Flag Marshal

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Flag Marshals (aka "Flaggies") are a crucial part of motor racing. The provide important information to competitors, and often assist with other tasks too. Whilst some marshals chose only to flag, and others prefer to avoid it entirely, it is inevitable that at some time you may be asked to flag. It's also a requirement to progress through the Grading system. If in any doubt about flagging, ask your post chief It is far worse to get flagging wrong than it is to say "I don't know how to do this"

See also our "sister" site FlagMarshal.com

Overview

Primary Role

The primary role of a Flag Marshal is to communicate important messages to racers and adjacent flag points. This is typically done by displaying coloured flags, but some signs, and occasionally light signals may be used.

Ideally a flag point will be manned by three Flag Marshals to act as 'green', 'blue' and 'yellow' flag. More usually only two Flag Marshals cover the 'yellow' and 'blue/green'. In any case they should stand so that the 'yellow' Flag Marshal has their back to the on-coming traffic and can see the 'green/blue' Flag Marshal(s) who stands watching the approaching traffic, in this way the 'green/blue' Flag Marshal is in a position to provide warning to the 'yellow' Flag Marshal regarding any dangers (i.e. incoming cars. The 'yellow' Flag Marshal is the only person on a marshals' post who should have their back to on-coming traffic.

When numbers are low, a single marshal will handle all of the flags on a post and sometimes act as observer too.

Additional Roles

Flag Marshals should be in a position to get a clear view of what is happening in the race and this means that they are able to assist the post chief by reporting events of interest to them.

When numbers are low, Flag Marshals assist between sessions too as an incident marshal, whether it's helping to recover a car, dressing oil, or just checking the track. Remember, everybody's a marshal, and we're all on the same team.

Flag Marshals may often be appointed as judges of fact. That is to say, that they are officially recognised, under the Rules as people who can report what actually happened in a race. This is most commonly to declare any infringements of the signals prescribed in Appendix H of the International Sporting Code (such as Overtaking under yellow flag).

Kit

A Flag Marshal's kit is typically the same as any other marshal. Whilst it's good to wear overalls at all times, it is not essential for flaggies who do not go trackside to do so, and some prefer not to wear them. Regardless of what is worn, it is essential that colours worn do not clash with the flags (Colours to avoid are red, yellow, blue, green, and white).

welders' gloves are optional, and some may prefer to wear regular waterproof gloves, to keep the cold and rain away.

It's generally a good idea for a Flag Marshal to be equipped with a whistle, since their constant vigilence puts them in an excellent position to alert incident marshals in dangerous positions (Tip: Always check with your PC first, as some prefer to limit the number of whistles on post, but if in doubt, always remember to look after your team)

Guide to Flagging

Flag Meanings

MSA (UK National) Flags

Note: this is a very short summary of the flags and their use. More details can be found in the Blue Book.

Colour Stationary Waved Double Waved
Red n/a Session stopped n/a
Yellow n/a Danger ahead Great Danger ahead
Green n/a Danger cleared n/a
Blue Competitor close behind Competitor overtaking n/a
White Slow/service vehicle ahead Slow/service vehicle close ahead n/a
Stripey+ (red/yellow) Slippery surface or "debris" ahead Slippery surface or "debris" close ahead * n/a


+ The stripey flag consist of alternating strips of red/yellow colour. There is no specific requirement for the quanity (most examples have between 5 and 15), and they may be held horizontally or vertically. The flag is known by many names, such as the change of surface flag, slippery surface flag, surface flag, surface hazard flag and similar variations on this theme. Most laypersons refer to it as the oil flag and it is not uncommon to hear marshals do the same. Although rarely referred to as the stripey flag, we do so here, simply because it's easy to identify it as such, without knowing its purpose.

* The stripey flag is never fully waved, if required to it should be held as stationary and given an up and down motion.

Safety Car

When the safety car is called by Race Control the start-line post will show a waved Yellow flag and also the SC safety car board.

As posts either side of the start line post see this notification they should also show a waved Yellow flag and SC safety car board meaning the notification proceeds in both directions round the circuit until ALL posts are showing a waved Yellow and SC boards.

When the safety car is ready to come off circuit and restart racing they will turn off their flashing lights before the end of the lap. This is to advise drivers the safety car period is coming to an end and the leading car assumes control of the field of cars (the specific rules which apply can change depending on race series) and the safety car will leave the circuit - normally into the pit lane. When the leading car passes the start finish line the start line post will swap to a Waved Green flag which as with the yellow flags should be copied by all posts as they see the post next to them change. The waved green flag should be shown by all post until all cars have seen the flag at each post.

For MSA (UK National) events this is the only time a Waved Green flag is shown.

Hazard Board

The Hazard Board is a board with White Background, on which a Yellow Triangle with Black border, and a Black Exclamation mark is displayed. It is normally the same size as the SC (Safety Car) Board. It is used at most circuits to identify a location/sector that may have a Hazard that no longer requires a Yellow Flag.

When an incident occurs, it will always intially be covered by Yellow Flags. These will cover the incident until such time as it has been dealt with. Once the incident is clear, and all personnel are in a safe location, the Hazard Board is put out.

Don't forget to take the hazard board in at the end of the session/race!

Special flags displayed on the startline

Colour Stationary Waved Additional Info
Chequered n/a End of race n/a
Black/Orange n/a car number
Black/White n/a car number
Black n/a car number

FIA Flags

FIA flags are similar to the above. Seen 'when to display' (below) for a list of differences

Arriving on post

When you arrive on post, always check, as soon as possible that you have the following:-

  • All of the flags you will need for the day (1 flag of each colour with 2 x yellow.
  • Hazard board (n/a if all races are under FIA rules).
  • Safety Car board, if applicable.

Always ensure that you know:-

  • The start procedures for races (how many green flag laps do they have)
  • Will the Safety Car be available during any of the sessions
  • Where the adjacent flag points are.

If you have been given a radio, ensure it is switched on, and on the correct channel. Also, check your headset is on, if you have one, and that you are listening, ready for the first check-calls of the day

If anything is wrong, check first with your post chief, and then to race control, via your radio, if necessary

When to display flags (MSA Regs)

Red

If you see one of your adjacent posts waving a red flag, wave yours. You should keep waving it, until the course car passes you. Be aware that; at some meetings, the course car may not come past, so you should use common sense, and bring in the red flag, once all of the competitors have passed (But be ready to wave it again, if a straggler, or somebody pulled out of the gravel passes).

You should also display your red flag, if you can clearly see a red circuit repeater light, under the control of the Clerk of the course, or if given an instruction to do so on an official flag radio. NEVER display your red flag, simply because you overhear someone (nearby or on a radio scanner) say/shout "red flag."

Yellow

MSA:

  • Single Waved Yellow : Displayed when there is danger between the flag point, and the following flag point. Also displayed, when the following flag point displays a waved yellow.
  • Double Waved Yellow : Displayed when there is great danger between the flag point and the following flag point.
    • Waved Yellow is also displayed alongside the SC (Safety Car) Board when the Safety Car has been deployed.

FIA:

  • Single Waved Yellow: As MSA Waved Yellow (But note: FIA usually has now yellow displayed at a post preceding one with double waved yellow)
  • Double Waved Yellow: As MSA Waved Double Yellow

Examples:

The following is a list of examples of what might constitute danger and great danger for the purposes of the above. Note that this is a rough guide only. Flag marshals should always use their own good judgement, and adjust the flags displayed if it will better convey the level of danger to drivers

DANGER:

  • New obstacle appeared off the track, but within the safety barriers (typically a disabled car which has parked) (Switch to Hazard Board, after 2 laps, if nothing changes)
  • Debris on track which is potentially dangerous, but still minor in danger, and could be avoided without much difficulty (e.g. a wing mirror, light fixture, small-medium sized piece of body work.)

GREAT DANGER:

  • A large object on or very near the track, which could cause substantial damage if struck (Stationary/spun car, tyre stack, or even - rarely - an animal)
  • Persons in the circuit, between the safety barriers. This could be working marshals, drivers, or indeed other intruders (note that in this case, the persons are in danger, not the drivers). If the persons are sufficiently protected that they are unlikely to be struck (e.g. working at the back of a large gravel trap), is may be reasonable to use a plain danger signal, but if in doubt, signal great danger.
  • Debris on the track, which could be dangerous if struck (e.g. larger pieces of bodywork or components - such as a bonnet, door, wheel, exhaust pipe).
  • Also note that it is standard practise to display waved yellows at one or two posts preceding the startline, at the end of the green flag lap. Procedures vary: some clerks ask for flags not to be displayed, unless there is an actual problem with one of the cars on the grid, while at Cadwell Park, waved yellows are displayed at all flag points between the assembly area and start line (unless the cars are running through to do a full lap of green, in which case greens are displayed the first time round, and yellows only when the cars are going to stop on the grid)

White

Wave your white flag, if there is a service vechile, or slow moving vehicle in your sector. "slow moving" is a matter of judgement. If it is potentially a problem for other drivers wave it, but usually, this means substantially slower than race pace. If the car is slow enough to be a "Danger", use the yellow flag instead.

Display a stationary white flag, if the following post is displaying a waved white flag

Green

Display a waved green flag, if the previous post is displaying a yellow flag, unless you have need to display a yellow flag.

See also: Safety Car procedure See also: Green Flag laps

Blue

Static Blue Flag : There is a faster car approaching - be aware

Waved Blue Flag : There is a faster car making an attempt to pass - be *very* aware

Stripey

Display the stripey flag, stationary, if you are aware of any substance on the surface, which may reduce adhesion (except rain-water). This can be anything from oil, to gravel, to dirt and leaves. Usually, you will be able to see this, but you should also take into account vehicle behaviour. e.g., if a smoking car passes you and the next three cars spin, there's a fair chance that there's fluid down, even if you can't see it.

Typically, the stripey flag should be withdrawn, after all the drivers have passed twice, as they should all be aware of it, and this will allow you to put it back out, if the situation worsens.

You should also display a stationary stripey flag, if there is debris on the track surface, which may affect drivers. A couple of stones is nothing to worry about, but drivers should be warned if there are chunks of bodywork on the track. The guidline is, that if a car can safely drive over the debris, display the stripey flag, but if it's dangerous, display a yellow.

When to display flags (FIA Regs)

FIA Flags are similar to the above, but with the following exceptions:-

  • All flags, except stripey are only ever waved.
  • Preceding flags (stationary white and stationary yellow) are not used. Note: In some cases, however, the Clerk of the Course may order yellow(s) to be shown at more than one marshal post preceding an incident
  • The hazard board is not used.
  • Double (i.e. two) yellow flags are displayd to warn of great danger (i.e. when the track is wholly or partly blocked and/or marshals are working on or beside the track ).

Also note that in Formula One, drivers are required to give way after they've seen a number of blue flags; in all other circumstances, blue flags are for information only.

How to flag (three flag marshals)

tbc

How to flag (two flag marshals)

tbc

How to flag (one flag marshal)

Rule #1 - if alone, you can not be expected to do all that a team would normally be able to achieve. Therefore, its a basic approach where primary safety is paramount,that means your primary safety first and for the Drivers equally or second, the Yellow flag or any other actions required to cover an incident takes precedent and is your main concern. tbc