The FIA and the Formula teams have reached agreement on tweaks to the use of orange and black flags after the Fernando Alonso controversy from Austin.
Alonso was handed a 30 second time penalty post-race in Austin after Haas lodged a protest that he was not shown the black and orange technical flag after sustaining damage in a high-speed shunt with Lance Stroll.
The Alpine driver was able to continue with the right wing mirror flapping around before it fell off, but despite Haas informing race control of the situation twice, the Spaniard was not called in to rectify the problem.
Guenther Steiner’s team wanted consistency in the regulations after their driver Kevin Magnussen had been called into the pits multiple times in 2022 for minor damage to the front wing.
Although the stewards allowed the protest despite it being lodged too late, a reconvention in Mexico City threw out Haas’s protest meaning Alonso’s seventh place was reinstated.
A long-time part of the rulebook, the black and orange flag has been scarcely used in recent times, only coming to prominence again in 2022 with Magnussen and Yuki Tsunoda being recipients.
During a meeting between team managers/sporting directors and the FIA in Mexico the parties agreed modified procedures for the flag’s deployment.
New black and orange flag rules
RacingNews365.com understands that two options were presented to the teams about the use of what is known as the ‘meatball’ flag.
Option one was to continue with the current procedure, namely to let the FIA itself continue to police flying the flag or not, while the second was to let the teams decide for themselves on whether their cars are dangerous.
In the latter instance the onus would be on the teams to act responsibly where they believe a car has suffered significant impact and to decide whether it should be able to continue or be called in for attention.
It is believed that the teams feel they are in a better place to judge the safety of the car with all of the telemetry, data and sensors at their disposal to identify any potential areas of concern.
A full check of the car will then follow to determine whether it is in a safe condition to resume the race.
Should team not call in their cars in instances where the FIA believes them to be in a potentially dangerous condition, the governing body would trigger the black and orange flag.
RacingNews365.com understands that a report into the matter of black and orange flags has been requested by FIA President Mohammed ben Sulayem in the hope of a proper regulatory framework being drawn up.
Alpine react to new rules
“We had some very positive discussions yesterday with the FIA technical department,” Alpine sporting director Alan Permane told media including RacingNews365.com.
“I think they agreed that things have gone a little bit too far.
“I don’t think anyone apart from Haas felt that having a mirror knocked off in an accident that wasn’t your fault [should merit the flag.]”
“From here onwards, small damages like a mirror, like a front wing endplate, if it is non-structural like a brake duct, it will not be considered to be a black and orange flag offence.
“It is still going on at the Technical and Sporting Advisory Committees, and we will discuss it more a little bit down the line, but a line in the sand has been drawn.
“Hopefully there’ll be better because of it.”
Precedent Alpine called on
Part of Alpine’s defence against the Alonso penalty was from the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, where both Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton lost mirrors.
Falling debris from Leclerc’ Ferrari knocked off Hamilton’s right mirror in the early laps, but neither was given the black and orange flag and went onto finish sixth and third, respectively.
“I felt that was precedent [from what happened] in Austin,” Permane explained.
“It wasn’t in any way dangerous, as Fernando was being told where he had someone behind him in the closing laps.
“His engineer was telling him the gap every sector, so three times a lap – and he positioned the car to see Lando from his left hand mirror.
“I think if we adopt these guidelines from Mexico onwards, we’ve got to a sensible place.”