F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - PETER WIND­SOR @F1Rac­ing_­mag face­book.com/ f1rac­ing­mag

Peter Wind­sor on blue flags

I have to ad­mit that I’ve been in two minds about the blue flag sit­u­a­tion, ever since they came up with that rule re­quir­ing a blue-flagged driver to move over within three cor­ners. Or, to be more spe­cific, due to the sav­age penal­ties in­curred by the slower driver for not do­ing so.

Those of us who were at Zolder in 1982, when Gilles Vil­leneuve lost his life be­cause a slower driver didn’t move over for him in qual­i­fy­ing, have, I think, al­ways been very pro-blue. On the other hand, as you will read on page 106 of this is­sue, ‘us­ing the traf­fic’ is to some ex­tent a part of the rac­ing driver’s lost art, which is right up there along with heel-and-toe­ing, judg­ing gaps and dis­tances, notic­ing pho­tog­ra­phers near the apex, and brak­ing to within a mil­lime­tre from any given speed.

Stir­ling Moss could do all that and so much more, and he won the Monaco Grand Prix in 1961, against all the odds, in part be­cause of his per­fect ‘use of the traf­fic’, by which I mean his in­nate feel for when to put a back-marker be­tween him­self and Richie Ginther, how to wake up said back-marker in the first place – and ex­actly where to pass him even when the slower driver was asleep.

That’s a lost art, as I say, be­cause these days, all the driv­ers are spoon-fed down to the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor. Now, if you’re about to be lapped by Lewis Hamil­ton, it makes no dif­fer­ence at all whether you are a Sauber driver on the wrong tyres in 18th place or Fer­nando Alonso do­ing valiant bat­tle some­where in the mid­field with a Force In­dia and a Wil­liams. The leader’s be­hind you! Move over! Ig­nore him at your peril!

I’ve lost count of the num­ber of de­cent mid-field scraps that have been dis­solved by the blue flags in­duced by a soli­tary race leader – and all this hap­pen­ing at a time when we need as much rac­ing as we can pos­si­bly cre­ate.

I men­tion the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor fac­tor sim­ply be­cause there is an enor­mous dif­fer­ence be­tween a lazy, un­aware, slower driver who is sud­denly go­ing to move across on you, and a proper rac­ing driver who shouldn’t be ex­pected to come right out of the throt­tle, or put him­self on the marbles, just to let the lead­ers through. Be­cause of the oc­ca­sional ap­pear­ances of the for­mer, the lat­ter are now sav­agely strait-jack­eted.

That sort of thing isn’t right and it isn’t, as I keep say­ing, good for the show.

The whole sit­u­a­tion is fur­ther com­pli­cated by aero­dy­nam­ics. In the days of Stir­ling Moss – pre-wings, in other words – you could run as close to an­other car as you dared. To­day, as Max Ver­stap­pen so vo­cif­er­ously in­formed us in China, where he couldn’t get within two sec­onds of Ro­main Gros­jean be­cause of the un­der­steer that would en­sue, it’s a much more awk­ward story. An ob­vi­ous step for­ward would be a com­plete wing/aero ban – some­thing I would ab­so­lutely love to see, but pre­sume will never hap­pen.

Op­tion two, we all hoped, was that the new F1 chas­sis reg­u­la­tions would en­able the cars to run closer to one an­other: that was what the new rear wing, run­ning in more ‘be­nign’ air, was all about.

So much for the ex­perts. Be­nign or not, the wider, more draggy 2017 F1 shapes are ac­tu­ally worse than last year’s cars in terms of tur­bu­lence. If Max Ver­stap­pen couldn’t han­dle the wake of a Haas around the Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit, then all bets are off. Hav­ing said that, Daniel Ric­cia­rdo didn’t ap­pear to have too much trou­ble sit­ting closely be­hind the rear wing of his team-mate, which sug­gests that the tur­bu­lence varies from car to car… or from mon­key seat to mon­key seat, if you want to put it that way.

Op­tion three is to go wild with the blue flag rule. Why three cor­ners? Why not three laps? So what if it bunches up the rac­ing. Isn’t that what we want?

I ital­i­cise this be­cause I’m ac­tu­ally para­phras­ing the words of a sig­nif­i­cant For­mula 1 of­fi­cial who wishes to re­main name­less. Me? I’m not so sure. I do think that Lewis Hamil­ton, for ex­am­ple, is bet­ter in traf­fic than Nico Ros­berg was, and that it would have been nice to show­case that dif­fer­ence from time to time. And I love watch­ing Lewis think­ing his way through the lap, be it slow­ing down by just the right amount be­fore his pole at­tempt or, when he is given the chance, by weav­ing his way through the jam when he hap­pens to make a slow start.

I would en­joy a three-lap rule in this re­spect but then the down­side would be the dan­ger. As Mark Web­ber will tell you a mil­lion times over, the most treach­er­ous thing in rac­ing is speed dif­fer­en­tial, and there’s no doubt that giv­ing a slower car

three laps of le­niency will in­duce the driv­ers of the faster cars to make a wrong pass at the wrong place or time. That’s part of the art – or non-art – of be­ing a rac­ing driver, you might say, but then the whole busi­ness of ar­ti­fi­cially bot­tling the blue-flag zone is in it­self con­trary to what the 1961 Monaco GP was all about. Stir­ling’s abil­ity in traf­fic was about choos­ing the right mo­ments. His fi­nesse was in the tim­ing as well as the ex­e­cu­tion.

Op­tion four? Ac­cept the short­com­ings of the wider cars and open up the blue flag to a two- or three-sec­ond gap (rather than just one sec­ond). That’s ba­si­cally what the Max rant in China was all about: one sec­ond of tur­bu­lence in the old cars equates to two or three in the new ones.

Me? I still miss Gilles Vil­leneuve; his was a need­less ac­ci­dent. I still thirst for ev­ery­thing I can learn about Moss. I have to­tal re­spect for Max Ver­stap­pen; I love watch­ing Lewis, and Max, in traf­fic.

So, yes: I think the time is up for wings on For­mula 1 cars. Let’s get rid of ’em. Let’s go back to rac­ing – with and be­tween the back-mark­ers.

Exciting mid­field bat­tles are all too of­ten ru­ined by blue flags, which en­sure that the race lead­ers can pass through traf­fic un­scathed

Stir­ling Moss on his way to vic­tory at the 1961 Monaco GP, his suc­cess largely due to his ‘use of the traf­fic’

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