FIA race director Charlie Whiting was so outraged by the behaviour of one backmarker during the Singapore Grand Prix, he apologised to race winner Lewis Hamilton for it almost costing him the race.
The Mercedes driver was leading comfortably from Max Verstappen but would see a three-second lap evapourate in just a few metres as he approached Romain Grosjean and Sergey Sirotkin fighting for the minor places.
So close did the Red Bull driver get, he looked to make an opportunistic pass on Hamilton entering Turn 10 with the Briton forced to defend but once clear of both cars, he would pull out a margin once again.
When the leader is coming up to lap a slow car, the driver is shown a waved blue flag and is normally allowed a set number of marshals posts before he is penalised.
Though the layout of the Marina Bay circuit sometimes means a little discretion has to be given, so flagrant was Grosjean in only concentrating on passing the Williams, he was given a five-second penalty for ignoring the blue flags instruction.
"I think Romain forgot the golden rule of blue flags and that's if you are in a battle, you've got to forget about your own battle and move over," said Whiting after the race.
"I've drilled that into them [the drivers] many, many times and he completely forgot about it. The light panels were flashing with his race number on and Lewis was much, much faster.
"It was one of the worst cases of ignoring blue flags that I've seen for a long time."
The race director was seen speaking to Hamilton before the podium ceremony and apologising for the Haas driver's actions (not to everyone's agreement as the tweet below shows) and Lewis himself admits it was a tricky moment.
"It definitely got a little bit interesting towards the end with some of the backmarkers as you already felt the draft from the cars when you were five or six seconds behind, the car would start to slide a little bit more," said the four-time world champion.
"You can't really see the blue flags, they are very dark blue and they are the smallest holes out there [in the fences] so you actually can't really see them until the light panels come on and even when they came on a lot of drivers weren't really responding.
"Max had an opportunity really. I had to go on a massive defence and even then I was still racing the backmarkers, they still weren't lifting off as I was alongside them.
"The hairs were standing up for a second, but then back to business."
The subsequent penalty points on Grosjean's licence moves him to within one more major incident of a race ban, currently on nine with 12 the limit of a year-long period.
Speaking after the race, unsurprisingly, he was a little sheepish.
“I’m sorry if I blocked anyone, it was not my intention,” he said. “I believe I did my best. I was fighting with Sergey, who was playing a little bit of go-kart racing out there.
“I couldn’t really slow down. Pierre [Gasly] was on my gearbox and Sergey was on my front wing. So I passed him, then as soon as I passed him, I let Lewis by.”
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