Whiting Considers F1 Automated Flag System, Says ‘Celebrities Aren’t to Blame’

The FIA race director isn’t sure that an issue that happens ‘every ten years’ must be looked at deeply.

byJerry Perez|
Whiting Considers F1 Automated Flag System, Says ‘Celebrities Aren’t to Blame’


The deployment of an automated "flag" system has crossed the mind of FIA race director Charlie Whiting after the fiasco that took place at the 2018 Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix last weekend that saw a VIP guest, Winnie Harlow, wave the checkered flag one lap too early.

According to Motorsport, Whiting has given some thought to the situation and a possible remedy that would virtually eliminate the risk for error. However, the solution isn't as simple as one may think, as placing a lightboard above the start-finish line to show a digital flag would still involve having a human operate it, or program it ahead of time.

Sebastian Vettel discusses racing procedures with Whiting., GETTY

"I think we'd need to probably think about having a better end of race signal," Whiting told Motorsport. "The checkered flag is traditional, but it's something that, as we've seen today, is prone to mistakes."

"You could, and it would be quite straightforward for us, make the big black panel that you see show a chequered flag at the appropriate time. But if you're going to do it automatically, then you've got to think about exactly when you're going to do it, when you're going to activate it. It's not completely straightforward, it needs a little bit of thought."

Celebrity model Winnie Harlow has been at the center of this flag fiasco., GETTY

The FIA veteran, who absolved Harlow of any wrongdoing following the Grand Prix on Sunday, also showed his displease with the number of people that can often sneak into the flagwaver's stand ahead of the race. My personal experience is that you can't even go near these facilities, so Whiting must be referring to Liberty Media's VIP guests and their groupies.

"The celebrity was not to blame [in Canada], I don't think that that is anything that we need to consider, certainly not at the moment, anyway," Whiting continued. "We may need to look at other things, like the amount of people that get up there sometimes. That can be a little bit difficult."

Whiting concluded, "It's the same at the start, you often get people up at the start, and they tend to bring friends with them, and it gets a bit busy up there."