F1 still talking about supermodel throwing premature checkered flag at Canadian GP

Photo from official Winnie Harlow Twitter page
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It remains to be seen whether Formula One officials will continue to use celebrities and others to wave the checkered flag after Sunday’s embarrassing incident at the conclusion of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

Well, let’s make that a conclusion that came two laps early instead of the scheduled 70-lap event.

The reason the race was “shortened” had nothing to do with weather or track conditions. Rather, supermodel Winnie Harlow was given the honor of waving the checkered flag in Sunday’s race.

The only problem is she waved the flag one lap early! Ergo, the race finished two laps shorter than advertised, much to the chagrin of competitors, teams and fans.

F1 rules state that if a checkered flag is waved too early, the race is considered over at the end of the last completed lap. Because Harlow waved the checkered flag before Lap 69 was over, the race outcome reverted back to an official completion after Lap 68.

According to various reports, Harlow was instructed to wave the flag by a race official after there was apparently a miscommunication or misunderstanding between race control and officials in the start/finish flagstand.

Ergo, an official next to Harlow told her to throw the checkers, even though there was still one more lap to be run.

As a result, F1 officials ruled the race complete after Lap 68, two laps prematurely.

Harlow took to Twitter to give more of her side of the situation.

The incident was downplayed by F1 officials because it likely would not have changed the outcome of the race. Winner Sebastien Vettel led the entire race and likely would still have won even if the race went its scheduled length, unless he wrecked or ran out of fuel in the two laps that were never run.

Vettel was concerned at what happened, not so much because of the mistake, but from a safety standpoint.

“Some of the marshals were already celebrating,” Vettel said. “I was just worried that people don’t jump on the track and start celebrating. We’re still going at full pace.”

Once the confusion subsided, at least one driver, seventh-place finisher Niko Hulkenberg, tried to make light of the situation.

Harlow’s miscue wasn’t the first time a similar event has occurred. Back in 2002 at the Brazilian Grand Prix, legendary soccer star Pele was late in waving the checkered flag. And then in 2014 at the Chinese Grand Prix, the checkered flag was waved one lap early.

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.