The FIA has confirmed that the official result for the Chinese Grand Prix came two laps before the end of the race after a mix-up with when the checkered flag was due to be waved.
The race was due to run – as it always has done – for 56 laps at the Shanghai International Circuit. However, for some reason, the checkered flag was waved at the end of lap 55.
Race leader Lewis Hamilton immediately radioed his Mercedes team to ask why it had been shown early, but they told him to continue pushing and ignore it. The live timing from FOM and TV graphics also did not take it into account, suggesting that it was simply a misjudgement.
However, the FIA has since confirmed that this was – albeit accidentally – the official end of the race.
“Result declared at end of Lap 54/56, in accordance with Article 43.2 of sporting regulations,” a note with the official result read. “Checkered flag was shown to leader at end of Lap 55.”
Article 43.2 reads: “Should for any reason the end-of-race signal be given before the leading car completes the scheduled number of laps, or the prescribed time has been completed, the race will be deemed to have finished when the leading car last crossed the line before the signal was given.”
Thankfully, there was just one change of position during the final two laps. Kamui Kobayashi and Jules Bianchi had been embroiled in a close battle for 17th place during the closing stages, and Kobayashi finally found a way past with two corners to go, securing the position for Caterham. However, this has now been reversed, with Bianchi being classified in 17th place ahead of Kobayashi.
Strangely, this is not the first time that there has been a mix-up with the checkered flag. At the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix, national soccer legend Pele was busy chatting to the stewards when race winner Michael Schumacher crossed the line, and therefore failed to wave the flag when he was supposed to. Instead, it was waved at Jordan driver Takuma Sato, who was some two laps down on the leader.