A fan is to be given the opportunity of waving the checkered flag for the first time in Formula 1 history at the conclusion of Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
The promoters have come up with the once-in-a-lifetime initiative at the Red Bull Ring following considerable negotiation with the FIA and race director Charlie Whiting.
It is an enterprise designed to drive ticket sales, which it is understood are down on the first two years of the race at the Red Bull Ring in 2014 and ’15.
Any fan with a ticket for the event has the chance to upload a photo or video of themselves waving a checkered flag at a booth set up in the fan village, with the winner being the most exuberant or imaginative in their actions.
Previously, only VIPs have occasionally been allowed to replace the official waving the checkered flag, such as Pele for the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix – when the football legend infamously missed Michael Schumacher winning the race.
The nominee on this occasion will meet and be given special instruction by Whiting ahead of his or her moment in the spotlight.
A race spokesperson said: “The people from FOM recognize we are not only promoting our event, but also the sport, so that is why they decided to give us the green light.”
Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen both believe the chance to wave the flag to be an honor.
Ricciardo said: “I think it’s awesome that a fan gets to basically finish the race for us in Austria. If I was a kid and I got the opportunity to do that, I’d be blown away. It’s another way to engage the fans and bring them closer to our sport. I think it’s a great initiative and hopefully it’s the start of many more little things like this.”
Verstappen added: “I think it’s a great opportunity for the fans to get a little bit closer to F1, especially waving the checkered flag, that’s a very special moment.”
In another first, three randomly chosen fans will get a passenger ride in the safety car with Bernd Maylander on Thursday afternoon.