What does the blue flag mean in F1? Driver instruction explained

Jake Nichol October 10, 2021
Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Blue flags in F1 were once again a talking point in the Turkish Grand Prix, as Nikita Mazepin nearly caused an accident with Lewis Hamilton after ignoring a blue flag. What does the flag mean and why is it important drivers follow it?

Mazepin causes more trouble in Turkish GP

Nikita Mazepin has already carved a reputation out in Formula One as being a bit of nuisance on track.

The Russian is in his debut season in F1, but already has chalked up a series of on-track incidents that F1 drivers should be involved in.

On at least two occasions, at high-speed, he has chopped across Haas teammate Mick Schumacher, causing the German to take avoiding action.

In Baku, Mazepin swerved across Schumacher’s line on the run to the flag and done the same thing at Zandvoort at the start of the race.

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He also hit Schumacher at the Italian GP at the second chicane.

Driving the slowest car, it is understandable that Mazepin wants to beat the only driver he realistically can: Schumacher.

But the rookie has taken his defensive driving too far this season, with the latest incident coming in the Turkish GP at Istanbul Park.

Coming up to be lapped by Lewis Hamilton, Mazepin’s #9 Haas was shown the blue flags.

As a race-leader, Hamilton would be entitled to assume that Mazepin would follow the rules, and allow the #44 past.

However, at the fast Turn 11 kink on Lap 28 on the back-straight, Mazepin cut across Hamilton – seemingly unaware the Briton was there.

Hamilton was forced to avoid a big collision and lost time in his battle with Sergio Perez.

Mazepin has since said he intends to apologise to Hamilton for the near-miss.

But what is a blue flag, and why would Hamilton assume Mazepin would let him go?

Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Blue flag meaning in F1

A driver is only shown a blue flag in F1 when they are coming up to be lapped by someone on the lead lap.

It is to inform the soon-to-be lapped driver that a faster car is coming and that they must move out of the way, as to not interfere with the leaders.

It does not matter who the lapped driver is.

Should Hamilton have had a problem and be running a lap down, he would be shown the blue flags as any other driver would.

Drivers get the information on their dashboard on the steering wheel, as well as through LED panels located around the track.

Photo by JENNIFER LORENZINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The panels flash blue with the driver’s number – making it clear they must move over.

The meaning of a blue flag in F1 is also told to a driver over the radio by their team.

Drivers are allowed to pass three blue flags, also waved by the marshalls, before they are deemed to have blocked a leader.

They can be handed a penalty as a result.

Mazepin picked up a five second time penalty for ignoring blue flags earlier in the season – blocking leader Sergio Perez at the Portuguese Grand Prix.

In the case of Mazepin/Hamilton, the Mercedes driver cleared the Haas on the run to Turn 12, but still lost two seconds in his hunt of Perez.

Photo by Mark Sutton — Pool/Getty Images

What do other flags mean in F1?

Most motorsport series have a uniform flag colour to signify on-track instructions and messages.

Some of the most important are listed below.

  • Yellow flags – caution/incident on track
  • Green flags – incident cleared, full racing speed
  • Red flags – session stopped due to accident or weather
  • Blue flags – you are about to be lapped, let the leader through
  • Black flag – disqualification from the session
  • Chequered flag – waved at the end of the race

While blue flags are common-place in single-seater racing, not every series has them.

Blue flags are not shown to lapped drivers in IndyCar or NASCAR.

Leaders must weave their way through the back-marker traffic as part of the race.

Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.