Sport Motorsport Confusion reigns as model stops grand prix one lap too early
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Confusion reigns as model stops grand prix one lap too early

Canadian Grand Prix 2018
"It wasn't me!" Model Winnie Harlow waved the chequered flag two laps early. Photo: Twitter
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Formula One is to review its procedures after the Canadian Grand Prix ended in confusion and embarrassment when a celebrity waved the chequered flag a lap too soon.

The gaffe did not affect the outcome of the race, which was won by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo finishing fourth in one of Formula 1’s most  bizarre endings.

Vettel said he was left double-checking his lap counter while checking in with his pit before carrying on to run the full 70 laps.

“Fortunately we had radio, fortunately I had the lap count in the car and the pitboard was accurate – but if you lose radio and maybe the pitboard is not there, then you back off,” said Vettel after notching his 50th career win.

“I was just worried, I told them also on the last lap, then people don’t jump on the track, waving flags and celebrating, because we’re still going at full pace.”

“Tell them not to wave the flag when it’s not done,” Vettel said over the radio.

The official results were later determined based on the 68th lap to avoid any impact the early flag might have had.

Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting said the error was caused by simple miscommunication between the official starter and crew in the starter’s tower, which resulted in model Winnie Harlow – a friend of Mercedes world champion Lewis Hamilton – waving the flag prematurely.

“It was a miscommunication between the start platform and the guy they call the starter here,” explained Whiting. “He thought it was the last lap and asked them at the top to confirm it, they confirmed it.

“They thought he was making a statement when in fact he was asking a question.

“He told the flag waver to wave it a lap early. It was as simple as that, it wasn’t anything to do with the fact it was a celebrity flag waver.

“The celebrity was not to blame.”

Celebrities are often given the honour of waving the chequered flag at motor races, which has occasionally resulted in unintended gaffes.

Brazilian soccer great Pele famously reacted too late when Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher won at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit in 2002, brandishing the flag instead as the later finishers appeared.

“We need to review procedures and make sure we have a very simple procedure for every circuit,” added Whiting.

“We’re dealing with different human beings, different countries, different languages and it’s not always absolutely perfect.”

Vettel retakes lead in championship

Vettel’s victory put Ferrari back on top in Canada for the first time since seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher claimed the last of his record seven wins on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2004.

Putting Ferrari on pole in Montreal for the first time since 2001 with a track record time, Vettel had powered into the lead and was never challenged as he charged home seven seconds clear of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

It was the German’s third win of the season and second in Canada, the first coming in 2013 with Red Bull.

canadian grand prix
Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Valtteri Bottas battle for track position. Photo: Getty

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who dominated much of practice, turned in a mature, error-free effort to take third place and quiet the storm of criticism swirling around him following a string of errors and crashes, including one at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with Ricciardo in April.

The timing of Vettel’s win could not have been better, coming on the 40th anniversary of the late Gilles Villeneuve’s victory for the Italian team in 1978 at his home Grand Prix.

“Perfect is probably a good way to describe it. It’s unbelievable. I said yesterday how much this place means to Ferrari and to have a race like we had today is unbelievable,” said Vettel.

“It’s 50 for me but after a long stretch that Ferrari didn’t win here, I saw the people around and they were super happy.”

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