Mercedes-AMG at the 2018 Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix
The checkered flag is a near-universal symbol. It denotes the finish of a race and victory for one driver. But, the physical checkered flag's days could be numbered, based on comments from the FIA.
Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting told Motorsport.com in a Wednesday report that the FIA is pondering an automated and digital checkered flag to reduce mishaps. For those unfamiliar, the incidents are few and far between, but an mistake at the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix has prompted discussions about change. At the grand prix, the starter, who officially starts and finishes the race, miscommunicated with race control and ordered the flag waved on the 69th of 70 laps by a celebrity flag waver.
The error didn't cause any standings changes, but it did rob Daniel Ricciardo of his fastest lap of the day. Not only does such an error cause confusion, but it poses a safety risk. Marshals could enter the track and believe the cars are now at cruising speed, when, in fact, race teams could tell racers to keep the pedal to the metal.
After the incident, Whiting confirmed an automated checkered flag may put incidents like the one at the Canadian Grand Prix in the past.
"I think we'd need to probably think about having a better end of race signal," said Whiting. "The checkered flag is traditional, but it's something that, as we've seen today, is prone to mistakes."
Right now, the first thought is to display the checkered flag on the digital light boards above the start/finish line. A human may still wave the traditional flag alongside the automated flag, but the light board would be the official end of the race.
Whiting said the change still requires a lot of thought, and drivers would need to adapt to look for the flag on the light board. Another consideration is how someone would activate the light board.