IndyCar’s revised blue-flag rule makes no difference, say aces

IndyCar’s plan to disable push-to-pass on lapped cars at road and street courses won’t solve the problem of backmarkers holding up the leaders.

IndyCar’s revised blue-flag rule makes no difference, say aces
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It has long been a regular bone of contention among IndyCar front-runners that backmarkers often fight hard to remain on the lead lap when they’re about to be lapped, hoping for a caution flag that will bunch the field, allowing them to latch onto the back of the pack. On road and street courses they can hit the push-to-pass for surplus boost to defend against a leader who might be being more prudent with the boost, either preserving it for his own battles or for fuel consumption reasons.

A tailender who chooses not to concede his/her lap will therefore cost the leader time, backing him up to his pursuers. The rule book states that at road and street course events, a blue flag “when displayed from the starter’s stand and ordered directly by INDYCAR (command blue), directs a Lapped Car to immediately give way to the overtaking Car.”

For 2022, this has been supplemented by the notice that “INDYCAR may disable Push to Pass for Lapped Cars (defined as a Car that is at least one lap behind all Cars that are on the Race leader’s lap).”

Quizzed about this change, Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta said, “I think it makes no difference because they're already a full lap down, so they're not going to try to stay in front of you.

“What they should do is do it for when you're about to lap them… If they're [already] a full lap down to the field, they're not going to defend with Push-to-Pass and make a hard time, but they will if they're about to go one lap down.”

New teammate Romain Grosjean, who arguably lost a first IndyCar win to backmarkers in last May’s Grand Prix of Indy, said: “First time I heard about the rules I thought it was if you were going to lap a car that he was going to have his Push-to-Pass disabled to [prevent him] fighting the leader. But no, it's if you are eligible for a command blue flag, which anywhere there's a blue flag you have to let by.

“So yeah, I wish they had pushed it a little bit further, but it is what it is.”

Herta agreed, “Yeah, that too – it's a command blue flag, so [disabling the push-to-pass] makes no difference. You should ask Will [Power] because he'll have some stuff to say about this.”

For over a year, the Team Penske driver has suggested a simple solution to the problem – letting lapped drivers get their lap back in the event of a full-course caution, so they no longer feel the need to fight with the leaders when shown a blue flag.

On Herta’s prompt, Power said: “Every single driver in that meeting [with IndyCar] except for maybe one or two, said we should enforce the blue flag when you're coming around to lap the back of the field. We should do something about it. So what does that mean when all the drivers say that? Nothing – because clearly it doesn't.”

Power said the rule as written made no difference, “not when you have to be down a lap from the whole field [for P2P to be disabled]. It's kind of ridiculous. At that point it's the end of the day for that guy and they usually let you go anyway. [The problem is] more the guys at the back of the train trying to stay on the lead lap.

“I think they're trying to work it out. I think they want to do that. I just don't know whether they have the ability yet with the system…”

Herta interjected, “Well, they're doing it for if you're a whole lap down.”

Power agreed, “Yeah, so they obviously have the [ability, so] I don't know what it is.

“When you try to get something like this done, it's very strange.”

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