The Master of the Blue Flag.
To many, flagging is an art, to some it is uncharted territory, for the few it is the only marshalling way of life, but for all of us it is something that we should do at one point or another. Certain flags can be classed as an exact science, as there is the correct time to put out a green, red, white and yellow. If there is an incident beyond your post and before the next flag point, then a yellow or double waved yellow flags should be put out, and if the incident is before your point but after the proceeding flag point, then you are going to put out a green flag.
Flagging can be an exact science. [Photo: Paul Williams]
Yet not all flags are an exact science, for example you can’t specifically say, yes this is the right time to put out a waved blue flag. So, is it more of an art? You could say so. Some of the best flag marshals will make blue flagging look ridiculously easy. That isn’t something to deter you though, they could have had years of practice, or just found their technique of spotting when a blue flag should or shouldn’t be displayed.
The only time that blue flagging is an exact science is when you are told to display it because of direct communication to race control, so sorry F1 flaggies, I won’t be covering much about flagging at the F1 in this article.
Before I go on any further, I certainly wouldn’t say that I am a great flag marshal, but I give it a go and have found a few things which may or may not help you. After all, we should all want to help each other in the orange family, so any tips for people should be left in the comments.
Follow the Leader
The first thing that I noticed that was different to being an incident marshal is how much you need to follow the race. You may know who’s winning, but the top five will be a bit of a stretch and the top ten? Well forget about it!
Positions change; make sure you stay on top of them! [Photo: Phil Rainford]
We will always know who is in last because we find it easier to follow someone having a rotten bit of luck, a bad day at the office or maybe they are just slow. As a flag marshal though, and to target a good blue flag, you need to be able to follow are race carefully. Knowing the exact location of every driver and the position they are in would be ideal, would be perfection in fact, but that can be asking a lot. I try and follow the top five and the last five.
This normally works because once you’ve alerted the back marker that the leader is approaching, then the driver is usually looking for the leaders after that. I say usually, it doesn’t always happen.
Pick Your Man Out
Numbers aren’t the easiest thing to spot on a car. [Photo: Paul Williams]
Picking your man out is all about something that will help you identify a car or a driver, as numbers aren’t always visible until the very last second, and by that time the blue flag could be too late. Instead it’s quite alright to say, “Well I know that green one is in last, and the one with the yellow bonnet is the leader”. These forms of identification could be the difference between a well-timed blue and one to an empty track.
You might have to get inventive though. In some formula’s, like the Formula Ford Championship, you may not have a lot of body work to identify, so then you look to the colour of the driver’s helmet. Another example is anything involving Ferrari’s; most of them tend to be red, I know “who would know a Ferrari to be red”?! This means you’ll have to look for the subtlest of differences, maybe the wing mirrors are different colours, or one has a light in a certain place.
What’s your point?
There is a very subtle technique you can do to help you pick out a car that requires a blue flag. At first I thought it was daft, in fact I almost laughed off the idea, but then I saw it in practice and I will admit, I was made to eat humble pie.
I have known and seen flag marshals point at the driver they are about to blue flag to grab their attention, to let them know that the flag is for them. It’s impressive when you see it happen, but I will never be more astonished as to when I saw it at the World Endurance Championship. The flag marshal was from France, Serge, and he pointed to a GT car in the middle of a pack. I thought five/six cars would be too much, but I couldn’t believe my eyes when the one car he pointed to, was the only one that reacted to the flag.
It’s just one of them
Like I said earlier, things don’t always happen how we expect them to, thinking can be the most crucial part of the Blue Flagging process, and sometimes we can be caught out with over thinking the situation.
It happens to the best of us.
When you over-think the situation, you could end up missing the flag altogether as it is too late to show the car you now know is a back-marker when there is a faster car behind them. Or something worse happens; you see a faster car trying to get past a slower car and you’re telling yourself, “I’ve got this one in the bag”, you display a perfect blue flag and then to your horror you realise what you’ve done. That was the leader!
If these two things have happened to you then this is my most important piece of advice, forget about it! We all make mistakes, we can all let something like that happen occasionally, and as the subtitle says, it’s just one of them. The next time round, you’ll nail that blue flag.