MONTE CARLO, Monaco — It’s rare to see the black flag waved in a Formula One race these days — even more so to see one during a practice session.
But that’s what happened in the early stages of the opening session for the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday, when they were issued for Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean. The black flag is the most serious that can be waved at a driver — it demands a driver returns immediately to the pit-lane ahead of what is usually disqualification.
Haas later confirmed it had asked for the flags to be waved at their drivers as they were unable to communicate, having lost all telemetry and radio on the pit-wall. Initially, there were questions about why a black flag was waved and not a black and orange flag, which is usually used for a driver who must return immediately to the pit-lane due to a car problem.
Magnussen and Grosjean would emerge from the Haas garage in the closing 15 minutes, as soon as the issue had been fixed. Haas team boss Guenther Steiner admitted afterwards that the request had been a creative use of the power the stewards have.
“We had an issue with the IT equipment, we had no data anymore, nothing, no radio, nothing, we couldn’t contact them and we couldn’t see what the car was doing,” he said. “So they needed to come in quick.
“We put the pit board out, but they didn’t see it, so we came up with the idea let’s ask race control to give them the black flag so they come in. That’s what we did. Everybody got a bit too excited about it, but we got a little bit creative there, and asked for some help to get them focused to come in. They got in, we fixed the problem and then they got out for the last 20 minutes.”
When the black flags were initially issued, Magnussen stayed out for a handful of laps before finally returning to the pits.
When asked if the Danish driver had simply not been paying attention to his pit-board, which is held on the fast, narrow straight leading to Turn 1, Steiner said: “Yeah but they should look at the pit board!
“I think they will now in the future. It’s like if for more than five laps you don’t hear anyone on the radio in Monte Carlo, it’s like something must be wrong!
“We got lucky with the traffic because normally you get traffic here, and it’s like ‘why does nobody tell me about the other cars’, but we had no traffic. They just kept on going, so we needed to do something about it, but it all ended up good.”