Updated: Jun 25, 2020
No doubt when you have been watching the V8 Supercars or Formula One you have observed track marshals waiving different colored flags at drivers from time to time. Flags are used in all motor sport to communicate messages to drivers as they make their way around the circuit.
Depending on what flag is displayed will result in drivers taking action from slowing down, to returning to the pits, to recommencing racing – this is all communicated by marshals using flags.
So, what do all the flags actually mean?
As motor sport competition prepares to restart across the country its timely to refresh our memories on why different flags may be used while we are on the track.
Australian Flag: The national flag may be used to start a race when the starting lights are not working. The starter will raise the flag above their head and upon lowering the flag the race will commence.
Red: The red flag may only be waived at the direction of the Clerk of the Course to stop a practice session or race other than the Checkered Flag. When waived drivers must immediately slow down, not overtake and return immediately to the pits while being prepared to stop if necessary.
Black & White Checkered: This flag is the most recognizable flag of all and is used to signal the end of a race or practice session. Once past the checkered flag all competitors must stop racing and return to the pits by following the track or directions of marshals.
Solid Black: When displayed, a black flag shall be motionless and accompanied by a blackboard with the car number displayed that the flag relates to. If a driver receives a black flag, they must return to the pit lane on their next approach. A black flag may only be displayed at the direction of the Stewards or in some cases the Clerk of the Course.
Black & White Divided Diagonally: This flag is displayed motionless and accompanied with a blackboard displaying the number of the car the flag relates to. This flag is displayed to a driver to indicate that they have been reported for unsportsmanlike behavior.
Black with Orange Disc: This flag is
displayed motionless and is accompanied by a blackboard displaying the number of the car the flag relates to. The black flag with an orange disc indicates that the car has a mechanical problem that may endanger the driver or others and that the driver must return to the pits. A driver may return to the race following rectification.
Yellow: A yellow flag is a signal of danger and can be waved as a single flag or two flags known as a "double yellow". A single yellow is used to tell a driver to reduce their speed, not to overtake and to be prepared for a hazard on or close to the track.
Double waved yellow: tells a driver to reduce their speed significantly, do not overtake and that there is a hazard on or blocking the track and that safety personnel or marshals may also be on or close to the track.
Yellow with Red Stripes: This flag is displayed motionless and indicates to drivers that the track may be slippery due to oil, dirt, water etc on the surface. This flag is generally displayed for a minimum of four laps when used.
Green: A green flag may be used to signal the start of a formation lap or start of a practice session, however during race conditions the green flag is waved to indicate that the track is clear, and racing can recommence. This flag is waived at the first flag post after the incident that required the use of a yellow flag.
Blue: A blue flag is waved to indicate to a driver that they are about to be lapped/overtaken. When a blue flag is waived the driver being lapped/overtaken should allow the overtaking vehicle to pass at the earliest opportunity. A motionless blue flag is displayed at the pit exit to indicate that there is traffic approaching on the track.
White: A white flag is used to let a driver know that there is a slow-moving vehicle ahead on the next section of track.