F1’s biggest chequered flag mistakes after Daytona’s 23h 58m mishap

Michelle Foster
Michael Schumacher and Pele

Michael Schumacher and Pele at a ceremony in Brazil

Daytona’s 23h 58m isn’t motor racing’s first chequered flag mishap, and it’s unlikely to be the last.

Motor racing’s iconic endurance event, the 24 Hours of Daytona, took place this past weekend with Porsche Penske Motorsport winning the 62nd edition in a thrilling battle with Cadillac.

But the No.7 factory Porsche 963 driven by Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden and Felipe Nasr almost hit the brakes too early. Why? Because the white flag that signals the start of the final lap was waved too soon.

That meant the chequered flag was waved 1 minute, 35.277 seconds before the 24 hours were up.

Thankfully Nasr, who was behind the wheel at the time, was told by Porsche’s strategist Tim Cindric when he saw the early white flag to keep pushing until such a time they knew it was definitely over.

“You gotta keep on the throttle until you know it’s over, right?” Nasr said. “That’s what Tim Cindric said on the radio. I was confused.”

He crossed the line 2.112s ahead of Cadillac’s Tom Blomqvist.

IMSA organisers admitted to the error, blaming an “officiating error in race control”. The statement added: “At the end of the lap, the race-leading No. 7 GTP car then received the chequered flag with 1 minute, 35.277 seconds still remaining, ending the race short of the planned 24 hours by effectively one lap.

“Based on Article 49 of the 2024 IMSA Sporting Regulations and Standard Supplementary Regulations, should the chequered flag be inadvertently or otherwise displayed before the leading car completes the scheduled number of laps or before the prescribed time has been completed, the race is nevertheless deemed ended when the flag is displayed.”

Daytona is not the first to make the mistake on the big stage and we’ve taken a look a look at five times Formula 1 also got it wrong.

1985 British Grand Prix

Alain Prost was shown the chequered flag a lap early at the 1985 British Grand Prix, the flag waved on lap 65 of what was a 66-lap race.

Prost was leading the race comfortably having lapped the entire field with Michele Alboreto running in second place, the two awarded first and second places after a one-lap countback. The error, though, had an impact on the final podium position.

Jacques Laffite had been running P3 but ran out of fuel on the final lap, handing the podium position to Nelson Piquet. But with the race counted back to lap 64, it was the Ligier driver who bagged third.

2002 Brazilian Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher won the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix, but Pele, the football icon waving the flag, missed the moment.

Back in 2002, Brazilian football star Pele was asked to wave the chequered flag at the Interlagos circuit and was standing in the gantry with the flag in hand as Ferrari driver Schumacher crossed the start/finish line to complete lap 71, the final lap of the race.

Pele, who had his back to the action at the time, missed the moment.

He also missed Schumacher’s brother, Ralf, who finished second, half-a-second back, but recovered to waved the flag as Jordan’s Takuma Sato, two laps down, crossed the line.

2014 Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton won the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg but a marshalling error meant the race was classified after lap 54, instead of the 56th.

By no means Formula 1’s most exciting race, the end of the Shanghai event provided all the headlines as a marshalling mistake meant the chequered flag was waved on lap 55 of the 56-lap Grand Prix.

Thankfully Hamilton, chased by Rosberg, was aware that something was amiss.

“I thought I was starting my last lap and I glanced up and saw something waving and realised it was the chequered flag,” said the Briton. “I lifted [the power] and lost about a second and a half but the team said: ‘No, no. Keep going.’

“If the radio had failed or something and I had slowed down and Nico came past, that would really have sucked. Thank God, it didn’t. It was very, very strange. I was thinking: ‘Am I seeing things?’ But it was good to do another lap.”

2018 Canadian Grand Prix

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was added to the list of chequered flag mishaps when model Winnie Harlow unfurled the flag a lap early.

It was waved on lap 69 of which should’ve been a 70-lap race but fortunately, race leader Sebastian Vettel realised the error and carried on at full pace to take victory.

As such the classification was declared to be that at the end of lap 68 with FIA race director Charlie Whiting revealing the starter, not the model, was to blame.

“It was a miscommunication between the start platform and the guy they call the starter here,” Whiting told Reuters.

“He thought it was the last lap and asked them at the top to confirm it, they confirmed it. They thought he was making a statement when in fact he was asking a question.

“He told the flag waver to wave it a lap early. It was as simple as that, it wasn’t anything to do with the fact it was a celebrity flag-waver. The celebrity was not to blame.”

Although finishing the race on lap 68 didn’t affect the running order, it did mean Max Verstappen and not Daniel Ricciardo claimed the fastest lap of the race.

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

The 2019 Japanese Grand Prix was yet another race that ended too early, the FIA blaming a “system error” that led to the chequered flag light being displayed a lap too soon.

That meant the race officially ended on lap 52 of the scheduled 53-lap distance.

Putting in the laps at Suzuka, Valtteri Bottas was leading for Mercedes when the Finn and his rivals were shown the light panel a lap early.

“From what we have seen it is a system error,” said race director Michael Masi. “It is something that we have to investigate. I am not going to pre-empt what it is, was, or wasn’t. It was a system error.”

But while the error did not impact the podium, it did on the final few points-paying positions as Sergio Perez was awarded ninth place despite crashing on lap 53 and initially being classified as P17.

That meant Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat were both denied a point. Perez subsequently moved up eighth when Racing Point protested the Renaults, but that’s a different story…

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