poor weather to a serious incident. 

In practice and qualifying, all drivers are required to reduce their speed and proceed slowly back to their respective pit garages, while in the race, all drivers are required to reduce their speed and proceed slowly to the pit lane, line up at the exit and await instructions.

Black Flag

The black flag is used to notify a driver that they have been disqualified and that they should return to their garage. The right to show this flag is possessed solely by the stewards. 

Black Flag With Orange Disc 

The black flag with an orange disc at it’s centre is similar to the black flag in the sense that it notifies a driver that they should leave the track and return to the garage.  However, the reason is not a violation of racing rules but a mechanical failure which could endanger the driver or others on the track.

After returning to the pits, once the team and chief scrutineer are happy with the car, it may return to the track. This doesn’t happen often in races since it’s really hard to make up even just a lap of deficit on any track. 

Black And White Flag

This flag is shown as a warning to a driver for unsportsmanlike behaviour which has been reported to the stewards. It is accompanied by the driver’s race number.

Chequered Flag

Probably the most popular and well known flag, used to indicate the end of a qualifying session, race, or practice session.

Steering Wheel Flag Panels

As F1 technology has advanced, teams now usually include flashing alerts on the driver’s steering wheel to indicate any flags applicable on their sector of the track. GPS tracking on the cars along with other data is used to determine if a driver is shown alerts. This is a very good innovation because now drivers don’t need to worry as much about seeing the physical flags waving on the trackside. Virtual Safety Car is also made possible with this new integrative system as the cars can be locked at a certain delta or speed remotely to ensure that all positions on the track are kept the same.

At a lot of tracks now, physical LED flag panels are used on track instead of flags because instead of telling track marshalls to wave flags the action can be done remotely.

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