Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2019

“System error” caused early chequered flag signal which cut Japanese GP short

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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A “system error” caused the chequered flag signal to be displayed too soon, causing the Japanese Grand Prix to be cut short by one lap.

While the full 53-lap distance was completed by the leading drivers, the final classification was based on 52 laps. This happened because race leader Valtteri Bottas was shown the chequered flag at the start/finish line a lap too soon.

While the chequered flag is still waved at the end of a grand prix, since the beginning of this season the chequered flag light signal has been the official indication that a race has completed. The rule was changed in response to the events of last year’s Canadian Grand Prix where the chequered flag was waved a lap too soon in error.

However on this occasion the chequered flag light signal was displayed too early, FIA race director Michael Masi confirmed.

“From what we’ve seen it’s a system error it’s something that we’ve got to investigate,” said Masi. “I’m not going to pre-empt what it is was wasn’t something that it was a system error that came up.”

Some teams asked why the signal had been given too early, said Masi. “Until we could confirm that Valtteri had actually received [the signal] a couple of teams came on the radio and they were advised to continue racing to the scheduled distance.

“So it was system error. What the exact part of it [was], I can’t tell you here and now, it’s something that we’ll look at and obviously rectify.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on ““System error” caused early chequered flag signal which cut Japanese GP short”

  1. Time for a usual Sunday-wrap-up conspiracy theory:
    – this “system error” was a sabotage by some Ferrari-fan, who wished to prevent Lewis from overtaking Seb :D

    Jokes aside – really stupid incident, and perhaps a rule. What if this signal goes off right after Lap 1?..

    1. @dallein Then we would have final results based on a single lap of running, LOL.

  2. After the events of the Canadian GP last year they made a rule change stating that the official chequered flag is signaled by this system to prevent a human error. How ironic.

    Additionaly what happens if this happens let’s say on lap 41? They still end the race there?

    1. @roltec According to the rules, yes. The result would be based on positions at the start of lap 40 (this is based on separate rules for race result in case of the race stopped before the full length completed).

      1. imagine the (justified) outcry, they need this sort out asap

        1. I predict teams scrambling to hire the best hackers. On the plus side, we should see more close finishes as team hackers attempt to activate the checkered flag signal right before their driver(s) are about to be passed as the opposition hackers try to stop them.

  3. It’s a tragedy of what F1 has become after Charlie’s death. Stewards today deserved a plain 0 (in rating from 0-10) and then this happened on top of it.

    1. Why 0?
      They judged everything correctly today. Maybe it took them some time, but the decisions were totally correct.

      1. This is the same as giving props to a correct post-mortem diagnosis. Their indecision and inconsistency could have ended really poorly today (such as when Leclerc’s front wing flew guillotine-style towards Hamilton’s car).

  4. GtisBetter (@)
    13th October 2019, 14:48

    More likely the system worked fine and did what it was told. It seems very specific for an “error”. I suspect a human input or programming error.

  5. Yup, system is probably setup so in case Ferrari almost looses a place race must end a lap early.

    1. i think it is a case of todt received a good/big enough bid from ferrari, he did drop the hammer before the hammer time happened.

  6. Aw, poor system. I’m sure it didn’t mean it, it’s only human after all.

    “Until we could confirm that Valtteri had actually received [the signal] a couple of teams came on the radio and they were advised to continue racing to the scheduled distance.”

    So why can’t they just be left to get on with it and race to the scheduled distance rather than being nursed by rules, regs and procedures that evidently aren’t worth the effort!

  7. Jose Lopes da Silva
    13th October 2019, 15:53

    Thank God there was never, in F1 history, a problem with the timing results in qualifying.

  8. I am losing faith in Masi.

    The false start was visible and deferring to badly placed sensors is silly when the evidence is in front of them. They didn’t act quickly enough to call in Leclerc before his debris nearly killed Hamilton who escaped harm by his own quick reactions! The stewarding was not so much “ let them race” but rather let them descend into a demolition derby. A race cut short by a lap – for system problem read serious incompetence. Decisions made on “no action” followed by an investigation leading to penalties and team fines….. what could they possibly have made more of a mess of?


    1. I lost faith in Masi after he invented 5000 euro penalty for unsafe pit release for Leclerc in German GP:
      and after he re-invented black and white flag for Leclerc in Italian GP:
      Now, I just laugh whenever Massi opens his mouth. :)

    2. the start rule has always been clear, the cars can move before the start, but not be a rolling start. Bottas did a rolling start a few years back and got away with it… I think they base it off that sensor only, they are not capable of more effort frankly.

  9. It’s the system but the system is controlled by Ferrari. Ferrari should be embarrassed that the system is tilted in their favor but they continue to have poor results.

  10. You had one job, chequered flag computer! One job!

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