In F1 (and probably other motorsports) there is the blue flag rule. When a car is about to be lapped, they are shown a blue flag, and must give the lapping car an occasion to pass them at the earliest convenience.

I always read this as you can't fight for the position; you let them pass, and not cause an accident.

But if, for instance, you start doing better lap times with some fresher tires. Then you can't unlap yourself as far as I understand. You can't go up to the car that has lapped you before, because you can't really pass through him, you shouldn't fight for position against him (and risk an accident).

So even if you do faster lap times, are you stuck behind the car that has lapped you, or is there a thing that lets you pass the car that has lapped you?

  • Why should you not fight for position? Everybody else does it from the very first corner until the very last straight. Unlapping is an extra incentive to do it, not a reason to wimp out.
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 19:43
  • Before it was like that, but thing is, the last guy in the race could take out the race leader because they were fighting for position. Thats why blue flag rules were put in place. It happened a few times youtube.com/watch?v=fdZ6w3PrVJI
    – Fredy31
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 20:02
  • The rules require the slower car to let the leader car overtake, under a drivethrough penalty if ignoring three consecutive blue flags, but that's not what a lapped car trying to unlap is doing or facing. As such I don't know why you're asking about the flag when they've already been lapped: it's irrelevant.
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 4:19
  • I wonder if you get shown the blue flag if you are the one coming up on the car that has lapped you. But as I said, I always felt that it was so cars not on the same lap are not risking collision by fighting for position.
    – Fredy31
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 14:13

2 Answers 2


I will answer this from the perspective of Formula 1 as I am most familiar with that formulae.

In F1 you are perfectly entitled to unlap yourself and it does happen from time to time.

The blue flag rule is for cars that are about to be lapped, ie are SLOWER than the car approaching them, if you are unlapping yourself then you will be QUICKER than the other car so blue flags would not apply.

There aren't many examples of this as lapped cars tend to be slower than the cars doing the lapping, but in 1993 there was a famous example of Eddie Irvine in his maiden Grand Prix, unlapping himself against Ayrton Senna, who punched him after the race for his cheek!


  • In theory you get blue flags if a driver who would lap you is less than 1.2 seconds behind you. If you pass more than 3 blue flags you get penalised. So theoretically, if you unlap yourself you have three-blue-flags-worth of distance to get 1.2 seconds ahead... or you'll have to let him back past again.
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 15:33

Usually in a Formula 1 perspective, Blue Flags are waved to slower cars that are about to become lapped by the leader or someone else.

It is not normal that backmarkers try to unlap themselves because normally they do not have the speed. Of course that can happen, but the unlapping car has to be aware that its actions can concur on changing the race results and so has to be very cautious when trying to unlap and make it clear to the race leader. If that does not happen, accidents like the one in Brazil 2018 when an unlapped car hit the race leader (Verstappen) might destroy race the leader's race and pace and concur in actions and sanctions by Race Direction to the unlapping car for creating an accident.

To explain more how do the blue flags go in the ground: - A flag marshal is usually told by race direction via radio that the leader car is number XX and that number car YY is in front of him and will need to see blue flags. So when YY approaches that marshal post, the flag marshal has to wave the blue flag to it. (and, or, in Formula 1 also there is the blue flag in the panels that F1 brings to every race and that are controlled by Race Direction. Those, since 2018 are showing the car's to be lapped number in blue in the screen so the driver get to know easier it is him that will be lapped by the race leader).

  • The panel can be operated manually by the Panel Marshal and then you will see a blue flag shown in the panel, or can be operated by Race Control and this will instead show the car's number that is going to be lapped also in blue. No matter what the car that see's the flag has to be aware a faster car is approaching to overtake him.

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