On some rare occasions a Formula 1 driver will be shown the black flag. While this is a rare sight in modern Formula 1, it has been used in the past. So, even if you’re not a new fan you may not know what the black flag is in F1 and what it means.
The black flag in F1 is waved at drivers who have been disqualified from the race. When a driver sees a black flag waved at them, it means that they have been excluded from the race and must return to the pit lane immediately and see the stewards to discuss their actions.
Drivers are only shown the black flag if there has been a serious violation of the rules. In the majority of cases, drivers and teams know the rules well enough not to land in this kind of trouble. Below, we discuss more about the black flag in F1, and mention some notable black flagged F1 drivers.
What Happens If You Get Black Flagged In F1?
If you get black flagged in F1 you are disqualified. When a driver is shown the black flag during a race they must immediately return to the pits and retire from the race. They will not be classified for the race and will have the ‘DSQ’ symbol instead of their position.
If a driver decides to ignore the black flags and continue racing, further punishment can be imposed by the FIA including monetary fines and race bans. Remarkably, we have seen this happen multiple times in the past, which we’ll discuss soon.
The black flag is not used very often in F1, unlike the black and white flag, and in modern Formula 1 drivers always communicate with their team over the radio, so they’d easily be informed of it by their race engineer regardless of whether or not they’d seen it. It would be rare to see a driver ignore a black flag in modern Formula 1.
When Was The Last Time There Was A Black Flag In F1?
The last time there was a black flag in F1 was at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix. This particular race was famous for several reasons, including four safety cars, Lewis Hamilton’s first race win, as well as an extremely rare double black flag for Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Both Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella were black flagged for the same reason during the 2007 Canadian grand Prix. During one of the safety car periods the pit lane was closed to prevent cars from heading onto the circuit when there was still a danger on track.
Ignoring The Red Light
At this time the light at the end of the pit lane was flashing red, indicating that drivers have to stop at the pit lane exit and wait for the green light. Massa and Fisichella both ignored the red light at the end of the pit lane and headed back out on track, while Robert Kubica stopped and waited for the light to turn green.
Both drivers were shown the black flag and told to return to the pits immediately. To date this has been the last time we have seen the black flag used in Formula 1, and it is made even more unique by the fact that two cars were disqualified at the same time.
11 F1 Drivers Who Have Been Black Flagged
11 F1 drivers who have been black flagged are:
- Al Pease – Canada 1969
- Hans Heyer – Germany 1977
- Elio de Angelis – Britain 1981 and Australia 1985
- Alain Prost – Italy 1986
- Ayrton Senna – Brazil 1988
- Nigel Mansell – Portugal 1989
- Michael Schumacher – Britain 1994
- Jarno Trulli – Austria 2001
- Juan Pablo Montoya – USA 2004 and Canada 2005
- Felipe Massa – Canada 2007
- Giancarlo Fisichella – Canada 2007
6 Most Famous Black Flag Incidents In F1
1. Juan Pablo Montoya – US Grand Prix 2004
Juan Pablo Montoya’s raw pace and talent was undeniable, and he managed to land himself some seats in great teams such as Williams and McLaren during their competitive years.
During the 2004 US Grand Prix, Montoya was racing for a very fast Williams team. His car, however, failed to start while the cars were lined up on the grid. Montoya got out of his car and sprinted to his garage to start the race in his spare car, rejoining the Grand Prix after the formation lap.
Montoya drove a brilliant race at Indianapolis, fighting his way to the front of the field quickly. On the 57th lap though Montoya was shown the black flag and was disqualified for the race for using his spare car after the race had already started. It’s a mystery as to why the stewards waited 57 laps before disqualifying Montoya from the race, and he was understandably furious about it.
2. Ayrton Senna – Brazil 1988
Legendary Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna was raring to go at his home Grand Prix in 1988. Senna had blistering pace in Brazil, putting his McLaren on pole position for the Grand Prix. However, on the grid he suffered a gear linkage failure, causing the start of the race to be aborted.
Senna quickly hopped into his spare car and started the race from the pit lane. Senna drove a remarkable race, going from the back of the grid all the way up to second place behind his teammate and rival Alain Prost. However, halfway through the race Senna was shown the black flag for changing his car after the formation lap.
To rub salt in the wound, Senna’s teammate and rival Prost went on to claim the victory in Brazil. It remains one of Senna’s greatest drives even though, in the end, he was disqualified from the Grand Prix.
3. Michael Schumacher – British Grand Prix 1994
The famous 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher was by no means exempt from making mistakes. In fact, the incident at the 1994 British Grand Prix was arguably one of the worst mistakes he made in his entire F1 career.
Driving for Benetton, Schumacher qualified in second place. However, during the formation lap, Schumacher decided to overtake then pole sitter and his title rival Damon Hill twice, before heading back into his P2 grid slot for the start of the race.
On lap 14 Schumacher received a stop and go penalty which had to be served by lap 21. However, Schumacher ignored the penalty as his team argued against the stewards. On lap 22 he was black flagged for ignoring his penalty. Remarkably, Schumacher even ignored the black flags that he was given, pushing on and finishing the race in second place.
Schumacher stood on the podium, received his trophy, and sprayed the champagne. However, two weeks later it was officially announced that he was disqualified from the British Grand Prix. His punishment for ignoring the black flags that he was given a two-race ban, and Benetton received a hefty fine of $500,000.
4. Hans Heyer – German Grand Prix 1977
Hans Heyer was a German touring car driver who had a lot of success in the sport in Germany. At the Hockenheimring in 1977, Heyer decided to try his hand at F1. The result was probably the strangest disqualification in the history of the sport.
Driving for Penske, Heyer had an awful qualifying session. So bad, in fact, that he didn’t even qualify for the race the next day. On race day, Heyer sneaked onto the circuit from the pitlane as the race started, and he managed to complete 8 laps before his gearbox failed and forced him to retire.
This incident drew attention to Heyer being on track, leading to him being disqualified from the race. As a result, Heyer became the only driver in the sport to not qualify, not finish, and be disqualified from the same race. This gave him the unusual DNQ, DNF, and DSQ result.
5. Al Pease – Canadian Grand Prix 1969
Al Pease was a British Canadian racing driver who participated in Formula 1 in the late 1960s. He only has three Grands Prix starts to his name, and all of them were in Canada. However, the main issue was that he was competing with out-of-date cars, making him significantly slower than the rest of the pack.
The Canadian Grand Prix in 1967 saw him finish the race 43 laps behind the winner, and in 1968 he failed to start due to engine troubles on his car. However, things only got worse for Al Pease in 1969. During the race he was once again too slow.
However, he was causing trouble for the lead cars as they came around to lap him, leading to several incidents. He was black flagged from the race after completing 22 laps of the Grand Prix, at which point the leaders had already done 46 laps. Al Pease is remembered for being the only driver in Formula 1 for being disqualified because he was too slow!
6. Nigel Mansell – Portuguese Grand Prix 1989
In 1989, Nigel Mansell, driving for Ferrari, qualified in third place at the Portuguese Grand Prix. However, he was soon leading the race and fighting Ayrton Senna for the win. However, as Mansell came in for his pit stop he overshot his pit box and reversed back into it, all on his own, rather than having the mechanics manually pushing him back into it.
Reversing in the pit lane is a clear violation of the rules, and Mansell was later black flagged for it. However, the controversial part was yet to come, as Mansell ignored the black flags that were shown to him and continued to fiercely battle with Senna during the race.
Mansell and Senna collided later in the race, ruining Senna’s chance of finishing on the podium. However, the consequences were much more severe than that, as Senna lost out on the 1989 World Championship to teammate Alain Prost in a controversial final race.
The black flag in F1 is shown to drivers who have been disqualified from the race. This can be for a multitude of reasons, and we have seen F1 drivers black flagged for leaving the pitlane when they shouldn’t, and even for being too slow. The last black flag in F1 was shown in 2007.