The Canadian Grand Prix officially finished two laps ahead of schedule after supermodel Winnie Harlow waved the chequered flag prematurely.
A race official instructed Harlow to wave the flag on what should have been the penultimate lap of the race, meaning the final result was classified from one lap earlier.
The error did not impact the race result, as leader Sebastian Vettel maintained racing speed for what should have been the final lap, though he did send a radio message back to Ferrari warning them that it had been displayed early.
After securing his third win of the season, he explained that he was concerned the error could have led to a dangerous situation for fans and marshals at the circuit. “Fortunately I had a lap count in the car, and the pit board was accurate,” he said. “But if you lose radio and maybe the pit board is not there, then you back off. Then being in the lead, you hope all the others back off as well.
“I think it’s probably not a question for us. I was worried. I told them on the last lap so that people don’t jump on the track, waving flags and celebrating, because we’re still going at full pace. I don’t know what happened.”
Harlow had been at the race as a guest of Formula One and is a friend of Lewis Hamilton. The supermodel saw the funny side of the incident and replied to several tweets — including one from Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg — in the hour after the gaffe. It later emerged that the flag had been handed to her at the incorrect moment due to a miscommunication between the start/finish gantry and race control.
It is not the first time a celebrity has been involved in a gaffe while on chequered flag duties. Brazilian football legend Pele failed to wave the flag at the right moment when given the responsibility for his home nation’s 2002 race. Lewis Hamilton also took the chequered flag early at the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix, when it was waved one lap early by mistake.
The error had a small ramification on how the race will be recorded in the history books: it meant Daniel Ricciardo lost the fastest lap of the race he had set on lap 70, meaning that accolade went to Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. That might provide an internal headache for Red Bull, a team that has been known for financially rewarding its drivers for claiming the fastest lap of the race.